The Fine Art of Eating Mindfully: 5 Practices to Improve Your Relationship With Food

It is safe to say that vegetarianism, almost totally unheard of in the west only a few decades back, has since swept the globe. North Americans want healthy, meat-free diets, and they want the food that comprises those diets to be easily and readily available on supermarket shelves, at local vendor stands and, yes, even at drive-throughs and corner stores.

On the heels of this obsession is the vegan movement. Where traditional vegetarianism includes certain animal products such as eggs and dairy, veganism eschews everything that is not plant-based. Though still more uncommon than not, the vegan diet is quickly catching on, showing up in ever more places with each passing year.

Yet even more unknown than either of these is the practice of eating mindfully. Though just as ancient, and stemming from many of the same sources, the practice of eating mindfully is not restricted to any particular diet, just as mindfulness itself is not restricted to any particular religion or tradition.

Yet the benefits of eating mindfully may very well outweigh all of the others. While there is no particular way to practice mindful eating — other than practicing mindfulness itself while you eat — there are a few specific habits that can aid in your development of the method overall. Here are 5 of them. 

1) Bless your food after a breath.

A moment of being thankful for the meal we’re about to eat and a consideration of where and how it got to our plate may slow down the fork-mouth production line and put the brain back in control. A full breath in and out considering how much we need to eat is powerful.

2) Use smaller utensils.

There is no doubt that our plates and serving pieces have grown along with our waistlines. I recently reordered a few replacement forks and spoons for a 20 year-old cutlery set and the new pieces where at least 25% larger than the exact same pattern I bought in the past. And the same is true for plates, water glasses and trays. Using salad plates, salad forks, juice glasses and teaspoons as a routine at a meal reduces the amount we eat.

3) Stock your fridge and pantry at eye level with the healthy and plant-based items and make it hard to reach the treats.

We respond to what we see and unfortunately, we tend to keep our fruits and vegetables hidden in the crisper. Putting the peaches, berries, carrots and celery, all washed and ready to grab, in a place where we see them first on opening up the icebox helps guide us towards good choices.

4) Sit and chew.

I do not know how many meals I eat standing, but sitting at a table, sharing conversation, paying attention to colors, textures and tastes are the way most meals where eaten in our parents’ youth. In addition, recognizing that digestion begins in the mouth and that chewing foods slowly and completely, something that has been referred to as Chewdiasm, enhances our nutrition and reduces our calories will help us maintain control.

5) Remember Hari bachi bu.

Heart disease rates are 80% lower in Okinawa, Japan. Citizens of these islands have the greatest longevity in the world. Their diet is not only largely plant-based, but their culture teaches that one should eat until 80% full, hari bachi bu, and then stop even if food is left over. Perhaps we should redo the US food plate and have a wedge representing 20% of the plate removed to spread this important habit?

There are many reasons that the average weight of adults around the world have escalated so dramatically since 1990, but our fast- paced and distracted lives are partly responsible for the problem.

Just as yoga practice teaches us to be in the moment (“now here not nowhere”), so does a practice of mindful eating, even for the plant-based family, teach us to treasure and honor our day more fully. In the Bhagavad Gita, it says that yoga is not possible for the one who eats too much. As is yoga so is life.

Source: The five points outlined in this article were excerpted from a longer piece entitled “How To Eat Mindfully, A Practice That Will Change Your Life“, from mindbodygreen.com, by Dr. Joel Kahn. It is shared here with permission.