Recent trends like yoga and coloring inspired me to live in the present and take time to appreciate what really matters — food. These days, we stuff our faces in two minutes flat, continually chomping on auto-pilot. Buddhist monks on the other hand, take one bite and carefully savor the tastes, textures, and smells. To help us reconnect with the glorious experience of flavor, I decided to try eating mindfully for a week. Here’s what I learned:
1. It’s not as easy as it sounds
Like any new habit, you’ll want to set practical expectations for yourself. For example, instead of eating all three meals mindfully, I saved myself the frustration and took four sips of coffee with full attention. Then I slowly upgraded to snacking on a few raisins. By the end of the week, I ate one meal mindfully a day, alone and in silence. If you want to ease into the habit yourself, try this ancient buddhist teaching.
2. Have it suit your lifestyle
Loud and busy dining halls might not be the ideal place for mindful eating. The key to is be alone and away from distractions — that means no phone or laptop (sorry, Netflix). But let’s get real, our culture calls for eating with friends or in front of the TV. So adjust accordingly: If you’re at a restaurant, ask your friends to eat in silence for the first five minutes. If you’re watching a show, alternate activities — watch 10 minutes, then pause it and eat a few bites, then watch another 10 minutes, and so on.
3. Use a blindfold
Vision is our dominant sense. Just looking at a loaded plate can make us want to finish it more than truly savor its flavors. Mindful eating pushed me to focus on how I eat, not what I eat. To shine the spotlight on taste and texture, I wore a sleeping mask.
4. The first bite is the best bite
Once I got the hang of slow-paced eating, I started to notice taste getting less and less…tasty. It made me kind of sad to be honest. The first mouthful of a sandwich would be rich in its seasoning and condiments. But by the second and third morsel, those flavors lacked the pizazz of that initial bite.
5. You’ll want to swallow sooner than you normally should
Not even three bites in and I was ready to gulp down that sandwich. Eating this fast is the culprit of food comas and indigestion (not pleasant). So on top of overeating, your body won’t be able to absorb all that nutrients you just consumed. Ergo, chew slowly and thoroughly, almost to the consistency of apple sauce, before your swallow.
6. You’ll actually feel the need to stop eating
Normally, when I crave something sweet, I overindulge and scarf down a whole bag of some treat. But this time, mindful eating helped me realize that sweets can sometimes be too much. I popped one caramel popcorn in my mouth and a surge of sugar coated my tongue. When I chewed, my teeth started sticking together. I ate another one and my face suddenly cringed. By the third, I knew I didn’t need anymore.
Eating mindfully has amazing benefits that can reduce overeating, improve your digestion, and above all, increase your enjoyment of food. This is far from your average diet, in fact it’s an “anti-diet.” No restrictions or cleanses – it’s simply you, your senses, and your food. So breath, eat slowly, and respect your food.