Mindful eating is just what it sounds like: a practice aimed at questioning the way we eat. It comes less in response to any one individual than to modern life as a whole—life that often values speed over diligence and quantity over quality. If you think this sounds odd, you’re not alone; there are an infinite number of questions worth asking about the way we eat. Still, some tend to come up more than others:
Should we eat when we’re physically hungry, or when we’re seeking an emotional shift?
Should we always finish our plate, or stop when we know we’ve had enough?
Should we eat the foods that nourish our bodies and minds, or those that comfort us in the moment?
More than anything else, though, the two most impactful aspects of mindful eating are what we eat and how we eat. What we eat involves the foods themselves, of course, but also how those foods are prepared and their entire life cycle from beginning to end. How we eat sits even more within our control: it’s everything we do from the moment we sit down until the very last bite.
Benefits Of Mindful Eating
The most immediate benefit you’ll notice from eating mindfully is that you eat less, since mindful eating attunes you to the body’s hunger signals. Whether weight loss is important to you or not, eating less is a good thing, since less food means the body expends less energy on digestion, freeing up resources for other, more important tasks. Many people who practice mindful eating also end up eating healthier, as the practice has them truly consider what they’re putting into their bodies.
This only scratches the surface of the physical benefits of mindful eating, though there are plenty of others, too. Your food will taste better. You’ll slow down and find time to think. You’ll recognize your place within the global food chain. Nothing we do exists in a vacuum. Even our smallest decisions hold significance.
A Mindful Eating Exercise
The next time you sit down to eat (assuming you do sit down), return to your roots and make your eating about eating once more. Turn off the TV. Put your phone away. If you’re with someone, ask that they join you in staying silent for a few minutes. This meal is about food.
- The First Bite
Place a single forkful of food in your mouth. Move it around so it activates the taste buds on every part of your tongue. Feel the texture of the food. Feel its warmth. Is it salty or spicy? Sweet or sour? Make note of the taste as if for the first time. Then move on to the other senses: how it smells, how it sounds as you chew, its rich, natural colour. Think about how that bite made its way to your plate. Was it grown locally or in a foreign land? How was it processed, if at all? There’s a story behind every bite. Eating mindfully helps you to discover it.
- Reflect & Repeat
When you’re ready, swallow that first bite. Now stop. Don’t take a second bite just yet. What do you notice? Did you enjoy that bite more than you normally do? Do you feel any different now that it’s gone?
Many of us, when eating mindfully for the first time, notice our relationship with food changes. No longer is food just a means to an end for us, or a tool for changing our emotional state. Instead, food is something that enriches our lives, and eating becomes an experience we look forward to for reasons well beyond just taste.
What we eat is an item that gets a lot of attention here at Hillside. It’s why all three of our restaurants prepare global cuisines using locally-sourced ingredients, and why we’ve designed our Wellness Buffet to offer even more nutritious dishes suited for just about any diet and sensibility.
How we eat is important to us, too. During our twice-annual Feel Good Week, we bring in experts from around the world to share cutting-edge knowledge and expertise on how to empower yourself through food, plus strategies for incorporating mindful eating into your busy daily life.
Your relationship with food doesn’t have to be a stagnant one. Spice things up by giving mindful eating a try.