I'm sitting here about to talk about mindful eating, when I realize I am shoving a late afternoon snack into my mouth at the same time (sigh). I'm far from perfect when it comes to eating mindfully, but that doesn't mean I can't try to be better! Munching on nuts while answering your emails isn't the end of the world. Even having a pizza & movie night where you end up eating way too many breadsticks won't make a difference in the big scheme of things (this happens way too often with me, oops!).
However, in today’s world of busy schedules, rushed lunches, and drive-thru dinners, it's no wonder the average American feels far removed from food. Yes, we know we need food to SURVIVE, but for many of us, that is as far as the interest in food goes. It can be hard to even know if you are really hungry or just eating because it’s “time” to eat.
Other times, we grab for food when we aren't hungry, but stressed or bored or sad or (put in any emotion here). For someone that takes her food VERY seriously, it hurts to see so many not take the time to enjoy their meals. Food should be enjoyed, food should taste good, but food should also not be given the power we sometimes give it (like when we are always grabbing for ice cream after a bad day at work). However, even I struggle with slowing down enough to enjoy the meal in front of me, so I understand the struggle. We have a million things we need to do or want to do, and sometimes (more often, than not) we skip right over enjoying the meal we are eating. Besides not being able to remember what you had for lunch (which leaves you unsatisfied), there are many downfalls to not eating mindfully.
A few of these are:
1. Still feeling hungry - yes, you just shoved down a sandwich and a side of chips. You shouldn't still be hungry, so why are you looking around for something to snack on? It could be boredom or stress, but when you eat while working or watching T.V, your brain doesn't always make the connection that it's being fueled. Our stomachs and brains are close buddies, and the signals between them need have to register, for us to feel satisfied after a meal.
2. Overeating - when we don't focus on what we are eating, we tend to keep eating until it is all gone. With today's portions, that usually means you just overate. This not only leads to that dreadful afternoon drowsiness, but could lead to unwanted weight gain.
3. Gravitating towards high fat, high sugar food - when we are constantly eating on the go, we usually don't make the healthiest food choices. Whether it’s due to time constraints or unplanned hunger, we usually go for comfort foods when hangry. (hungry + angry = hangry).
4. Loss of time (whether for yourself or with family & friends) - eating should be a social act, whether with yourself or with friends. At least 3x a day we should give ourselves the time to sit down and enjoy a meal. Even if alone, it is important to give yourself this break from your to-do list. I have a hard time with this myself, but it will lead to smarter food choices and a more satisfying meal.
5. Forgetting how to enjoy your food - when we aren't focusing on what we are eating, does it really matter how it even tastes? Yeah sure, it can't be downright gross, but most of the foods we eat in a rush aren't exactly the best meals ever made. Hunger can be very blinding (for good reason), but we deserve to eat well-made food that we can enjoy! Not every meal needs to be a 5-star meal, but even a sandwich can be made special with a little effort. The more we pay attention to our food, the more likely we will gravitate to better quality food.
So how do we start eating more mindfully? For starts, let's eat at a table. No, not your desk. (Who else eats lunch while working so they can leave earlier?). No, your couch isn't the place to eat either. You either put in the effort to make the food, or went out to get it from somewhere, so you need to enjoy it! Put away your work and electronics. Make this an enjoyable experience whether you eat alone or with others. Take your time to eat. I know this will sound crazy, but try to give yourself AT LEAST a 30-minute lunch. You don't have to take this long to eat, but if you are eating slowly, catching up with friends, and enjoying your meal, you will find 30 minutes goes by quickly.
Distractions are the biggest problem. Once they are gone, all you have to do is enjoy your meal. Afterwards, you can get back to your busy life, but you will feel refreshed and satisfied if you focus on what you are eating, while you are eating it. I think we could all use more of that in our lives. Am I right?