Most people start a health kick by focusing on WHAT to eat. And more so WHAT NOT to eat.
What I recommend however, is that before you even address the WHAT, it’s much more important to focus on the HOW.
Addressing how you eat is the starting point for real nourishment and happiness.
The number one thing you can do to improve your eating, and as a result boost your health and feel fantastic, is…
to eat mindfully.
Mindful eating = paying full attention to what you are eating while you are eating it, and to how it makes you feel.
Sounds pretty simple right?
The challenge is that mindful eating requires you to focus and to eliminate distractions.
We’re often so busy that we feel pressed for time while eating and/or are surrounded by constant distractions. Many of us multi-task while eating (perhaps via TV, emails, social media, reading or even intense conversation) which means that we rush through our meal hardly paying any attention to what is passing our lips.
It’s strange really when you think about it. Why eat a meal without paying attention to it?
Think about your last meal. How did you eat it?
Where were you, what were you doing, were you sitting down, did you eat it fast or slow, do you recall what each mouthful tasted like and how it made you feel?
Why did you eat the way that you did and is this your typical pattern?
When we slow down and eat more mindfully, we innately and easily regulate both the quality and quantity of our food intake.
When you eat slowly and pay attention to what you’re eating, you naturally;
• Take your time and savour each mouthful
• Feel pleasure and satisfaction out of eating
• Have time to appreciate and be thankful for the food you have
• Eat in a relaxed manner that leads to improved digestion
• Slow down as your hunger is curbed and
• Easily stop eating when you are satisfied as you’re aware of how that feels
All of these things set us up to feel better and ultimately lead to total health and happiness.
Not only do you improve your absorption of nutrients (as mindful eating ensures your brain sends all the correct messages to your digestive system reducing potential bloating and discomfort). You eat amounts that are in tune with what your body needs. You notice the quality of the food and how it really makes you feel. You have time to experience gratitude, which is a key to happiness. Overall, you feel much more satisfied both physically and emotionally from the meal you have eaten.
Imagine that every meal you eat tomorrow is eaten without rushing, without distraction.
How different would it be?
How different would you feel?
I can’t emphasise enough what a HUGE impact this will have for you!
The best way for you to see that difference is to try it out yourself!
To get started, my top tips for eating mindfully are to;
• Sit down to eat (always, always, always!)
• Eat off a real plate using cutlery
• Switch off all electronic devices large and small (or turn them to silent if that is too drastic for you)
• Remove books/newspapers and any other distractions
• Look at each mouthful of food and savour it thinking about the different flavours you can taste
• Avoid starting the next mouthful until the previous one is finished
• Focus on the textures of your food (is it crisp, juicy, tender, creamy, crunchy etc)
• Pause a few times during the meal, place your cutlery down and simply sit (If you are typically in a rushing mode you may find this a challenge. I invite you to persevere – you can adopt a new habit!)
• If you are conversing with others over a meal, take extra care to savour each mouthful and don’t feel you have to rush in order to speak.
Try it out for the next three days.
Really pay attention to how you feel and reflect on what a difference it makes for you.
If you have children, you can also teach them the same principles. I encourage my children to put their cutlery down and to take a nice deep breath between mouthfuls (and of course as always to chew with their mouths closed!)
Now I know that you may still be thinking that surely WHAT we eat is still important (there’s more on that in my book real food less fuss.)
Just remember that when we slow down and eat more mindfully, we naturally regulate both the quality and quantity of our food intake.
In short, it’s very hard to overeat or to enjoy poor quality food when you eat mindfully.
If you start by focusing on how you eat, everything will follow naturally and you will create habits that lead you to effortless healthy eating.
As food researcher Michael Pollen famously said “Eat Food. Mostly Plants. Not too much.” In his books he recommends mindful eating as a key principal to improve how you eat and consequently what and how much you eat.
So I urge you to start by focusing on the HOW.
The interesting thing with positive change is that it flows directly to more positive change.
As you continue to focus on HOW you eat, WHAT you eat will change too. One habit change leads to another. Once you eat mindfully you will be paying attention to how your food makes you feel. If you are eating processed foods you will likely notice that they leave you feeling flat, lethargic and under-nourished. You will notice that your body and soul desires to eat more real food that leaves you feeling vital and vibrant.
All of this change starts with a first step.
Give it a go!
I’d love to hear how you go with trying this out, so please comment below!
Yours in health and happiness,
PS – By the way, I’m certainly not perfect. Even I slip up at times and rush the odd meal. When this happens, I feel completely short changed.
It is almost as if I have missed that meal and it’s not surprising that cravings follow soon after. Physically I can feel heavy and uncomfortable after a hasty meal but even more so I feel flat having missed the opportunity to fully savour and appreciate my food.
My hope is that you will avoid this and I wish you many, many satisfying mindful meals ahead!
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