How to Master the Art of Mindful eating

26 03 2010

This is a guest post by Jules Clancy from stonesoup.

When I quit my job in January to focus on blogging full time, there were many changes I was excited about implementing in my lifestyle. One of the most rewarding has been around my eating habits.
During my years as a corporate wage slave, breakfast was a meal I ate alone in my car. Bites snatched and barely chewed while I negotiated the frustrating traffic on my one hour commute.
Lunch tended to be an even more disappointing affair. While I did usually take something fresh from home. I didn’t give it justice. Scoffing my sandwich in front of my computer while I prepared for the next meeting, I often barely registered what I was taking into my body. No wonder I would finish the lot feeling empty and unsatisfied.
With my new schedule I was committed to making a change. No more meals behind the wheel or a screen, I was determined to start practicing the art of mindful eating.

and the benefits?

Reduced over eating. It’s been a while now since I went to bed feeling bloated and over stuffed. Which is great in itself but also means that my ‘muffin top’ is pretty much gone when I wear my favorite jeans.
Increased enjoyment of food. As a food scientist, I’ve always considered myself a big fan of eating. Now that I’m on the path to mastering the art of mindful eating, I am finding a new found respect for food and am gaining far more pleasure from meal times.
Improved digestion. Digestion begins in the mouth with the action of saliva. If food isn’t chewed properly it means that there’s more work for the rest of your digestion system. I may be imagining this, but I think I’ve also noticed I have less gas now that I’m eating mindfully.
Being satisfied with less. Linked with reduced over eating, the real benefit here is being able to trust yourself to feel satisfied after one or two squares of chocolate so there is no temptation to scoff the whole block. Suddenly there’s no need to deny yourself the occasional treat which makes for a far healthier relationship with food.
Ready to change the way you interact with food?

How to master the art of mindful eating:

1. Start small. Like all new habits, it’s best to set realistic expectations. Choose one meal or snack each day and commit to focusing on mindful eating at that time.
2. Stop multitasking at meal times. It’s really difficult to focus on eating if you’re doing other things. Set aside time for eating without other entertainment.
3. Only eat at the table. Another way to minimize mindless munching is to get into the habit of only eating when you are sitting down and able to give the food your full attention. No more snacking on the run.
4. Appreciate the appearance. While we’ve all drooled over gorgeous food porn in magazines or online, sometimes we forget about the beauty of the food we are about to eat. Taking the time to notice sets the scene for mindful eating.
5. Focus on each mouthful. Think about the flavour, texture and even the sound of the food in your mouth. Focus on how much you like, or dislike these sensations.
6. Chew. While it can be overkill to go to the monastic extreme of 100 bites per mouthful, make sure you chew your food enough so that it is well broken down before you swallow.
7.Use cutlery and put it down between mouthfuls. It’s much easier to take smaller portions when using a knife and fork. Of course if you feel like you’re having a ridiculous Seinfeld moment eating a chocolate bar with utensils, then skip this step but do put the bar down in between bites so you can focus.
8. Talk and share. One of the joys of eating is sharing a meal with loved ones. It can be challenging to incorporate mindfulness in a social situation but not impossible. Turn the focus of the conversation onto the meal while you are actually eating. Share what you are experiencing in terms of flavours and textures, likes and dislikes. At first this may seem a little weird but trust me, you’ll soon find yourself having fun with it.
9. Go for quality not quantity. By choosing smaller amounts of the best food you can afford, you will not only enjoy it more, you’re far more likely to be satisfied without having to over eat.
10. Make time to prepare your own meals, preferably from fresh ingredients. The cooking process can be as relaxing and enjoyable as eating if you let it. For me, the peace of mind that comes from knowing exactly what has gone into my food makes any hassle worthwhile.
Why not try the art of mindful eating with my super simple recipe for broccoli with chickpeas & tahini.
zh broccoli & chickpeas-3
[5 ingredients | 10 mintutes]
super simple broccoli with chickpeas & tahini sauce
serves 2 – 3
This is broccoli at it’s best. Crunchy and fresh in some spots, caramelised and complex in others. It seems like so much more than, well, just broccoli. With all that variety it’s a great dish to practice the gentle art of mindful eating.
I’ve added the chickpeas to make it more of a complete meal, but I have been known to happily tuck into a big bowl of the broccoli on it’s own.
Tahini is a paste of ground sesame seeds and is available from most health food stores. Natural yoghurt makes a good substitute.
If Leo hasn’t convinced you to become a vegan yet, the broccoli is also brilliant served with some crispy bacon or a softly poached egg.

1 head broccoli, chopped into bite sized mini-trees
extra virgin olive oil
1 can chickpeas (14oz or 400g), drained
2 tablespoons tahini
3 tablespoons lemon juice

Preheat a large frying pan on the hottest heat.
Add 2 tablespoon oil to pan. When it starts to smoke add the broccoli and cover with a lid or an oven tray – it’s critical to seal it so the broccoli fries from the bottom but steams at the top.
After 2 minutes, remove the lid and stir. Return lid and cook for a further 2 minutes.
Add the chickpeas and stir. Cover and cook for another minute.
Test a piece of broccoli – if it’s tender, remove from the heat. If not cover and cook for another few minutes. Season with salt & pepper.
Meanwhile combine tahini & lemon juice with 2 tablespoons water and stir until you have a smooth sauce.
Serve broccoli and chickpeas with tahini sauce drizzled over the top.

Jules Clancy is the author of the cookbook ‘And the love is free‘ and writes stonesoup – a blog about helping people become better home cooks by using a minimalist approach to cooking.


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