Practice Mindful Eating
One of the benefits of being vegetarian or vegan is that you can practice mindful eating, which involves being aware of what you’re eating and where it came from, eating slowly to fully enjoy the flavors and textures. Eating with such consciousness can also help you lose weight as your meals will become more satisfying.
However, reducing your eating pace and changing what you think about while you eat, can be difficult until you form new habits.
The idea is to create an enjoyable ritual for eating that will relieve stress and a time you look forward to every day. Instead of stuffing your face, you will appreciate food beyond the taste and find it much more satisfying. Here are some tips you can use to become a more mindful diner.
Steps to Change Your Thinking
- Look forward to meals as a time to relax and nourish your body. Wolfing down your food may be just one symptom of a hectic lifestyle and is unhealthy. Set aside time to unwind with a meal. Exercise regularly and reward yourself with a delicious and relaxing meal.
- Learn to recognize true hunger. One of the major advantages of eating mindfully is that you give your body a chance to signal you when it’s full. The process takes about 20 minutes.
- The people of Okinawa Japan, an island known for longevity with the world’s highest proportion of centenarians, have a saying about eating: “Hara hachi bu,” which means eat until you are 80% full.
- Engage all your senses. Get absorbed in your meal. Notice colors, shapes, textures, the stream rising. As you take a bite close your eyes and note the scents, flavors and textures.
- Plan ahead. Preparing meals can be a part of your eating ritual. Having everything on hand for a stir fry beats ransacking the kitchen after a long day at work to locate anything edible. You’ll feel more at ease with meal preparation when you start out with everything you need. Think about each special ingredient that when combined, form a completely new flavor. Cooking your food can be soothing and will help in building anticipation for your meal. When you’re more relaxed in preparing the meal, you’re also less stressed when eating it.
Steps to Change Your Eating
- Be thankful and grateful for your food. Before eating, acknowledge how lucky you are to have the meal set before you. Extend your gratefulness toward any company joining you for the meal. If you are a spiritual person, say a short prayer in your head giving thanks for the meal.
- Put your fork down. Place your fork or spoon back down on the table in between each bite. All those additional seconds to retrieve your utensils add up.
- Serve small portions. Dish out one small serving at a time and keep the rest of the food off the table. If you want to have seconds, you’ll have to get up and go get them.
- Drink more water. Fill a large water glass before each meal. Keep a pitcher on the table. Sip between bites and between courses.
- Chew slowly. Chewing thoroughly is great for your digestion, and your waistline. Enjoy each bite, note the textures and flavors as you chew.
- Immerse your thoughts on your meal. As you chew, think about the origins of the ingredients in your food. If you are eating pasta, imagine beautiful wheat fields bending in the breeze, the sun illuminating the stocks. Visualize the process of harvesting and creating flour. Appreciate the miracle transformation of seeds in the earth to pasta on your plate.
For more detail on meditating while eating, see Eating Meditation
Steps to Change Your Environment
- Set a gracious table at home. Candles, flowers, and cloth napkins will encourage you to sit down and take your time. Turn off the TV and put on classical music or mellow jazz. Make your meals an event, not a trip to the food trough.
- Choose restaurants for ambiance. When you go out, look for eateries with an inviting atmosphere. You can find good options even if you’re on a budget. Skip the fast food places where dining rooms are purposely uncomfortable, designed for fast turnover. Try a tea shop or a hotel coffee shop and loll around the lounge area.
- Focus on conversation. When dining with others, it’s a social experience and the food is secondary. Get together with friends for brunch or throw a cookout in your backyard. Pay attention to offering hospitality to your guests. You’ll still enjoy your food, but your company will be the main event.
Food is a gift, as you become more mindful of your food, you’ll soon find that you love lingering over your meals.