Food is a massive part of our lives. Whether you enjoy it or not, you need to eat a few times a day to stay alive, healthy and energetic. According to Statistics Canada, we spend between 48 minutes and 90 minutes every day eating1. At an average of 69 minutes each day, that adds up to 8 hours and 3 minutes each week; 32 hours and 12 minutes each month; and 1,674 hours and 15 minutes each year!
Every one of us has a different relationship with food, which can vary throughout our lifetime. We may experience strong emotions when we think about food, plan our meals, remember what we ate earlier, or when we're actually eating. Or we may feel few emotions surrounding food, eating for sustenance and not giving it much thought.
Regardless of what food means to you at this time in your life, one way to make eating more enjoyable, and to improve your health at the same time, is to practice mindful eating. This simply means paying more attention to what you're eating, while you're eating it. Slowing down and paying attention to the whole process of eating can make each meal feel like a self-care ritual - which it actually can be!
Start by taking a few seconds to really look at the food you've set out in front of you. Notice the colours on your plate; the textures; the variety of ingredients. Consider where it all came from: the truck drivers who drove the ingredients to your grocery store; the farmers who grew the crops and fed the animals; the sun that nourished all of them.
As you dig in, slow down and become aware of your movements. Pay attention to how each bite tastes. Notice the textures and flavours intermingling in your mouth. Chew each bite focusing on the act of eating - don’t do anything else while you’re chewing. Simply chew and pay attention. After you swallow, rest for a few seconds, giving yourself a pause before your next bite. Notice the aftertaste. Notice how your body reacts and how it asks for another bite, or when it feels satisfied.
Once you begin practicing mindful eating, you will notice that you enjoy your meals a lot more. Flavours become bolder. You may crave healthier options. It's very common that people stop overeating, as you notice sooner when you start to feel full (rather than eating distractedly, not paying attention and then noticing your plate is empty. Where's the enjoyment in that?). Our bodies are incredibly wise instruments that function completely for our health and wellbeing. The simple act of paying more attention to the process of eating and how your body reacts can teach you a lot about what the healthiest choices are for your unique constitution.
Mindful eating is a legitimate meditation technique. This means that you can be meditating 69 minutes each day, without taking any additional time out of your day! No excuses that you don't have time anymore. Eating mindfully will improve your focus and can help you become aware of any unhealthy mental patterns you have around food. With awareness comes the ability to choose how to move forward towards healthier habits. All it takes is slowing down and paying a bit more attention.