Once you get the hang of mindful eating, with continual practice you can quickly get into the swing of things, especially if you have a set routine. But what about when your routine flies out of the window, as it often can. What happens when you find yourself around friends and family, at big meals or snacking at a picnic? Can we still eat mindfully? Absolutely!
Mindful eating isn’t about concentrating solely on the food, making sure you taste every tiny morsel of it. For me, mindful eating is about enjoying a meal or snack, taking in the textures and flavours, the satisfaction and fulfillment food brings along with the atmosphere, joy and chitchat around the table - if we’re lucky enough to eat with others. It’s about relishing the time spent with them, bonding over food, being in the moment and appreciating the yumminess on our plates. It’s about making food for others, showing that we care or accepting food that has been carefully created just for us, receiving their love and care.
It’s an exchange of so much more than just food on a plate. It’s time spent thinking of what someone would like to eat, considering their preferences, likes and dislikes. It’s chopping and cutting, stirring and bubbling. It’s keeping an eye on a simmering pan as we wash up. It’s timing the potatoes, watching the clock. It’s a tea towel thrown over our shoulder and a table hastily laid as we keep checking the oven. It’s dishes passed from one pair of loving hands to another, it’s getting up mid-serving to fetch more spoons. It’s murmurs of “Can you pass me that?” and “Have you got enough?”. It’s a ritual that feeds, fuels and nourishes those we love. It makes us exactly who we are. It calms us, fulfills us, soothes us, nurtures us, gives us energy, inspiration and motivation. It’s love and joy, words and feelings that can only be expressed on a plate or in a bowl. It’s an exchange of so much more than just food on a plate.
Here are three tips to try out next time you’re eating, surrounded by others and find you’re not quite as mindful as you’d like to be:
Take a deep breath before starting, say something positive about the meal - “this looks lovely”, “doesn’t this smell good!” etc.
Pop your knife and fork or spoon down between each mouthful, it’s not a race, you don’t have to finish first, you can take your time to enjoy each mouthful before loading the next on your fork if you’d like to.
Pause mid-way through your food and ask yourself if you’re full. If you are, pop your knife and fork down. Try not to worry about offending others. If I’m at someone’s house and I know they put lots of time and effort into cooking for me, I’ll often say I’m afraid I’m really full but that was so lovely, would you mind if I took it home with me for lunch tomorrow? I really really enjoyed it!