Mindful eating. What does that mean exactly? And how does that apply to food and eating?
This week we’re continuing with the theme of self-care and food, taking a look at a concrete strategy you can actually put into practice by the end of this episode. I’m going to tell you all about the practice of mindful and even meditative eating—something that’s kind of new for me too and that I work on every day—and how I know that it can really help us slow down and take care of ourselves.
This is the second of two special editions of Eat This With Lianne where we talk about self-care. No, we haven’t turned into a psychology podcast so don’t go anywhere—trust that this is an angle to food and diet and can be just as impactful as the nutrients on your plate. From a nutrition standpoint, you might be surprised at how closely our mind works with our digestive system. Our gut is called our second brain after all. You’ll be surprised at the little mind tricks you can work in while eating that can lead you to some big changes in your life.
So today on Eat this with Lianne…Self-care and Mindfulness. Plus a new term I made up this morning: meditative eating!
Is there any joy anymore?
You know when you hear a word or concept multiple times within a few days? Well that happened this past week.
I heard three different people say the word joy. Not a word used every day. What each person said was that they don’t feel joy right now, like there’s no joy in the air or to be found. That really resonated with me. Mostly because I agree and I just hadn’t been able to put it into words. So I’ve been all about trying to find that joy again, or looking at ways we can at least manage the stress around us.
I started talking last week about how I’ve been focusing on self-care, and I even brought you into the conversation. And you know what I’ve realized? Self-care is work. It takes thought and effort. And depending on your situation, you might feel like it’s one extra thing to do and you don’t have a lot of time in the day to practice it. After a busy workday from 9-5 or whatever your ‘work’ looks like right now, shutting down at the end of the day is pretty normal. We reach for the TV remote or log into Netflix or even mindlessly scroll through a YouTube video or 10 trying to catch something that will make us smile or laugh out loud. Or you might head to the liquor cabinet or pour a glass of wine to take the edge off! With all the things happening in the world right now, I know a lot of people who find they can’t escape through social media anymore, it’s just too much, so they’re left trying to look for other strategies.
Self-care isn’t escapism
But like I said last episode, self-care isn’t really about escaping. Yes, some escapism can be healthy here and there. I like to escape as much as the next person, with my thoughts and distractions, but I’ve found that my walk without the distraction of what’s playing in my headphones has turned into an actual walk in nature! True self-care is about reflecting and questioning. It’s about being present in yourself and being mindful about–well, all the things in your mind that you might be avoiding.
Self-care doesn’t have to be a “set” period of time that we schedule either. It can be a constant process, learning to take care of ourselves at the same time we’re at work or managing the family, and even during really stressful situations.
In the case of mindful eating, it’s a self-care practice you can apply as you eat. It’s something that can reframe how you approach every meal from here on in. And unlike other self-care traps, it’s free and doesn’t require anything but your mind, some patience, and a bit of some awkwardness as you start, but also some much-needed ease and fun.
So without further ado, let’s get started!
What is mindful eating?
First up: what is mindful eating? Mindful eating is applying thoughtfulness to eating. You’ve probably heard of mindfulness before with meditation, for instance. It’s about slowing down and bringing all of your senses to the present moment. It’s also acknowledging all of your feelings, sensations, and thoughts—and processing them without judgment.
But how can that apply to eating? Mindful eating is all about bringing all of your senses to the present meal and ALL that comes before you sit down at the table. It can be applied not to just eating the meal itself, but all the way from grocery shopping, meal prep, to setting the table, sitting down, chewing, and even your digestion.
If this isn’t quite making sense just yet, how about if we look at what’s NOT mindful eating–as in what’s the opposite of mindful eating? It’s probably something we’re all guilty of: un-mindful eating. That’s rushing through every meal, grocery shopping without really paying attention to what’s in your cart or basket. Impulse buying every item as you try to fill up that void of joy with food. It’s chewing really quickly or even eating lunch at your desk. It can also be watching TV while you eat dinner so that you don’t even mentally process what you’re eating. Think about the last meal that you ate and don’t really remember much about. Well, that could be called passively eating instead of actively eating.
Steps for effective mindful eating
- Shop with intent. The key here is to ditch those impulse buys—that chocolate bar or box of cookies that you know you probably shouldn’t get. How about your next shopping goal is to not buy anything that’s not on your grocery list? That will help you really reflect and prepare ahead of time. So as you make up that list, think about the nutritional value of each item, how much you need, what kind of meals you’re going to make, and things that can be easily used for multiple meals.
- The old saying, “Cook once, eat twice,” will be your friend here, and you’ve likely heard me say when you make one meal, double it so you have leftovers for another dinner or lunch the next day. It’s also best to have a bit of food before you go shopping to curb on those impulse buys so you can really focus on the present moment and buy what you need vs. what you want.
- Pause before you eat. That’s easier if you show up to your meal not completely starving. That way you don’t inhale everything in sight. You know the saying, eat with your eyes, not your belly. So assuming you have a good appetite at dinner… take a moment before eating to appreciate everything that got you to that moment.
- Appreciate the time it took for you to make your meal, feel gratitude for having food on the table and the company of whoever you’re about to eat with. This could feel a bit like “saying grace,” but make it your own; you don’t have to be spiritual or religious to do this. Simply take a breath and silently thank yourself and whoever is with you in the moment.
- Bring all your senses to the meal. That’s all your thoughts and feelings to every chomp and chew. Notice how the food feels in your mouth, the texture. See the colours, notice the tastes, the smells, the warmth or the cold, and all the sensations.
- Take small bites and savour. This is where the almost meditative eating can come in and even liken it to an orgasm. Yep, I’m going there… isn’t that a process of being in the moment? Feeling connected to yourself and allowing the feeling to overtake everything else around you. Sometimes it can be fleeting and quick and sometimes long and sensual.
- Let’s think about this with food. Take in every experience of it. How it looks, how it smells as it goes from your fork or spoon into your mouth, what is the sensation on your tongue, how does it feel between your teeth, to the inside of your cheeks and roof of your mouth… is it cool, is it warm, is it hot? Then your taste buds, what’s happening there. Are they slowly waking up to the taste, is it a full and rich flavour that’s gaining intensity or does it get your attention on contact? Is it slowly building… is it getting hotter, deeper and taking over all your senses?
Benefits of mindful eating
- Reduce hunger cravings and even relieve indigestion. Often we feel discomfort and just blah after eating too quickly or more than we need. We can get a lot of air swallow, too, or things just don’t go down right. Mindful eating helps to reverse that.
- Help with weight loss. Eating deliberately and mindfully lets our mind really build up the memories of eating. Our brain won’t send hunger signals if it knows we just ate and has those memories to pull from.
Best self-care foods
The first one is so obvious that I contemplated not even putting it in. But I think it’s super super important. And it’s water! When in doubt, drink some water. If you feel particularly stressed, drink some water. If you feel hungry when you’re usually not hungry, drink some water! Oftentimes our bodies confuse hunger and thirst and we’re actually more thirsty not hungry, and giving ourselves some extra water can actually cure some of those hunger pains.
- You can practice “mindful drinking” with water too. Instead of gulping that water bottle down, really think about the sensations of the glass on your lips, the flow of water into your mouth, the moisture your mouth feels and then the waterfall into your stomach. It can take seconds to do, and when you feel every step, you’re present and in the moment. It can help to calm you and relieve some of that morning or afternoon stress.
- It’s recommended to drink 8 cups of water a day. And though the research isn’t really clear about that, I think it really comes down to the individual person; however, I am for over 2L a day. Instead of thinking about drinking that 8 cups per day, just think about turning to water for hunger, stress, and thirst. That could get you thinking about water in a completely different way and make drinking water more of an experience, even if it’s not your favourite thing to drink.
Okay, other foods:
- You’re looking for foods that relieve stress or stabilize your mood throughout the day. A banana is really great for that. It has a good mix of sugar and fiber that allows sugar to be released slowly throughout the day. An apple could do the same. Our blood sugar levels are something to watch out for whenever we feel really annoyed or extra moody. Bananas and other fiber rich fruits like apples can really help stabilize that.
- KID BOOST from my Take This by Lianne supplement line. I usually have a scoop of the superfood powder after my walk, but sometimes I need another hit of superfoods, energy and the lift that it gives me later in the day. And let’s face it, no one has ever eaten too many goji berries, spirulina, beets or blueberries, so it’s the perfect fast boost anytime of day.
- In the first Self Care episode, I shared my Self Care Bowl and actually made it on this weeks #cooktogether episode on Tuesday, so you’ll find that recipe and how-to video on Sprout Right’s IGTV, YouTube and Facebook pages.
- Sometimes that pause that I need comes from a cup of Earl Grey tea, I guess that’s the brit in me coming out, the time that it takes to boil the kettle, get the tea bag, sometimes the pot of my kids are joining me, choose what mug I feel like. It can be a mindful process just to do that. So with my cuppa I sometimes need a shortbread cookie to go with it for full effect. So I turn to my Divine Cookies from my book Sprout Right Family Food as my go-to.
- And as for a meal that gives me a lift, it’s definitely Taco Night. My kids love tacos and with it being a full-on family affair, from the prep, the assembly, and noshing, being something that we do together, it helps to feel connected and bring that element of fun to the table.
- As for a sweet treat, I don’t often eat it, but real ice cream, as in my homemade Blueberry Maple ice cream with 3 ingredients is heaven. I also have a video from a #cooktogether episode back in April if you want to give that a whirl.
So what do you think? Are you in with me for some mindful eating today?
Like most things to do with the mind, mindful eating takes practice. It is a practice, which I often hear in the conversations of meditation and yoga and when I understood that it meant it never needs to be perfect, it’s about showing up and doing, I got it.
Let’s see how we all do with this, the pause, noticing the sensations and using our senses with what we drink and eat, how we shop and choose what to eat next. Remember it’s a practice of mindfulness and with it comes gratitude and I believe, that’s where we can find the JOY.
My ask of you further to eating mindfully is that you share this, subscribe, comment and share feedback on social media. This is an episode that everyone needs to hear. A special thanks to Valerie who told me she shared the last Self-Care episode with friends and they too have benefitted and LOVE the Self-Care bowl.
So with that said, let’s find some joy in our food, be in the moment and of course EAT THIS one mouthful at a time.