Updated: Jun 4
Video link at the bottom of the page
I collapsed on my couch as I entered home after 16 hour work day. I glared at my screen as my instagram feed roll up. I was filled with wonder, awe, disgust and boredom as the images changed on my screen. I leaned over and grabbed a bag of chips, “I am going to eat dinner soon, I’ll just eat a few chips until then. I deserve it.”
I loved the salty flavor and the fresh crispiness. After what seemed like a few minutes on reaching out for a few more chips and to my surprise the bag was empty. I had gobbled down the entire bag without realizing. I decided to skip dinner as I had already had enough for the night. The night deepened with a few more hours of random surfing and chatting until I decided to get some sleep. As I tossed in bed I felt restless. I was still hungry, angry at myself, guilty all at the same time.
The chips had not satiated my cravings. They didn’t fulfill my energy requirement to recuperate for the hectic day I had. The decision to skip dinner, made me hypoglycemic, restless and irritable. The stress levels in my physical body increased and so I got up and had a few bites of the candy bar. I felt such a strong craving for sugar.
We have all experienced this, while watching a movie or chatting with a friend. The popcorn and the biscuit packet just magically vanish. Then we compensate by either missing a meal or reminiscing in guilt.
Eating is not just about hunger and basic needs; it is followed up by many thoughts.
I eat because:-
“It’s on my plate”
“The movie is still going on”
“Food makes me happy”
“I estimated that’s how much I will need when I filled up my plate”
“I am so tired”
“I am already salivating”
“It’s my favourite so I’ll eat excessive”
“That’s how much I usually eat”
“I had a rigorous work out today, I deserve it”
“My stomach is full but I still feel hungry.”
When was the last time you truly paid attention to food and relished the entire experience of eating?
Mindful eating process
· Learn to differentiate between true hunger and non-hunger cues for eating. Non hunger cues could be boredom, emotional upheaval, habit, peer pressure, missing someone. If your desire is not about hunger, do something else more appropriate for the desire.
· Imagine you’re on a ‘first date’ with your food. I wouldn’t check my email if I am having a meeting with my boss. Let’s give out food the attention it deserves.
· Minimize all distractions around you. Keep all gadgets away.
· It is very natural to have prejudices about how the food is going to taste and whether or not you are going to like it. Try to have a non-judgmental stance, a sense of curiosity. The kind of newness the world brings to a 2 year old child, exploring the world. Be prepared to experience the food ‘as if for the first time’ If I constantly compare the current taste and what I expect it to be, I lose the opportunity to experience novelty.
· Pause for a minute think about all the people and resources that have been spent in getting the food at your table today. The sun, soil and water utilized to grow the ingredients of the food. The farmers, transporters, grocery store employees who worked so that the food is available to you in this form now. The food in your plate is a representation of sun, clouds, soil, water and air in form or another. This food item connects you with all the human beings involved in harvesting, processing, and packaging and transporting, buying until it finally reaches your plate.
· Be attentive to color, texture, aroma, and even the sounds different foods as you serve the food in your plate.
· Use all five senses as you eat the morsel.
1. -Touch the food in your hand.
2. -See the different colors, textures, shadows before you put in your mouth.
3. -Smell the food, you can smell it when it is in your mouth too.
4. -Hear the crunchiness, crispiness or movement of the food in your mouth.
5. -Savour the taste.
· Initially take smaller bites; it is easier to savour the ingredients than with a mouth full.
· Give your spoon or hand rest between morsels; don’t hurriedly prepare the next bite.
· As you chew your food, try identifying all the ingredients, the shape and texture of the food particles. The consistency of the food changes each moment. The movement of your tongue and teeth as the food travels in your mouth and finally the swallowing. You can smell the food while still in your mouth.
· After each bite, check how you are feeling. Have you had enough? Do you need more? Is it time to stop? Then move on to whatever you have chosen. Stop eating when you’re full or when you don’t feel hungry any more. Listen to your bodily cues. Notice your breath and stomach sensations.
· The stomach is always present while eating; invite your mind and mouth to be with your food.
· Pay attention on how the food makes you feel in your body and the thoughts
· Eating can be a willful intentional act instead of an autopilot one.
· Express gratitude for the delicious meal.
· Begin the practice with a meal that you eat alone, initially the pace of eating may be slower.
· Initially start with a mindful meal a day.
· If your always with company when you eat meals, try eating for 5 minutes mindfully before you start chatting with your friends or family.
· After you have eaten mindfully, reflect on your experience. Make mental notes on what you discovered about yourself and about your food. How was it different from your usual experience of eating?
· Eating mindfully needs a commitment to the behavior
What I learnt ..
- There is a difference between feeling full and getting full.
-I have eaten a heavy meal, my stomach feels full but my mind is not satiated.
-Mindlessly I could eat an entire bowl and not have tasted more than two bites.
-I respond to external cues of eating than internal ones.
Mindfulness is process-oriented: it can be learnt only through experience. It is not an outcome driven. The focus in being aware and enjoying the meal not weight loss. Weight loss is a natural consequence.
I reach satiety earlier with mindful eating, thereby restricting the amount of food eaten.
One learns to appreciate food and not restrict it.
It is a form of informal mindful meditation practice.
Food is neither a reward nor a punishment. It’s when we think we “deserve” a certain bite or snack as a treat.
Diets tend to focus on rules of eating; it becomes difficult to sustain this behavior without emotional and behavioral management.
Check the video for a demonstration
mindful eating at 2 min 35 seconds
raisin eating at 4 min 27 seconds
- Dr Nahid Dave