Have you ever eaten lunch at your desk while catching up on work or browsing online and then wondered where the rest of your sandwich went? Multi-tasking gets many things done at once but there is a downside when it comes to eating. When there is competition for your attention eating can turn mindless and automatic rather quickly. The body has two important jobs when you eat. It tells you when you’re full and it digests your food. Multi-tasking interferes with both. You wind up eating too quickly and can miss the subtle signals your body sends when you start to feel full. Studies have found that people eat faster and taste their food less when they multi-task. 
Mindful eating reminds you to respect your body and the food you choose to eat. You tune in to the experience instead of zoning out or rushing. There are many ways to go about it. Simply paying attention while you eat is mindful. You are less likely to overeat and more likely to feel satisfied. Learning how to slow down a bit and be more aware of the way you eat takes practice. Try it with a piece of chocolate. See the chocolate bar exercise below. (BYOB)
When you taste chocolate mindfulness kicks in naturally. There is more focus, attention and connection with your senses. You don’t rush with chocolate. You stay present enjoying the experience. Tasting a particular food (like chocolate) is different than everyday eating but you can learn how to eat more mindfully at any meal just by doing a few things. Pay attention to all of your senses, appreciate the food itself and remember to slow down. Connoisseurs savor and take their time appreciating the subtleties of the food they eat. At your next meal pay attention to how you eat. How fast do you go? How well do you chew your food and how quickly does the next forkful get raised to your mouth? It may surprise you.
See how your experience changes just by slowing down a bit. Pay attention to the colors, textures, aromas and flavors. Notice how the food feels in your mouth at different points before you swallow. Connect with how your body feels once you do swallow your food. When you eat too quickly and don’t chew your food thoroughly enough you miss out on flavors, nutrients and textures. It also tends to keep you feeling less satisfied.
Food’s Origin Story
You can take mindful eating a step further by considering your food’s origin story. Who cooked it? Who shopped? Think of the store keepers, truckers, farmers, butchers, fishmongers. So many people and so much effort and work were involved. It can feel humbling. Think of the elements in nature that helped create your food. The water, sun, soil and wind gave of their essence over time to grow the fruits, vegetables and grains. It’s quite incredible once you stop and think about it. Imagine if you had to hunt for your food, sacrifice an animal’s life, do the butchering and prepare the fire pit. What would that meal taste like? There are infinite ways to appreciate your food. Each time you do so you are strengthening your mindfulness skills.
People have been breaking bread together since the beginning of time and sharing a meal is a powerful form of bonding. There is conversation, experimentation, excitement, satisfaction and pleasure. They all get enhanced when you bring mindfulness to the table. Whether you dine with family, friends or by yourself, eating well is primal form of self-care. It is a simple and beautiful way to nourish the mind, body and soul. Mindful eating brings awareness and enjoyment to any meal even when it’s a simple sandwich.
You can enhance the ambiance by adding little touches to your table like fresh flowers, a pretty setting or even candlelight on an average day. It looks lovely but it also shifts the way you show up. Your family is more likely to be attentive and grateful too. It feels dramatically different than eating on the run or while distracted by phones and screens.
Eating well is a privilege and food rituals bring awareness and appreciation to your meal. Most religions have them. Grace before and after meals, blessings for different foods and occasions. But you don’t have to be religious to feel blessed by the abundance and variety of food available from around the world. Create your own food rituals with a simple breath, a pause or a nod of gratitude before eating. Rituals support mindful eating. They focus your attention and create a sense of anticipation. Studies have found that rituals before eating have a surprising degree of influence over how people experience what they eat. Rituals enhance motivation and can even make your food taste better.
Mindful eating can vastly improve your relationship with food.
Eating mindfully is a practice. As you learn to savor the food you eat without judgment, guilt, anxiety or inner commentary you start to feel more compassionate and less judgmental with yourself and others. Mindful eating keeps you aware and in the present. You pay more attention to the signals you receive regarding taste, satisfaction and fullness. When there is less stress around eating you can notice more. Are you eating because you’re hungry or because you’re bored? Do you need a distraction or a snack? Do you clean off your plate just because you were taught to do so as a child? Do you prefer eating when your kitchen is clean? There are so many ways to eat more mindfully and so many benefits. Mindful eating fosters a deeper connection with yourself and your body. It reminds you that nourishing your body is always worthy of your attention. It is a smart way to eat that improves the quality of your life one bite at a time.
Chocolate Bar Mindful Eating Exercise
Feel the weight of the bar in your hand. Unfold the wrapper and reveal the chocolate. Does the chocolate have a shine? Notice the color. Hear the snap as you break off a piece. Place it in your mouth. Let it start to melt as your tongue warms it up. Chew a little and let it melt some more. Press it gently between your tongue and upper palate. Get a whiff of the aroma, its intensity. Is it strong or weak or complex? The flavors should develop as the creamy chocolate dissolves in your mouth. Let your thoughts disappear as the pleasure sensations take over. Allow yourself to have the full experience in these few moments.