Healing Through Mindful Eating

Its almost an accepted part of our culture...turn on any number of television shows and you’ll find a woman drowning her sorrows in a pint...or a half gallon of ice cream. When we're feeling emotional, we can turn to food to comfort us, to make the loneliness or sadness go away.

What’s important to realize is that we don’t need food in that moment. What we really need is a hug. Or to laugh with a good friend. Or to take a walk around the block and feel the sun, the rain, or even the snow on our skin. We need to get our of our heads and be present. Find other ways to nourish your soul, other than food.

This is not to say that food itself isn’t nourishing to the soul or that we shouldn't enjoy the occasional ice cream, chocolate or cookie. Who can resist a special dessert made by your mom or grandmother...this can feed our memories, our emotions, and our tastebuds with joy. But the key in finding balance and stability here is mindfulness. Mindful eating.

What does that mean, exactly?

It means that after an argument with your best friend, catch yourself as you storm into the kitchen and open the fridge or the pantry. And you ask yourself what you really need in that moment. Are you hungry? Do you need to call your friend and chat? Do you need to snuggle up with your dog or your kitty for a bit? Maybe you need to walk or run off your frustrations. What do you really need?

If you decide that you want a treat, or anytime you’re eating something very rich or flavorful, stop for a moment and follow these mindful eating steps.

1. Assess your hunger. Close your eyes and feel your body. Tune into your stomach. Scale your actual hunger from one to ten, ten being ravenous.

2. Use your senses (everything but taste) to explore the food you’re going to eat. Really investigate its texture, its color, its shape and smell, whether it’s hot or cold. Savor it with your eyes and nose, even touch it with your fingers.

3. Give thanks for the food. Not just to your higher power, but consider all the people who were involved in bringing you this food...the stock person at the grocery store, the farmer who grew the ingredients, the earth for growing them, or if it’s an animal product, thank the animal who gave its life or its milk. Have a sincere moment of gratitude.

4. Put the food in your mouth and savor it. Don’t chew right away. Feel it sitting on your tongue, then rolling around in your mouth. When you chew, notice what changes. Experience the texture, the flavor, every detail, down to choosing when to swallow and noticing how you feel after. Notice any after taste.

5. Assess your hunger after this bite. Notice how your belly feels, your body, your mind.

6. Repeat this with each bite of your special treat. Go slowly. There is no rush.

A number of things will happen if you follow these steps. First, you will move from a place of eating mind-lessly, from gobbling something down without even tasting it, from hoping that a full belly will help fill whatever is lacking or upsetting you in that moment...to a place where you are mindful and present. This is meditative eating. It will not only calm you and center you, but you will have an explosively sensual experience just eating one bite. You may not even choose to eat more. By slowing down and bringing great awareness to this process, you can heal, you can feel alive and learn to savor. Also, you will eat less..a lot less. And you will be okay with that. You will finally be nourished by your food, instead of consumed by it.