When we exercise we always recommend a warm up before the workout to get the body ready for action. These 6 essential steps are basically your warm up for mindful eating. Ready carefully, and practice with your next meal.
1. Plan Ahead
Planning ahead of time what you're going to eat, just like you would a work out, will put your mind at ease when it's chow time. You know how it goes, if you're hungry or it's time to eat and you have no idea what to have you probably aimlessly eat whatever.
You open the fridge door, see the grapes and grab a few.
The cheese looks good, so you get some of that out.
You usually have cheese with crackers so then you have the crackers.
Now you're standing at the counter eating cheese and crackers and you think I should probably eat a real meal now. Then you maybe make a dinner.
I know this happens, because I've totally done it too! I did until I made meal planning a habit. Planning your meals once a week is a great place to start. But sometimes planning just the 1 day is enough to prime yourself for mindful eating. You can get a free 3-day meal plan here.
2. Put the Food on a Plate
Putting your food on a plate helps tremendously with mindful eating. You are removing the serving from the container which helps with nutrition portions, too. Putting your food on a plate, or in a bowl, or a baggie is essential for mindful eating.
Okay, so but what about all of my meal peppers out there?! First of all, kudos - I love and support any type of meal prep. Stay tuned for meal prep bootcamp in 2020 :D. Let's say you did plan ahead and you meal prepped your meals (whoo hoo!) ...should you put your meal on a plate after its in the container? My answer is yes!
That makes the eating experience so much more mindful and immersive. It adds a dish to clean, yes so if cleaning the dishes is a barrier for you then maybe you can skip that step. But only skip that step if it's already prepped in the container. When you're home, make sure you do this step.
3. Put Away All Other Items
I am soooo guilty of not doing this step. Admittedly I am always either reading an article, on the computer, or talking to someone. But I can honestly say that when I actually remove all of the distractions, or at the very least separate them like when I am out to eat with friends, I feel so much more satisfied. It's like my brain, heart, and body all know that I'm nourishing. Our digestive system is connected to our brain, so if our brain doesn't know what's up digestion can feel a little sluggish. Read about the Gut-Brain Axis if you want to know more.
Do you ever appreciate your meal, like I mean really give it the gratitude it deserves. There are a few ways to show appreciation. I take food pics - which I sincerely believe adds to mindful eating. Some people give thanks out loud. Some people give a silent nod. Whatever your method of gratitude is, practice it every time you eat.
When you do this, not only can you eat more mindfully but you can start to catch when you are not eating mindfully. For example, you're not giving much time to appreciate the candy your grabbing from the jar at work., namsayin?
5. Pick up Your Fork
The obvious one if you're eating a meal that requires a fork, but I hear a lot of clients tell me they pick from plates. This is especially true for mamas out there picking off their kiddos plates. If you are eating a meal with a fork or spoon pick it up and just take note.
If you are eating with your hands, again take note. Feel the texture for the food, the warmth or how cold it is. We also eat a lot faster when we eat with our hands, so extra important to be mindful.
6. Chew with All the Senses Engaged
Taste and smell together bring a food it's flavor. There's a whole lot going on in your olfactory system and the taste buds are alerting your brain if something is sour, bitter, sweet, or spicy or umami. Again, all of these signals are triggering to your brain that you're eating and so being super aware of all that's going on is critical for mindful eating.
Do you taste something you like? Don't like? I just had this very thought when Physio gave me a bite of his Kodiak Cakes Maple Oatmeal that was on top of a Morning Star "Sausage" Patty. I didn't like the sweet and umami combo, I felt like it left my body wanting more of one flavor than the other. I wouldn't have picked up on that if I wasn't paying close attention to all I was sensing.
7. Bonus Mindful Eating Challenge! - Put the Fork Down in Between Bites
Bonus! This is for the real mindful eating practice. I would even go as far as saying it is a mindful eating challenge. When you're eating your next meal, try putting down your fork, or spoon, or the food item itself in between bites. That means when you're chewing, you're all in on that chewing. This ties step 5 and 6 together. Give this a try and if you do, let me know!