Eating is essential and can be pleasurable. It can also be a source of stress, if food is not available, or if food is available, but we have a complicated relationship to eating. All people can suffer from cultural pressures to look in a way that has been elevated as preferable. In much of contemporary culture, this means staying thin and fit. This pressure is very stressful. There is also a growing amount of information available and controversy about the sources of our food. I sometimes struggle with eating stress, guilt, and over-indulgence. Below are a few ideas on mindful eating I appreciate.
We Can Make Choices that Feel Right When We Shop for Food
- We Can Educate Ourselves
If you are concerned about healthy choices and/ or about choices that are ethically sourced and environmentally conscious, spend some time reading about your options and checking out food labels. While I get overwhelmed by all the information about health trends and organic standards in the news, I try to glean some awareness from it that is useful.
- We Can Be Kind to Ourselves
While I do my best to make conscious choices, I try not to beat myself up for not being perfect as a consumer. There are times when price, convenience, limited information and timing do affect my food choices and that is alright. I hope you will be kind to yourself about variations in your choices too.
We Can Use All Our Senses to Experience Eating
- We Can Open Ourselves Up to the Meal
As Jenni Grover reminds us in the Mother Nature Network, “The tanginess of a lemon, the spiciness of arugula, the crunch of a pizza crust — paying attention to the details of our food can be a great way to start eating mindfully.” While taste is our primary sense for eating, don’t discount smell and sight- think of all the times that the sight or aroma of a dish was enough to get you excited. Touch is important too; feeling the texture of food on your tongue can slow down and focus your eating experience.
- We Can Listen to Ourselves
Mindfulness of the senses leads us into the present moment. When we are present, we are more able to determine when we are satisfied, hungry, or full and respect that knowledge. The Center for Mindful Eating says this about mindful eating: "[b]y using all your senses in choosing to eat food that is both satisfying to you and nourishing to your body, acknowledging your responses to food (likes, dislikes or neutral) without judgment, and becoming aware of physical hunger and satiety cues to guide your decisions to begin and end eating you can change your relationship to food.”
Some food difficulties can become eating disorders, and this article is not meant to be prescriptive in those cases, which call for professional support. I hope it is a general, helpful reminder of a few ways we can slow down, pay attention to, and enjoy the experience of eating.