While I love going to restaurants or pop-up vendors like the new LA Smorgasburg, I also often find myself eating without really thinking about it. The problem of mindless eating can manifest itself in something as simple as going to the fridge when you're bored or something larger like eating in front of your computer or the television.
I'm often guilty of eating in front of my laptop, especially when I have a lot of work to do and decide to just eat lunch at my desk. There's nothing wrong with multitasking but it's impossible to focus completely on two things at once, and when you're eating while doing other things, eating often becomes a robotic thoughtless act.
There are plenty of physical ways to curb food cravings and influence healthier eating habits, such as exercise, but one of the easiest things you can do is just take a few minutes each day to slow down and practice mindful meditation.
What is Mindful Meditation
I first got interested in the idea of mindful meditation when I took a psychology class last spring that focused on the science of happiness and proven ways that someone can increase their happiness. Mindful meditation is slightly different than other forms of meditation, focusing on being aware of your surroundings and thoughts rather than trying to clear your mind of all thoughts. Mindfulness helps focus you in the present.
The basic principle behind mindful meditation is not to clear your mind of all thought, which can be one of the hardest parts of meditation, but rather to pause your actions and recognize all the thoughts you have.To practice mindful meditation, close your eyes, center yourself by breathing deeply and rhythmically. Then, instead of trying to dismiss all your thoughts, let them come and acknowledge them and then dismiss them. It will help you really focus on the present and give you a sense of calm.
How Mindfulness Influences General Eating Habits
Practicing mindful meditation daily doesn't just help calm you in the moment, but overall influences you to be more present in your life, reducing anxiety and stress. This awareness can influence your eating habits by helping you recognize when you're full, and help curb thoughtless eating such as going to the fridge out of boredom, or mindlessly eating while watching TV because you're not paying attention to when you're full. It can even help you recognize what you're craving so you can satisfy that particular taste bud.
Restaurants are also incorporating this idea of all-encompassing wellness. The Springs, a cafe in downtown Los Angeles, encourages healthy eating and social awareness by using sustainable, local, seasonable produce when available, and offers vegan, gluten-free and organic food options and pressed juices. One of their most admirable elements, however, is their yoga and wellness studio, which offers free guided meditation every weekday at 1 pm.
How to Eat Mindfully
Being mindful with food can start with something as simple as a cup of coffee, as author Gloria Chadwick addresses in her book Zen Coffee: A Guide to Mindful Meditation. Eating mindfully is something you can incorporate into your every meal and snack with just a few simple steps:
1. Put Away Your Electronics
This sounds a lot easier than it is, especially when you're eating alone. I know it's tempting to pull up Netflix or Facebook to entertain yourself while you eat, but resist the urge. Instead, focus on enjoying the food. If you're a serial food Instagrammer, snap your photo and put your phone away.
2. Know What You're Eating
I don't just mean know the name of the dish you ordered or bought from the store. If you're cooking for yourself, you know all the ingredients you used. If you're eating out, pay attention to what's in your dish.
Paying closer attention to what you're eating will help you cut out more processed foods. You don't have to cut out processed foods, but awareness will help reduce the desire for junk food and balance your diet.
3. Eat Slowly
Eating slowly is a large part of mindful eating. When you take your time eating, you are better able to taste your food, and the food settles in your stomach more efficiently, letting you know when you are full, unlike if you devoured your food quickly and later discover you ate too much.
4. Pay Attention to Flavors
Eating slowly and paying attention to flavors go hand in hand. By eating slowly, you can better attention to what you're eating and enjoy the flavors more. Paying attention to all the various flavors in your food can help you slow down, because it takes time to fully savor food.
The most important aspect of eating mindfully is enjoyment. Food is meant to nourish, but it's also made for enjoyment. So always remember to slow down and enjoy your food.