The number one weight-loss, and health-improving move I made wasn’t just changing the content of my diet. It was my efforts at “mindful eating.”
Cultivating an awareness of what exactly a person does when he eats has definitely helped me and has given me the chance to share some of what I’ve learned. Although I’m not perfect (by any means), and although I still have areas in which I need to improve (I still have lapses), I’m grateful for the redefinition of healthful eating.
1. Choose what your eat. Make an informed decision and think before you choose. Differentiate between a craving/impulse and a nutritional need. Try to choose food that will nourish you. Make exceptions for special occasions. Making an active decision about what to eat empowers you to eat correctly. Remember, there are links between diet and mood, so skip the sugar, hydrogenated fats, high-salt, and white flour-based foods whenever possible.
2. Sit at a table/counter while you eat. Don’t eat while standing or walking around unless it is an emergency! Sitting while eating is the first step to eating with personal dignity. Try not to eat at the computer or while doing other work. You cannot eat mindfully when your mind is engaged elsewhere. Eating in a dignified manner brings awareness of your innate personal dignity.
3. Commit to putting enough food on your plate in one “go.” Put enough on your plate to satisfy your hunger the first time around. You will learn, after a brief time of trial and error, to correctly gauge your hunger. Making the commitment to eat the correct portion of food for you, you bring focus to your eating habits.
4. Acknowledge the source of your sustenance. Thank the God of your understanding. Don’t forget to thank the person who shopped for/grew/prepared the food, too. By acknowledging that the food that sustains you doesn’t just magically appear but is created in a miraculous process of spiritual energy, earth, seed, water, sun, animals, (and other elements of preparation such as shopping, cooking, the fuel, the electricity), and so on, your appreciation for your food, and life, grows. Visualize how all that tremendous energy that went into bringing you your food is about to be eaten by you in order to satisfy your hunger and nourish your body.
5. Pace yourself. Don’t “wolf” down your food. Don’t eat like a “pig.” Set your fork down in between bites. Why do we characterize sloppy, ravenous eating in animal terms? Though we are animal and nature lovers, we have to admit that animals generally don’t eat mindfully. They eat according to instinct and desire. Humans on the other hand, have the ability (if they want to) to eat mindfully. Part of that entails pacing yourself. Pacing yourself also has the wonderful effect of allowing you to recognize when your hunger has been sated. It takes the mind about 20 minutes to “catch up” with the body and become aware of when you are full. By eating more slowly, you can tap into that awareness.
6. Chew (Breathe). Ideally, chew each mouthful of food at the very least, 18 times. If you have a digestive disorder such as IBS, Crohns, Celiac Sprue, or other inability to fully utilize the nutrients in food, then chew each mouthful at least 36 times. Digestion begins in the mouth. Your teeth bite and grind the food breaking it down into smaller particles and the enzymes in saliva activate the digestion process. If you don’t chew, your stomach acids will have to work a lot harder to break down the food and benefit from the nutrients in it. Breathe in between bites. And mom was right. Don’t talk while you have food in your mouth. Forget about the manners-aspect of not talking while chewing for a moment. Talking while eating can actually cause you to choke!
7. Complete the meal. Stop when you are full. Take a moment to digest in a sitting position. Visualize how the food (and drink) you consumed can give you energy to do all the important, and not so important, things you have to do today. In our Jewish tradition, we again acknowledge the source of all sustenance. The meal, in effect, is sandwhiched between two expressions of gratitude. Any expression of gratitude that you are comfortable with can help you bring a new awareness to the miracle of life.
These rules were adapted from C.R.’s blog, healthyjewishcooking.com.