Practicing to eat mindfully - or how you can spend more time with food...
7th September 2018
I have been practicing to eat mindfully for a while now. It is not easy. I admit. Specifically, if you are used to multi-tasking and trying to get a lot done within a short time frame. Why are we always so busy? Why is it so hard to sit down and single-focus on that meal in front of us? To focus on the items on your plate solely, taste them and savor each flavor and not have your phone, the TV, the newspaper next to us while eating? This society has taught us that being 'busy' is the new craze, it is 'normal' to be busy and it seems to be not normal to be not busy these days. Have you ever wondered how you react or feel if someone is saying to you that they have been doing nothing much today, spending time with themselves and feeling great? Don't you think that there is a tiny tiny thought of “That person is lazy” in your mind?
I have tried so far to understand my own personal urge to check my emails or read the newspaper while I eat. And it only seems to happen when I eat alone. Can I not be with myself and my thoughts when I eat, do I have to distract myself or is it that it seems more productive to me to do multitasking so that later on I have more time for something else and don't have to check my emails or scroll through facebook? Being observant of myself, I believe it is the habit of doing as much as you can within a certain time frame. We have been conditioned that this is how it is supposed to be, isn't it?
So I have sat down and try to eat mindfully. Not as easy as you think. The mind wanders off to “I will need to do this and that after I finished my meal”, the fingers try to grab the phone or check on my computer whatever was going on. I was quite amazed at how independently certain body parts work and just go for things themselves...
I could see that this wasn't the way to go for me. Trying it 'cold turkey' wouldn't do the trick. So I went on a different road. Go big by starting small. To reach my overall goal of eating mindfully I had to start small. Very small indeed. And it might be different for other people. But for me, I have realized I must do little baby steps to change a habit that has been programmed into me for years. So I started to make a commitment to sit down for every single meal I eat. That worked somehow. You got to be consistent and very mind-strong too. Habits can be a nasty thing if you trying to change them. Very persistent :)
Now, almost accomplished sitting down for every meal I have added two more little steps: Have nothing lying next to you that might distract you i.e. newspaper, phone, book, computer. Tick. That has worked very well.
And little baby step #3: Put your fork, spoon or/and knife down after every bite. That is working alright so far as well.
So, by having those 3 little baby steps(1. Sit down for every meal; 2. Have no distraction while you eat; 3. Put your cutlery down after every bite)I have managed in a way to eat more mindfully. Not quite there yet but happily on the way. I have realized from that how much longer it takes me to finish a meal! If my partner is eating with me he is done in half the time eating his meal. So while he is already washing up his plate I still savor each and every piece from my plate. So see that: The stomach needs about 20 minutes to tell you that he is full after you ate something. The average time humans these days spend on eating one single meal (unless you are in a restaurant having a good old time with friends or a candlelight date dinner) is between 7-10 mins, usually even less than that. So you can see that there is a discrepancy somehow. This would be another story, but to give you a hint: comparing the average time somebody eats and finishes a meal and the time the stomach needs to realize that he is full indicates that it is easy to overeat. Think about it.
What I also have realized and felt is that with being totally focused on my meal and eat it in a mindful way I have started to hear my body more when he is trying to tell me: “Stop eating, I am full!” (Research says that you should stop eating when you about 70% full or 2/3 full to give your stomach the time to digest in his 20min) However, being raised to finish your plate (“(...) and then the sun will shine the next day” - I am quoting my Mum here) has left me to override my body's screams to stop eating. Work in progress here ;) Yet, this is another interesting fact for me and the reason why I chose the mindful eating topic: You start to listen to your body's cues and signals, you start to get to know your body and its language in a different way and are more conscious! Eventually, this whole new trained mindset will affect other areas of your life, will affect the way you think and act, will positively affect your relationship with yourself and your relationships friends and family and everyone else around you. If all goes by plan you will start living a mindful life, where you live each moment, be healthy, time will pass slower and you walk around with open eyes and an open mind. This is what I want to achieve, this is my ultimate goal in this busy, tech-savvy world and this is what I want for everyone else around me too!