One of the greatest pleasures in life is food. From the moment we lock eyes with a beautiful dish and inhale its aroma our gastric juices begin to flow, as we salivate and work up an appetite. Nothing compares to that first pleasurable bite to satisfy our physical hunger. Too often though we rush through a meal or focus on dieting by counting calories. How did eating become a source of stress and deprivation? The confusion of conflicting information on what we should or shouldn’t eat adds to the anxiety, stress and increases inflammation. How can we associate more joy and sensuality with food, while optimizing our health? Perhaps the experience of eating can become less cerebral and more embodied.
Our relationship with food often reflects our vision of life and relationship with those around us. Although we are more than our physical body, it is the vessel that we travel with in this life. How can we shift the focus from fear, restriction and calorie-counting to that of nourishment, abundance and pleasure? The more awareness we incorporate into the act of eating the more present we can become with the process of life. Physical sustenance can help fuel our purpose in life and help us achieve an optimal state of health.
According to Thich Naht Hanh “eating a meal in mindfulness reveals you are nourished by the whole universe.” What if we took a moment or two to silence the mind’s chatter, and instead listen to the wisdom of our body’s cues? Below are some mindful practices you may incorporate into your life to make eating more joyful.
- Listen and feel your body’s hunger cues. Are you hungry for real food or emotionally starving and need to fill a void?
- Put your digital devices out of view. Try eating without distractions so all your attention is focused on your meal.
- Inhale oxygen, not your food! Digestion begins in your mouth with saliva and the process of mastication.
- Relax the need for speed and slow down.
- Eat until satisfied but not completely full. If you are still hungry wait another 5-10 minutes and ask your body if it requires more fuel.
- Take a moment of gratitude before your first bite to appreciate the sustenance that will nourish your body.
- Wait until you swallow your food before taking another bite.
- Don’t neglect hunger and skip meals, no matter how busy you are.
- After you finish your meal take another moment of gratitude to appreciate the feeling of satiety and those who may have helped prepare your meal.
- When dining out be mindful of portions. Sometimes an appetizer is all you need to fill your belly.
- Keep it real and focus on eating unprocessed foods.
- Don’t go grocery shopping when you are hungry to prevent purchasing items that don’t serve your health.
- Close your eyes and pay attention to the aromas, flavors and textures of food.
- Don’t label foods as “good” or “bad.” Instead ask yourself if they will serve your health.
- Take guilt out of the equation and focus on the pleasure of eating.
- Remember to hydrate your body and be mindful of caffeine and alcohol intake.
- Take advice from Hippocrates and let food be thy medicine.
- Eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables to nourish your body with a treasure trove of nutrients
- Share your favorite meal with your loved ones and make eating a communal experience.
- Try to remove “diet” from your vocabulary and focus on how you want to feel after a meal, instead of how many calories you consume.
Jacqueline Aizen, RDN, CDN
Wishing you Blessings & Healthy Cravings