Placing Mindful Eating at the Centre of your Plate
Are you eating out of boredom, stress, or greed?
It’s 10 pm. You’re finally done with a full day of virtual meetings and have just eaten a grain bowl you picked up after your evening jog. You’re getting cosy on the couch and ready to Netflix and chill when you feel a little peckish. At this point, a raid of the fridge wouldn’t hurt – so you peer into its cool abyss and fish out some leftover cake, dark chocolate coated almonds, and half a bag of chips.
Before you know it, you’re two episodes deep into your favourite Netflix show and all your snacks are gone. Now, you feel incredibly full and perhaps a little lethargic. Was dinner sufficient? Indeed. Could you have done without the snacks? Probably.
Other times, you find yourself putting together a presentation while polishing off a bowl of nuts you’ve set on your desk. Or perhaps you’re out for a mid-afternoon coffee run and the cafe has just baked a fresh batch of chocolate cookies. You’re still full from lunch, but the cookie’s toasty aroma is simply too tempting, so you buy one too.
Why are these scenarios familiar for so many of us?
Food nourishes us and its consumption is vital for our bodies to function optimally. But many a time, when we are busy, distracted, or bored, we eat even when we’re not hungry.
Inattentive eating can be overcome by being mindful of the moment. Ask yourself if you’re hungry and could do with more food – or if your hunger is being triggered by restlessness, stress, or greed. Pause and give your brain some time to reflect on the situation and make a choice.
You can also introduce a harmless diversion – such as drinking a glass of water or checking on your plants – while you sit with your impulses. This way, you get into the habit of recognising your true needs in the present moment instead of taking actions driven by emotions.
The act of mindful eating is also one that helps us to fully appreciate the joy of partaking in our meal without external distractions. Below, a few steps you can take to fully immerse yourself in the pleasures of your meal.
1. Free your table of distractions
Put your phone aside. Resist the urge to catch up on the news or social media feeds. Don’t sit in front of the television. The point, quite simply, is to eat. Don’t reduce the act of eating to a mechanical activity that takes place when you’re distracted. This way, you remain fully aware of when your hunger is satiated.
2. Regard your meal with multiple senses
Close your eyes and take in the aromas of your dish. Is that an invigorating whiff of lemongrass? Or perhaps you recognise the smokey edge of charred corn? Take a moment to appreciate the array of colours on your plate. Look at the brilliant green hue that sugar snap peas take on when they are swiftly blanched. Study the delicately flaky flesh of fish when it’s perfectly cooked.
Then there’re the flavours of the dish which become a fascinating exercise when you begin with savouring each ingredient on its own before discovering how they taste when combined in a single mouthful. How many taste profiles can you identify? Where is the sweetness, astringency, or hint of spice coming from? In the same way sommeliers swirl, sniff, and sip on fine wines, you too can regard your dish as a layered experience full of surprising nuances.
3. Finally, take your time
Eat at a pace that feels comfortable. Let yourself chew food completely and without haste as that will also promote optimal digestion. Fill your fork or spoon only after you have swallowed what you’re eating. Don’t rush through your meal. Be fully present to enjoy it.