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The Benefits of Eating Mindfully
In last week’s post,we explored the tendency to use food to distract us from dealing with unpleasant emotions. Using food in this way is not healthy or constructive and leads to more problems like overweight, digestive issues, and increased risks for serious health conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular illness, and cancer. This is a pretty terrifying list, but we don’t have to stay stuck in this rut of emotional eating and poor health. When we slow down and eat mindfully, paying attention to flavors and aromas, not only do we eat less, but we enjoy the experience much more.
What if we used food to nourish our bodies instead of worrying about what we’re allowed to eat on our diet? What if we engaged all of our senses paying attention to the textures, flavors, colors, temperature, and aromas of our food? When we slow down and pay attention to these details we are eating mindfully and we enjoy our food!
For example, think back to your Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner. We reveled in the aromas of our traditional foods. We actually sat down with family and friends, and took our time savoring each part of the meal. Often we got together with loved ones and prepared the meals together.
However, on most days we want quick meal preparations. We wolf down our food to move on to the next activity. On most days, we eat while doing something else, whether it’s watching t.v., working on the computer, playing computer games, reading, driving (eek!), or while watching our kids play sports. We pay so little attention to what is going into our mouths. When we eat on the run, we miss out on the experience of seeing raw ingredients blending together to create delicious food.
We also miss out on the fellowship of eating meals with family and friends. Even if we eat most of our meals alone, sitting down to a pleasant table setting with nourishing food, feeds our souls in ways that eating in front of a computer never can. It’s really hard to change the habit of eating without something entertaining us. It feels weird and awkward, but there are thinking shifts that can ease us into eating more mindfully.
Focus On Nourishing Your Body
#1 Focus on nourishing your body.
We don’t need just calories. Our bodies need specific nutrients to function well. If we shift our thinking away from “I need something to eat!” to “What does my body need to take in at this meal or snack?”, it causes us to pay attention to what we’re putting into our mouths. Anything that slows us down and enables us to pay attention creates mindfulness.
#2 Cookbooks and Food Blogs that feed our souls as well as our bodies and make food pleasurable to eat.
“Food and poetry are two of life’s essential ingredients. In the same way salt seasons ingredients to bring out their flavor, poetry seasons our lives; when celebrated together, our everyday moments and meals are richer and more meaningful.”
Her writing opens up this world of savoring and appreciating food; everyday nourishing food. She included a recipe for Sweet Potato and Kale Minestrone soup in her book. She instructs us that minestrone means “thick soup” in Italian, but she likens it to “meditation” as we wait for the ingredients to meld into a flavorful soup. Nicole encourages us to slow down and really experience the process of making our meals and waiting for them to cook. Nicole knows how to cook and eat mindfully! Her book is full of family stories, poems, and real food.
After reading my preview copy of her book, I decided to make this soup. I’ve made Minestrone soup before, but never with Parmesan cheese in it. What a difference it makes to simmer the veggies with Parmesan cheese in the broth. The other thing this recipe calls for, is to saute the onion and garlic until “fragrant” before adding the other ingredients. I have never done that before with soup-making. I did not have any fancy bread, but I toasted a slice of Ezekiel Bread and put garlic butter on it to accompany my soup. Yum! The results were delightful! I never knew I could take a simple soup and create something so special. I can’t wait to try her other recipes!
#3 Plan ahead.
Planning ahead what we want to eat and doing the prep work before we’re exhausted and starving is also vital to eating mindfully. I struggle greatly with this part. I’m too exhausted to prep veggies when I get home from grocery shopping. Instead, I’ve started to cut extra veggies when I need something for a specific meal, so that I can store the extra already chopped veggies in the frig or freezer. This also prevents having to throw out rotten, spoiled food.
I know that meal planning feels overwhelming, but it’s really vital to eating better. Lately, I’ve just started to think of meals as proteins, carbs, and veggies/fruit. I’ll make my grocery list thinking about what is on sale, what is easy to prepare and what foods would go well together. For example, I pick chicken for a protein and then add the veggies I want to eat with it. I keep rice and potatoes, both white and sweet, in my pantry. I cook one or the other depending on my energy levels. Sometimes, I just eat the protein and the veg. I’m also trying to use fresh fruit for dessert.
#4 Eat with Gratitude
We need to remember to be thankful for our food and to give thanks to God for His provision. An attitude of gratitude nourishes our spirits and seasons our food. It also makes what we have “enough.”
Final Thoughts On Eating Mindfully
I think that eating mindfully, slowing down while cooking and eating, and sitting at the table without distractions while dining, are worthwhile ideas that just might help with our mindless overeating. Somewhere this week, I ran across the idea of focusing on nourishing our bodies instead of just feeding them. If we focus on nourishment when we eat, it takes our focus off of grabbing whatever is handy, and gobbling it down so fast that we end up with a stomachache and regrets.
Preparing and planning ahead are key to eating foods that nourish our bodies. Made from scratch always tastes better than canned or boxed food. Too often I have reached for the canned soup or ravioli for a meal. I’ve never found pleasure in eating such things. Plus they’re always full of too much sodium, and/or too much sugar, and preservatives. If we’re going to eat mindfully and enjoy our food, we need better tasting stuff than what comes out of a can!
Finally, when we remember to take care of all parts of ourselves, we won’t end up ravenously reaching for things that won’t satisfy. Any steps we take towards paying attention to what we’re eating, and focusing on nourishing our bodies and souls, will go a long way to improve our physical, mental, and spiritual health.
What changes are you thinking about doing or what changes have you implemented to help you slow down and enjoy your meals? Any questions? Feel free to let me know in the comments below.
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Till next time, Kathy