“Our relationship to food is a central one that reflects our attitudes toward our environment and ourselves. As a practice Mindful Eating can bring us awareness of our own actions, thoughts, feelings and motivations, and insight into the roots of health and contentment.” – The Centre For Mindful Eating
How many times have you noticed yourself feeling way too hungry after a meal despite its hearty size and quality? I am sure many of us can point out at least a few times where we have had to run for a second helping of dinner or a sweet dessert to get us to that feeling of ‘full’. It’s not uncommon to feel too full, and very sluggish afterwards too. Why does this happen? One of the main culprits of this annoying phenomena is not the type of food we are eating, nor how it is cooked, or the quantity of the food; but the speed at which we eat it, and how little we pay attention to just how satisfying the meal is.
Paediatrician and Zen Buddhism teacher Jan Chozen Bays – the Secretary of The Centre For Mindful Eating – has discussed this problem, as well as the advantages of eating slowly and thoughtfully in her book Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food. The book shares a method that involves sitting down to a meal and paying complete attention to every single experience possible; each taste, texture, smell, and feeling that the food evokes. The method is effective for those who wish to lose weight, cope with an eating disorder or simply wish to enjoy food to it’s full potential.
Mindful eating involves several simple stages that you can do anywhere with any kind of food, even foods of which you don’t consider your favourites.
1. After preparing your meal, sit in silence as you eat it, do not distract yourself from your meal experience with television or conversation.
2. Before actually eating the meal, take a long look at it; take in the colours and textures and imagine what the food will taste like.
3. Take in the scent of the food, breathing it in deeply.
4. When you begin eating:
- Close your eyes as you begin to chew.
- Chew slowly and concentrate on the taste and texture of each ingredient, how it all feels on your tongue.
- Every sense is active in Mindful eating, even sound, focus on the sound of the food as you chew it.
- Pay attention to how the food makes you feel, and other reactions from your body; salivation, sighs and so on.
- Keep tabs on how your stomach is feeling, how it slowly fills with food.
5. Continually sip on your drink to hydrate yourself and keep your tongue moist enough to enjoy the full texture and taste of your food.
6. As your meal comes to an end, focus on how full you feel; how your stomach feels after the last chunk of food comes off of your plate and slips down your throat.
Something sweet always helps the stomach feel full, after all, the insulin in our bodies that has spiked during our main meal rapidly starts to decrease – according to Physiologists Joost Overduin and Anita Jansen in their article Conditioned Insulin and Blood Sugar Responses in Humans in Relation to Binge Eating – so finishing off the meal with a piece of fruit or cake gets us to that ‘full’ feeling. Due to this chemical reaction, we often mistake it for not feeling full enough and gorge ourselves on cakes; however, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t end our meals with a nice sweet pick-me-up!
7. Wait around ten minutes or so before having a dessert, to let the stomach settle and start feeling that ‘full’ feeling.
8. Pick a healthy dessert, such as fruit, or if it’s time for a treat pick a cupcake or flapjack; something small and not too sugary, but wonderfully tasty! Eat it in the same way you ate your main meal.
9. Finally, sit back and relax; remember your tasty meal in all its glory!
NB: Also, avoid exercise for 30 minutes to an hour as you digest the food, exercising after a meal can cause stomach aches and that’s not the way you’d want to remember how the food made you feel.
These stages may sound tedious, but chances are you are already doing some of them without realising it, and it eventually becomes second nature too.
Mindful eating has many advantages; it is a good way to avoid over-eating which may lead to feeling sluggish and bloated, as well as a good way to avoid in taking a high number of calories. It can also be seen as a form of meditation; after a stressful day it can really help to banish all sound, sit down to a warm and comforting meal and concentrate on nothing but how you feel when eating. Afterwards you will feel full, but not too full, and very satisfied.
Feature Photo By Tina Phillips