So if you came here to find a diet plan, you’re going to be very disappointed. And those of you that follow some restrictive diet plan, and believe that is the only way human beings are meant to eat…you’re probably going to be a little mad at me. Because here is my unsolicited, non-professional advice about what is supposed to go into your body: whatever provides you with the nutrition you need and makes you feel good physically and emotionally.
This should be common sense, but we have gotten so detached from the food we eat that we’ve stopped viewing it as what it is. It’s fuel for our bodies. It’s a source of vitamins and minerals. It’s a source of nutrients. And it’s something that we should enjoy. We should enjoy every meal and we should fuel our bodies with what we’re eating.
Now don’t get me wrong, occasionally you should eat that donut. And eat the cake at the birthday party. Have desert with your loved one at the end of a special date. But when you do, take the time to taste it. Enjoy that moment. Look at your treat. Smell it. Feel your teeth sink in. Feel the food touch your tongue and roof of your mouth. Take your time and do this every bite. Enjoy the food, enjoy the atmosphere, and enjoy the feeling. You should be able to do this with no guilt. If you can’t enjoy a moderate treat without guilt, or if your treat is never in moderation, then you might want to consider seeking some help for issues surrounding food. In that case, your issues aren’t with the food. Some people really do need outside help and that’s ok.
And even when you aren’t eating a treat, you should eat that way. Asparagus, potatoes, and pasta. The good, the bad and the ugly, you have to taste your food. How many times have you sat down (if you sit down at all) to eat and then all of a sudden you’re done and you’ve barely even thought about what you were eating, let alone really looked at it or took the time to concentrate on tasting it?
It’s a shame! Food is a simple pleasure in life and eating healthy food is pleasure and self care. When you aren’t paying attention to the your food you’re missing out on part of your life that your meant to enjoy. You’re missing out on a moment to care of yourself emotionally and physically.
But that’s not where you stop paying attention. Not only should you pay attention to how the food feels while you’re eating it, but how you feel after you’re done eating it. We’ve all eaten so much we’ve felt sick. Or we’ve eaten food that just wasn’t good for our bodies and it left us zapped of energy. But when you’re so far removed from how you feel and you’re mind is always somewhere else at meal time then it might not even register that your food is doing this to you.
So I challenge you to pay attention to your food for one week. I’m not asking you to beat yourself up (I’m asking you NOT to do that). I’m not asking you to change anything your eating. I’m just asking you to pay attention. Then write down any thoughts and feeling you had. There is no right or wrong. Adjust your food according to how you feel and see what’s changed at the end of the week.
Start by using real plates and utensils at meal time. Turn off the TV (maybe turn on some dinner music if the silence is deafening). You can have conversation, but slow down and let the food be the focus. You can encourage your kids to pay attention by talking about your food with them between bites. If you don’t have time for all of that or your just having a quick snack, it’s ok too. Just try to concentrate. [For an extended explanation try the raisin meditation that I link to at the end of Paying Attention (It’s a Struggle)]
I started doing this and I noticed a difference right away. I eat less. I like simple, fresh ingredients more. I notice how much salt and sugar is in heavily processed food. I notice the feeling of fats in my mouth. I notice the difference between fats like avocado and egg yolk, and heavy oils. My cravings have changed. It’s really made a difference in the pleasure of my life. Several times a day I experience pleasure from my food where I would have spent that time spinning my wheels thinking about who-knows-what during that time.
*I’m not a doctor or nutritionist. This is how I’ve learned to eat and I’m sharing my experience with you. Please consult with your physician before changing your diet.
Will you take the challenge? If so, please comment below. What difference has the mindful eating challenge made in your life?