Eat Like a Buddhist: Introducing Mindful Eating

Obesity, consitpation, binge eating, food cravings - all these issues stem from our eating wrong things in the wrong way. And while we all know which foods are healthy, your approach to eating is important, too.

Image Credit: Sergejs Rahunoks / es.123rf.com

What is mindfulness?

The concept of mindfulness has been in the focus of Western attention for years, with thousands of books, courses, and meditation retreats centered around it. The idea comes from Buddhism with its desire to shed anxiety and unnecessary worries about the future and concentrate on the present moment as the only reality that truly exists. Buddhist monks are supposed to do everything mindfully – walk, talk, breathe, sit, read… Mindfulness is not a complex technique – you just have to concentrate fully on whatever you are doing and be in the moment, feeling what is going on inside you and outside you, quieting your thoughts (more on the effects of mindfulness).

Eating mindfully

Mindfulness is easily applied to food. On average, we spend 2-3 hours a day eating, but most of that time we are also doing something else: watching TV, looking into our phone, reading, talking… It may seem to make the process more interesting, but there are issues with such mindless eating:

  • You don’t enjoy food properly, often you hardly feel the taste;
  • You end up eating too much – it takes your brain 20 minutes to give the body the signal of fullness, and if you eat too fast, you get many more calories before you feel full;
  • Mindless eating lead to unhalthy food habits, such as binging and addictions for junk food;
  • Your digestion suffers, because you don’t chew properly.

Mindful eating involves savouring every bite, appreciating the color, texture, and smell of food, thinking about where it came from and who made it. Before you begin eating, you are supposed to just gaze at your food, appreciating how it looks. Then you chew every bite very carefully (we have already written about the importance of chewing) and make pauses between bites. Do not talk, even if you are eating with family, and turn off the TV. Devote yourself fully to the experience.

Why try it?

In the Google headquarters, a long mindful lunch is held once a month, and those who have tried it advise everyone to experiment with mindful eating. The benefits are many:

  • New experience: you will fully enjoy the taste of food for the first time
  • Better digestion and elimination
  • Resolution of food cravings
  • Weight loss (more details here)
  • Eating smaller portions
  • Best way to combat binge eating
  • Sense of peace and internal quiet
  • Reduced stress and anxiety.

When trying mindful eating for the first time, don’t push yourself too much: choose just one meal a week, perhaps when you are alone. If you enjoy the experience, make it one meal a day. Note that a mindful meal takes much more time. Choose a smaller plate. Ideally, you should fill it with healthy food: vegetables, lean meat and fish, and whole grains. However, you can also practice mindful eating on burgers or cake. As a result, after a while you may discover that you actually prefer the taste of healthy food and that you feel full much sooner – you may not even finish that burger!

Mindful eating is not a cure for serious digestive disorders, such as colitis or gastritis, or for severe obesity. However, it will help you shed a few pounds, but most importantly – it will give you a serenity and a healthy attitude to food that you’ve never known before.

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