How to eat mindfully in 6 steps
A couple of weeks ago I participated in my first Vipassana meditation retreat. I knew before I went that it was going to be hard. Sitting and walking hurt my body after the first day and my mind was driving me crazy and just kept going on endlessly! However, some things that I thought would be hard turned out to be quite easy. One of those things was food.
During the retreat only 2 meals were served each day, one at 6am and one at 11am. After that there are no more meals or snacks. I thought that I’d be hungry and I would struggle in the afternoons. But the opposite was true. I realized how little food we actually need and that most eating habits and cravings are created by the mind.
Since we were keeping silence during the entire week, there was no talking during meals and we were told to practice mindfulness when eating. I would take a bite, put my fork down and chew with full attention. Only when the food was swallowed I would take a next bite. Because it took so much time to eat I noticed I ate less. Before the retreat I had been nauseous after meals several times a day. During the retreat I hadn’t been nauseous at all.
In the week of the retreat I felt my digestion was stronger, my cravings were gone and I needed less food. It really reconfirmed to me the power of mindfulness concerning food. That’s why I decided to write about this and share some insights with you.
Here are some mindful eating tips you can practice at home:
- Sit down for your meal in a peaceful place without distraction. You can create a nice atmosphere by lighting a candle or playing some quiet music. Avoid watching TV, using your phone/laptop, or reading anything. If you’re eating with other people, avoid heated stressful subjects of conversation.
2. Focus on chewing and tasting your food and chew well. Not only will you taste your food better by being present, it will also make your food easier to digest and you will probably end up eating less if you eat slow.
3. Have regular meal times and avoid unnecessary snacking. Having a meal routine without snacks actually helps strengthen your digestion by giving your body plenty of time in between meals and allowing you to feel hungry before eating.
4. Only eat when you’re hungry. Many of us have the tendency to eat and snack coming from boredom, addiction or emotional compensation. Keep a food diary to become more aware on how much and why you eat. If you continuously eat without feeling hungry your body will never have a rest in between digesting meals and digestion will weaken.
5. Have your biggest meal at lunchtime. According to Ayurveda, your digestion is strongest around noon and weaker in the evening. Lunch time is also the best time to eat more heavy to digest foods, like protein and raw vegetables, keeping the lighter meals like soups and cooked veggies for dinner.
6. Only eat till you’re 75% full. Leaving a bit of space in your stomach actually helps your body digest your food better. Eating slowly and mindfully will automatically make you eat slower, which allows you to feel better when you had enough food.
In Ayurveda they say ‘Change how you eat before you change what you eat’ and I truly believe this is true. It is also the reason I believe that it’s totally ok to eat something ‘bad’ once in a while. As long as you do it mindfully and don’t feel bad for doing so. So go ahead and fully enjoy that piece of cake once in a while!
If you’re interested to dive even deeper in your nutritional habits there’s is a chance to work with me one-on-one. Check out my coaching program ‘the Food Fix’