How we typically eat is: go to the supermarket and buy ready-made food. Get home, sit down, take out your phone and start scrolling. Shove food in your mouth and before you know it the food is finished but you’re not satisfied. Eat more until you’re super full and want to zone out on the couch until you go to bed.
We don’t eat because we’re hungry. We eat because we’re bored, lonely, sad or stressed. As we’ve already talked about what should be on your plate (Yup that’s right, whole plant foods) how do we go from using food as a drug to eating indulgently, consciously and with pleasure?
Step by step plan to mindful eating
Step 1: prepare your own food
Express that you care about you and your health by preparing your own food and only using nutritious ingredients. See cooking as a treat and take your time.
Don’t be constantly snacking while you are preparing your food. This is often because you feel rushed, or you feel that you have to be sneaky or this could be an expression of other subconscious patterns.
Step 2: serving the food
Serve the food on a plate or in a bowl. Don’t eat from the cooking pots. Yes, I know people who do this. This is disrespectful to the food and yourself. You deserve a nicely put together plate.
Step 3: sit down at a table
Create a habit of taking each meal (or snack) by sitting down at the table. This will create a sense of calmness. Don’t eat while sitting on the couch, standing in the kitchen or looking in the pantry.
If you don’t have time to eat while sitting at a table, then I don’t think you should eat until after you’ve done your task.
When you eat while you’re rushed, you’re eating stress not food. On top of that you won’t digest the food very well.
Step 4: turn off all distractions
I don’t expect you to take all your meals in complete silence, but at least for one part of the meal turn off music, video and only be with your food. This can be for five minutes, 1 minute or 10 breaths.
You’ll start to notice things like saliva production in your mouth. Your flat stomach that’s ready to take in food. The digestive process starts in the mouth, so it’s important to allow time for your body to prepare to take in food.
Step 5: grati-food
Incorporate the concept of grati-food (gratitude and food) in your life.
Really look at your food and be grateful for the journey it had to go through before ending up on your plate. Think about how lucky you are to have nourishing meals every day. That you have the luxury to indulge in your food. That you can savour every bite. That you are taking care of yourself and your body by eating healthy foods.
When I share a meal with someone, we say what we’re grateful for that day before taking in any food. It’s a very nice way to connect with someone and beautiful habit to create. It acknowledges the efforts the cook made to prepare the dish and shows that you are a caring person.
Step 6: eat slowly
I used to eat so fast and I didn’t understand why people would eat slowly. The benefits of eating slowly are:
- Less emotional eating
- Less overeating
- Better digestion
- An overal sense of luxury as you’re not rushing but taking time to taste the foods
Start by practice eating slowly with other people. Be the last one to finish your plate. Even if there’s only one bite of food left, wait until eating it until everyone else has finished their plate. My mother eats super slowly and I’d always practice slow eating with her. I’d always try to finish my plate after she had her last bite, which takes at least 30 minutes.
When you’re eating alone, it’s a bit more challenging. But I found that putting down your knife and fork after every bite and only eating the next bite if your mouth is empty, helps a lot. Think of eating as a luxury. Take your time. Savour. Indulge. Eat as if you’re a royalty that has all the time and money in the world to sit down and relax.
Step 7: wait a couple of minutes before taking second portions
Eat until you’re satisfied and as much as you want. But again, stay at the table for a couple of minutes before getting up and eating more. Close your eyes and feel your body. How are you feeling?
Is your stomach full?
Are your shoulders tensed?
Are you still chewing food in your mouth and already thinking about the next portion?
Are you distracted by something that got all your attention while eating?
Do you feel lonely/anxious/nervous?
If you’re eating more because you’re still hungry, go for it, but often we eat more because we feel lack of something inside of us. The food numbs uncomfortable feelings. Instead of taking more food, go for a walk or write down what’s bothering you. Why are you avoiding feeling x?
Step 8: relax after eating
Don’t rush to the next task. Go for a quiet walk, sit down or talk a bit more to your lunch or dinner date. Digesting is a very energy intensive process for the body. Wait at least an hour or 2 after eating to do intense exercise.
Intuitive eating got a real bad rep as people would abuse the idea to overeat and eat junk food every day.
You need following foundations for intuitive eating:
- A whole food plant-based diet
- A notion or regular practice of mindfulness, meditation and exercise (yoga)
- Being able to close your eyes and taking time to feel what’s going on in your body
Intuitive eating for me is eating what your body craves but within a framework of healthy and whole foods. Highly processed foods are super calorie dense and over-stimulate all the senses and it’s hard to appreciate the natural flavour of whole foods if you’re used to super salty potato chips or ready-made pizzas.
The reason is that we don’t eat attentively and we need stronger flavours and more food to be satisfied. We overeat because we’re distracted and don’t enjoy food!
When you practice mindfulness, meditation and exercise, you’ll be more in tune with your body’s signals and are able to hear them. People are often disconnected from their bodies because they live in their heads and don’t hear the subtle calls of their body until they get sick.
I’d like to share some of the principles from the book The Yoga of Eating. I highly recommend this book as this will improve your conscious eating habits greatly.
Principle 1: Experience and enjoy every bite of food.
If you eat, then EAT. Don’t feel guilty, don’t be sneaky, savour ever bite. Take your time. Be grateful for your food.
Principle 2: be present with your food.
If your attention is somewhere else, you’re not eating the food at all. There’s a story of a monk who was eating oranges with a friend. The friend was upset with someone and sharing his story with the monk while eating. As he was so angry, the monk pointed out that he wasn’t eating the oranges but actually the anger.
Are you eating your food or are you eating
a TV show?
Principle 3: don’t be dogmatic with your diet
Don’t force yourself to eat certain things because you want to look the way like the people who’re advocating it or because it sounds logical on an intellectual level. If you feel called to eat a certain way, explore the books and try it out, but if it doesn’t feel right, don’t stick with it.
But be realistic, if you’ve been eating like crap for years, don’t expect that within a month you’ll be able to eat intuitively. I’ve been eating vegan for 4 years, and only recently I feel like I’m mastering these principles. Simply take little steps every day towards eating more mindfully.
Principle 3: before eating, preparing or buying food, ask yourself: am I hungry right now?
The best way to prevent yourself from binging on unhealthy food or overeating, is to simply ask yourself ‘why am I eating?’ Or am I hungry right now? This will create space in your head and allow some time between the idea of eating and finishing a bar of chocolate.
Often we eat because we’re tired, lonely, stressed, uncomfortable, depressed,.. Learn to deal with these emotions by allowing them to pass through you, by writing about it, by going for a walk, by breathing deeply. Food is not a sustainable way to deal with your emotions.
Principe 4: accept your body and trust it
Your body contains all the wisdom, diet advice and guidelines you need. You simply need to learn to listen to its calls.
For so long we despise our bodies because they’re not beautiful enough, we dismiss appetite for lack of self-control or associate no appetite for not being a good boy or girl. We restrict calories to create a sense of control of our lives or we overeat to numb the emotions in our body. We abuse our body in so many different ways and in the end all the answers are inside of us.
Start by accepting your body completely and listen to it. If you want to move, move your body. If you want to eat, eat. If you’re tired, sleep. If you’re lonely, call a friend. It’s that easy.
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In this seven part blog series I’ll reveal:
- How to eat consciously, intuitively and mindfully
- How to stop binging
- How to achieve sustainable weight loss
- How to switch to a healthy plant-based diet
- How to fast in a healthy and effortless way
- How to deal with the emotions that come up when switching to a conscious diet
- What to do after a binge eating episode