Eating with Purpose… on Purpose!

Mindful eating is a way to become reacquainted

with the guidance of our internal nutritionist.”

Jan Chozen Bays

A few years ago, I did my very first Art of Living Part 1 Course (now called The Happiness Course).  It is a six-day course teaching the beautiful practice of Sudarshan Kriya; but it is also subtly jam-packed with brilliant little gems of life wisdom which really changed a lot about how I see the world and my place in it.

On one of the days near the end of the course all the students were each given a single green grape and asked not to eat it yet.  Once we were all settled, our teacher then went through a mindfulness exercise with us, using the grape.  We were asked to look at the grape; it’s colour; it’s shape. Once we finished looking, we closed our eyes.  We had to feel it; it’s texture; it’s weight in our hand; gently squeezing it and feeling it’s firmness.  We brought it to our nose and we inhaled its aroma; picking up the subtle sweet smell.  We then placed it in our mouth but did not chew.  We held it on our tongue and again felt its weight; its temperature; and slowly started to roll it around our mouth.  Gently we bit through the grape for the first time.  We paid attention to the juice leaving the grape and covering our tongue.  Took our time chewing as we moved it all around our mouth noticing the different tastes as it touched different areas.  We noted the texture of the skin contrasting to the texture of the fleshy inside.  We chewed and chewed and noticed how its consistency slowly changed from a whole fruit to a slushy pulp before ever-so-slowly swallowing it.  We carefully noted how our body felt as the pulp made its way to our gut.  We sat in silence just feeling our body; paying attention to it physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Up until that point, I had eating many, many hundreds, if not thousands, of grapes in my life; but that was by far the best grape I had ever tasted.  There was nothing special about that grape to differentiate it from the others I had eaten; except my own level of engagement in, and awareness of, the eating process.

As someone who spent most of my life in the restaurant industry; and who considers myself a foodie; it’s unbelievable that I had never adopted mindfulness in my eating before this event.  What a world I was missing out on.  Besides the many health benefits of mindful eating; the sheer increased enjoyment of the food is unmissable. Obviously, doing this practice occasionally is easy; but adopting it as part of your daily practice can be a bit more challenging.

Watch Episode 9 of The Flying Phoenix’s Weekly Facebook Live Broadcast and find out about some of the specific steps I took.  (Due to technical issues at the time of broadcast, some of the audio isn’t clear.)

Top points from the broadcast

What is mindful eating?

  • It is about making conscious food choices; understanding the importance of food and its role in our lives. It’s about eating with purpose; knowing what we are putting in our mouths.
  • It’s about being conscious about how we eat: are we eating at a table instead of in front of the TV or at our desks or while driving etc. Do we respect the food enough to place it beautifully on a plate as apposed to eating out of a take-away box or directly from the pot?
  • It’s about being aware of why we are eating: are we eating because we are hungry and need nutrition; or because we are bored, or we are filling an emotional void, or because we are in a social situation and everyone else is eating, or because it’s a habit.

Why should we be eating mindfully?

  • Our body tells us everything we need to know about what it needs; but we need to be able to listen to it. By being more mindful we become more in tune with our body and therefore learn to listen to it better.
  • By eating mindfully, we tend to eat slower. It can take the gut up to 15 minutes to inform the brain that it is satiated; so, by eating slower we are less likely to over-eat because our brain has the time to register that our tummy is full.
  • By eating mindfully, even the most mundane meal can become a gastronomic experience allowing us to enjoy our food better.
  • As our appreciation and experience of food grows so does out sense of gratitude for our food deepen.

How to practice mindful eating?

  • Count your chewing – try to chew each bite at least 25 times.
  • Put your cutlery down in between bites – do not start preparing your next bite while still chewing your last. Focus on enjoying the current bite and only once you have swallowed do you pick up your cutlery to prepare the next bite.
  • Eliminate distractions – no t.v, no social media, not driving etc. Eat and do nothing else.  If you are eating with others, try to eat the first few minutes in silence before you start engaging with each other.
  • While eating do the following:
    • Be aware of the food you are eating – what are you tasting, what are the textures, flavours, aromas etc.
    • Savour each bite – take your time to enjoy each bite.
    • Observe your body – what impact does the food have on your body in the physical, emotional and spiritual sense. Later on, you may want to journal about your experience in a mindful food journal.
    • Stay in the moment – focus on what is happen right here and right now.
    • Reserve judgement – don’t think about rules and appropriateness; don’t judge yourself for your choices.

What are your thoughts?

I would love to hear from you.  What has your experience been with this topic?  Do you have some tips or strategies in addition to the one’s mentioned above?  Maybe you have a burning question?  Perhaps you have the solution to someone else’s question.

The best growth and learning comes from engagement and sharing, please comment below and share your thoughts, questions and personal experiences.

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