Mindful Eating – Have You Given it the College Try?

Roo Frith
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When was the last time you sat down and enjoyed a leisurely meal with a group of friends? What about just you and your partner? And what about by yourself?
Sometimes, it can be really hard to find a second in the day when you are able to enjoy what is right in front of you, right here and right now. It can be even harder to make yourself stop and actually sit down for a prolonged period of time, especially if you’re rushing trying to get everything done. But when you stop amidst the hustle and bustle to sit down and eat, it is the perfect opportunity to check in with your mind and your body.
 
Eating is wonderful. It gives us energy and pleasure. It is as natural as breathing. It has a fantastic way of bringing people together. But in our diet and image-obsessed culture, eating can suddenly induce guilt where before it was simply enjoyable. To make matters worse, under the combined pressures of work, money, and deadlines, it is often cheaper and easier for us to grab fast food on the go, pumped full of salt and artificial flavors (and god knows what else!), than it is for us to find the time to sit down and enjoy something wholesome.
 
Food can become a chore – just one more thing to get done on an endless to-do list. Maybe you’ve experienced this yourself, and know what it feels like to inhale your food (usually over a laptop) without even tasting it. Maybe you haven’t tasted your dinner properly for weeks. Maybe it’s time for a change.
 
Enter mindful eating.
 
If you haven’t come across the term ‘mindfulness’ before, it’s about time that you did.
 
The concept is simple: to live in the moment, with acceptance and grace, freeing yourself from past worry and future anxiety. To be present. To be connected. To quiet the mind from the endless chatter and just feel and experience the present moment.
 
Mindfulness can be applied to all aspects of life, from food and sex, to exercise and work. You almost certainly practice mindfulness already in yoga when you focus on the breath and fully experience your body in a pose.

Mindful eating is to eat with intention and attention.

Let’s break that down…
 
Eat with the intention of caring for your mind and body:
 
Ask your body what it wants. Your body is miraculous. Respect it, and give it what it is truly worthy of. Eat to fuel your vibrant lifestyle, rather than just for emotional comfort or for keeping boredom at bay (I know, we’ve all done it). Ask yourself if you really are hungry. And, if so, what do you want to give to your body to treat it as good as possible? Your body relies on you to look after it and treat it right. When you do, you can rely on it to carry you through an enjoyable and healthy life.
 
Eat with the attention necessary to really appreciate the experience:
 
Take your time… breathe in the smell of a bowl of fresh aromatic rice… Think about where these strawberries have come from, and be thankful for the ripening sun, and the water, and the earth, and all the people who made it possible for you to be eating them right now… Feel the soft skin of a peach against your cheek, the weight of an avocado in your hands… Allow dark chocolate sauce to ooze irresistibly over your tongue, and the full aroma of a hot coffee to roll around your mouth before it hits your taste buds… Watch butter melting on a piece toast, hear the crunch as you bite into it, catch the crumbs… And fall in love with your favorite foods all over again.
 

 
With every mouthful, you can learn to be present. To feel… To see… To touch… To smell… To taste… To pause… And to feel again.
 
In this way, you are mindful of your food, and don’t allow your work or your worries to distract you from the task at hand: eating.
 
Of course, to do this for every mouthful and every meal can make cooking and eating extremely time consuming. What’s more, old habits can be very difficult to break free from, and we all know that anything truly worthy often takes work and patience and practice. So take baby steps, and be gentle on yourself, just as you do in your yoga practice.
 
First, try just focusing on three mouthfuls in a meal: the first, the last, and one from the middle. Enjoy these moments.
 
If you are eating alone, turn it into a challenge. Can you remain truly mindful of what you are doing for the entire experience? When you decide to make yourself a cup of tea, remind yourself to pause, and take a moment to see where you and your mind are. Try focusing on just the first three sips. Baby steps.
 
Finally, and probably most importantly, remember to remove the distractions so that eating can have your undivided attention. Move away from your desk, shut your book, turn off the television, and see what that coconut yogurt really tastes like.
 
Hopefully, before long, you’ll find eating with intention and attention not only natural, but truly rewarding and fulfilling.
 
Enjoy your food. Enjoy the present moment. Enjoy truly experiencing both.
 

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This is what conscious eating is all about. The beautiful thing about this video is that the child's innocence allows him to be aware of what he is actually eating. He understands that while the food in front of him may not look like the animal it once was, it was an animal and that the life of an innocent animal is not his to take.
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Roo Frith

For Roo, yoga is her white dog - the only thing that will keep her depression at bay. Through her practice she has found courage, peace, and an energy that she thought at one point she would never feel again. Now, as her strength returns, Roo is determined to be reunited with her love of life, silliness, adventure, and creativity once more. Read more about her journey with mental illness, as well as following her travels, on her personal blog Hot Tea & Toast.

hotteaandtoast.wordpress.com

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