This happens: scarfing something down whilst working/watching TV only to realize you tasted nothing, and while your belly is full, your mind/mouth/heart/everything else is still hungry. Sound familiar?
Yet, the alternative: “mindful eating” is quite frankly unrealistic to implement. At least it was for me.
So here are some things I WON’T suggest you do:
- Chew each bite thirty times.
- Think only about the food you’re eating the entire time you’re eating.
- Use smaller utensils.
- Prepare elaborate meals.
- Eat in the same place every time.
- Turn off all distractions.
- Pause before each bite.
No, no, no – that’s torture after a while.
The great thing about mindfulness is that it’s like meditation – do it a little or do it a lot, do it well or poorly, the benefits are incredibly powerful. So, I “invented” micro-mindfulness! It’s the real world version of something that is, to be fair, a game-changer when it comes to food and satisfaction.
SO. Here are some micro-mindful tips to make meals satisfying and fulfilling for body and mind and soul – mind you, these are coming from a very impatient, high anxiety, ADHD, UNmindful stress eater so these have definitely been trialled by fire. As in, very simple, easy and quick. Trust.
Make your food.
Will it be weird if I compare preparing a meal to foreplay? And doesn’t foreplay make sex so much hotter?
For me, “preparing” (you’ll see in a sec that we use this term pretty loosely) food is a great way to get mindful.
You can take this first tip as you wish. This might just mean transferring your takeout onto a pretty plate before consuming, instead of eating straight out of the greasy box. For me, I’m usually hungry and impatient so even this tiny action sometimes requires heroic effort. Whatevs, dude. Just that one tiny action is powerful.
Now, actually making food – I can hear your excuses already – not enough time, don’t have the equipment, I’m on the go…
I hear you: It’s hard to find food that is:
- super yummy
- super fast
- super easy
to make, but it IS possible. I have a few recipes on heavy rotation right now – and you could too. It’s easy – you know your prep limitations and you know what food tastes yummy to you – now be inventive and creative and get those two things to converge somehow.
Here’s a great way to get your greens and one of my personal “convergence” recipes: add crispy fried onions and grated parmesan to any greens, cooked any way. It is amazing. I sauté kale in grass-fed butter or marrow fat, for like one minute, just until it wilts, then sprinkle with the aforementioned toppings – delish. You can also just nuke the greens for like a minute with the butter or oil or even a little bit of broth or other liquid.
Or for lunch (since I’m at work and don’t have access to “cooking paraphernalia”) I get micro-greens, sprinkle with the dynamic duo and finish with a light lashing of olive oil.
Even on the road, do something to “prepare” your food – don’t eat the chips straight out of the damn bag – take a napkin, attempt to fold it prettily – eat chips off the napkin. You get the point.
“Well,” you say, “I’m not religious!”
Cool. All I’m saying is take a quick second to give thanks for your food. Sometimes I speed through this by just letting the word “gratitude” blip through my head. Or you can do that thing where you think about where the ingredients came from, who grew them, who cooked them, and who first introduced you to this dish. Or more traditionally, thank god or God or Goddess or Moon or Universe or whatever spiritual language you speak.
I hope you’re getting the message that these tips can be as labor intensive or as minimally invasive as you choose.
BUT HERE’S THE IMPORTANT THING TO REMEMBER: EVEN IF YOU GO THE ROUTE OF LEAST RESISTANCE, DOING SOMETHING TINY STILL HAS IMMENSE POWER. EVEN THE TINIEST ACT OF MINDFULNESS TRUMPS ENTIRE ETERNITIES OF BLIND ACTION.
So pray. Even one word: gratitude.
Haha. Don’t laugh. When I Instagram my meals, that gives me a huge sense of accountability for what I’m eating and respect for the food. I make my food look pretty. I make it – or at least make it look – healthy. Then I feel much better eating it.
Don’t have an Instagram account? Don’t want to spam your followers with pictures of food all the time? Then just take a pic with your camera phone just to have.
It’s kind of like keeping a visual food journal – which I personally never did, although it always seemed like a good idea – just too much work. But pictures – they are worth a thousand words and are fast and easy – and mindful!
Yes, photographing your food is another form of mindfulness, of engaging the senses, of making the meal a meal. A time to eat and enjoy food. Where your food is the star, not some cameo in a production of “Late to Work, Must Meet Deadline, Because Internet, Drool. Where Am I and How is Lunch Over Already?”
Instagram: because we eat with our eyes as much as with our mouth.
What I mean is – well, hold on, digression in progress – yes, sleep is important. When we don’t get enough sleep, your cravings become these crazy, garish, my-brain-is-tripping-on-sleep-deprivation, wildly misguided things – studies have shown that when we’re low on sleep we crave the bad stuff hard – sugar, fat, caffeine and nicotine. Our minds get grumpy on not enough sleep and then don’t feel like messing around.
So there’s that. But what I actually meant is: close your eyes. Just for a sec. Just for a few chews. Or if you want to go all gangster on this, for an entire bite.
The same way Instagram-ing magnifies our visual experience of the food, closing your eyes will bring the focus to taste, texture and smell.
Now, I’ve heard some guidelines for “mindful eating” that have made me want to gag. Like: chew for freaking ever. Put down the fork between each bite. No conversation while chewing. This all sounds like torture. Cause if you’ve chewed thirty times, all you have in your mouth is a giant spitball of dirty saliva, and all that counting? Hard pass.
So I just close my eyes for a few secs. Especially if almost all my food is gone and sense that I’m still pretty far from being satisfied in a deeper way by the meal.
So: Micro-sleep, I guess. You could even do this in company and no one would notice. Kind of like a long blink. OK, I feel like we’re close to overcooking this idea here, so let’s put it to bed. Groan.
5. Eat Dessert
The translation here is: make it a multi-course meal (mine always include dessert – I have a huge sweet tooth that I’ve learned the hard way can’t be ignored). Plus, that makes it seem so much fancier, and special-er, and slows you down as well.
You know what? Kids in France take up to 2 hours for lunch and have like four courses!!! Check it: they get a veggie appetizer, a main dish, a bread and cheese plate and dessert.
Ima break it down for you – I take half of my lunch to walk and so then I only have a half hour for food prep and consumption, but even with that little window, I have a three course meal! I try to always make a veggie dish or salad to start with. Then I have a main dish – usually I nuke some leftovers – I never said I was perfect, you guys. But again, better the smallest, most imperfect action than no action at all.
Dessert. Make no mistake, sugar is not your friend. So when I say dessert, I mean like some apple slices, or a spoonful of almond butter (this weirdly satisfies my sweet tooth despite being salty), or a square of dark chocolate or a few chocolate covered almonds or (these days) a mini macaron from Trader Joes. Small things.
And even if I’ve been playing on my phone or chatting with co-workers during lunch, I will make a special effort to eat dessert mindfully. Not doing anything special per se, but not doing anything else besides eating.
6. Make time Haha! Not necessary.
(But should you have this luxury, then by all means, take it!)
Let’s see our time investment with micro-mindfulness:
- Transfer food to plate: 4 seconds
- Say “gratitude” silently in head: 1 second
- Snap a pic of food and post to Instagram (this varies depending on your artistic integrity and phone speed but could be as fast as): 10 seconds
- Slo-mo blink: 3 seconds
- Ask receptionist for Hershey’s Kiss before lunch + let said Kiss melt in mouth before succumbing to temptation and joyfully chomping the rest: 10-ish seconds
We are coming in at well under a minute folks, for some tiny actions that go a long way.
Not particularly resource intensive either:
Special equipment needed:
Told you – simple, easy, quick. Micro-mindful eating. It’s the new mindful eating. 🙂