Things have been very busy lately. Between a busy schedule, raising a baby and all those other things that make up ‘life’ I have found myself rushed and completely stressed. Everyone has their ‘tells’ when life is getting a bit out of control and for me I have two very obvious ones. Firstly, I start talking jibberish. For example, in a recent conversation with some very confused acquaintances I referred to my darling daughter Lucy as ‘a gorgeous little boy’. Awkward. And I scoff. Boy, do I scoff. Like a python – no need for chewing, just dislocate the jaw and she’ll be right!
On chatting with a few people about it, it seems this scoffing phenomenon is very common. And it comes in many forms and with many different triggers. Eating badly due to an unwanted emotion, eating needlessly just because there is food in front of you, eating out of habit , snacking out of boredom. This way of eating shows a disconnect between your mind and body and can lead nowhere good. We need to connect the two and be fully present – and dare I say grateful? – about what our bodies are doing.
It is all about mindfulness.
Mindfulness is at the base of all those gorgeous ancient practices we love – meditation, yoga, any of the vedic sciences. It simply means to be in the present moment. If you haven’t officially given meditation a go we can do a damn simple exercise right now. Get comfortable in your seat. Close your eyes and take 5 deep breaths in and out – concentrating only on your lungs filling up and then emptying. Observe any sensations in your body – How do your toes feel on the ground? The back of your thighs on your chair? Anytime a thought crosses your mind, acknowledge it (I mentally say ‘thought’) and let it drift on. Sit there for a few minutes. As soon as you flutter those eyes awake notice how much better you feel; how much more in tune with yourself.
Now imagine how powerful a tool it would be if you could transfer that practice to your eating methods. It is called Mindful Eating and it is a wonderful skill to conquer.
My Top 10 Tips for Mindful Eating
1. Cook with love
This may be considered new-age phooey but it is fact – thoughts create energy. So if you are making dinner resenting it and thinking about your awful day, things that annoyed you, how much you hate your body – it is going to have an effect on the food you create. There is an awesome demonstration of this in one of my fave documentaries What The Bleep Do We Know?! Dr Masuru Emoto experimented on the effect of energy on water. Viles of water had different words taped on them, were left overnight and then were photographed under a microscope. The results are pretty amazing – see it here.
Pause before you start eating. Before every meal take a few breaths in and out to appreciate what you are about to do. Be grateful for what you have. Take a few moments to really look at your food and notice the colours, the textures and smells. The power of this simple moment is quite amazing.
3. Smaller serves
Serve your food onto a smaller plate. Because there is less you will naturally slow down and savour your food more. I find that by the time I get to the end of a bowl half the size of my regular I am full. This is also why my husband and I share meals when we go out to tea nowadays.
4. Switch off
Remove all the distractions! I am talking technology or anything else that reroutes your brain-power – TV, computer, phone. There are plenty of studies around that have shown that people overeat if they are focused on anything other than their plate with the average overeat estimated at 45% more than non-distracted diners.
5. NO DUB STEP!
Have you ever tried running to a song with a very slow beat? It’s hard. Your jog turns to a plod. Yet whack on some Black Eyed Pea’s and off you go! It is the same with eating. As humans we naturally search for rhythm so if you like to listen to music while you eat then make sure it sets you at a slow, calm pace.
6. Eat in a sacred space
Only eat at the table (or the romantic equivalent e.g. a picnic blanket). Pressure points – the car, public transport, in front of the tv, while you are cooking!
7. Become a food critic
Discuss the flavour in detail with your friends, family or cat if you live alone. Really connect with the party that’s going on in your mouth. The other day I had a very deep conversation with my dogs and Lucy about the flavour of sesame oil (it’s hard to describe!).
Seems obvious but did you know that there is actually a widespread phenomena of Mastication Deficiency in western cultures. We are scarfing, gobbling and washing food down with drinks. Chewing is not just the delivery method of our food to our guts – it is actually a vital step in the digestive process. It breaks down our food and gets are bodies producing digestive enzymes that are so vital for breaking down food effectively and absorbing all the goodness and passing on the bad bits. As an exercise try chewing every single mouthful 30 times. Turn your food into liquid. This is my favorite mindful eating exercise as it really puts your eating habits into perspective!
9. Slow down
Do not reload your fork before you have finished the mouthful. I find putting my fork down between bites helpful. If you need even more help you could try eating with your wrong hand, eating with chopsticks or eating with smaller cutlery (like a teaspoon or cake-fork).
10. Bring the ritual back to your home
Eating together used to be such an important time. I remember as a kidlet being SO excited to have that time where my mum, dad and brother all sat together at night and our only distractions were each other. We were given that one beautiful time of day where the to-do lists were crossed off and our only job was being a family and enjoying the hell out of each other. So make it enjoyable – whether you have a family, or room mates, or some pets or just yourself. Make your table a beautiful place that you want to be. Break out the good crockery, drink water out of wine glasses, light your good candles. Lets rediscover the beauty of sitting together and eating food cooked with love. I read this quote the other day and I just adore it;
Think of mealtime as a celebration. After our whole family has survived another day, with all of its ups and downs, we come together in the evening and celebrate together. We don’t have to wait for birthdays or holidays to be happy together. Life is short. It doesn’t matter that we’re eating macaroni and cheese with mismatched forks. What does matter is that we make mealtime a relaxed and enjoyable time together. Let us make our kitchens creative centers from which emanate some of the most delightful of all home experiences.
“Follow Joyously”, November 1980
Doesn’t that make your heart sing!