Written by Meg Metzger
While people differ in many ways, one fundamental thing we all have in common is eating. Simply put, we need food to stay alive, but our relationship with it is so much more complex than that. Most of us are busy, right? And because of that, food is often low on the priority list of things to worry about.
So, we opt for fast, convenient meals to fill our stomachs, ridding ourselves of that grumbling hunger as quickly as possible and not giving it much more thought. Most of this convenience food is highly processed to the point where it’s not real food at all. It is high in calories, yet low in nutrients, so while our stomachs may feel full, our bodies are left starving at the cellular level.
There are personal consequences to this mindless approach to food, including short-term woes such as weight gain, indigestion, and fatigue, eventually leading to more serious conditions such as heart disease, cancer, and mental illness. Massive food and drink companies do not necessarily have our best interests in mind. They add excessive amounts of refined grains, industrialized oils, and sugar to their products to create an addictive quality that keeps us coming back for more.
Do you ever find yourself strongly craving soda, potato chips, or ice cream to the point that you cannot focus on anything else until you get it? The craving takes over and you will pay anything to have just one bite. Then after that first bite, a surge of dopamine and serotonin is released from your brain, giving you a little boost of energy and you might even do a little dance in your seat.
Why would you have any reason to stop now? So, you chug the whole soda, eat the entire bag of potato chips, or scarf down that pint of ice cream. After it’s all over, you may start to feel pretty crummy, physically, but eventually there are feelings of guilt, shame, and regret tied to that belly ache, and we make empty promises that we won’t let it happen again because deep down we know it’s not good for us.
Eventually, that craving sneaks up again during an afternoon slump or midnight snack hour and somehow, we are pulled back again, without even a second thought.
Now that we know what mindLESS eating looks like, let’s discuss what mindful eating is in more detail. You have heard about mindfulness, but how does it relate to food? Basically, it’s the non-judgemental awareness of your food choices and eating experience. It’s taking the time to pay close attention to your food and ask yourself, who, what, and where.
Next time you sit down to enjoy a meal, do so without the distraction of the TV or phone. Immerse yourself in your food and note the colors, textures, and individual tastes. Imagine the journey it took to get to your plate. Who was involved in growing, raising, picking or transporting this food? What are you feeling physically and emotionally with every bite?
Afterwards, do you feel happy and energetic or bloated and tired? Where did your meal come from? Did it grow at a nearby farm or was it shipped across the country? These are probably not questions we typically ask ourselves as we are shoving a piece of pizza in our mouth, but they are vital in whether we just survive, or we thrive.
This practice of immersing yourself in what you are eating will allow you to become more in-tune with your body and eventually you will start noticing patterns within your eating habits. Only with this awareness can change happen.
This can be really challenging for some, especially in the beginning. There is certainly a time and a place for convenient choices and it’s important to note that mindful eating does not involve restriction, shame, or judgment. We offer ourselves grace as we work to rewire our brains and we do our best with the knowledge and resources available to us. Additionally, when we take the time to really pay attention, our eating habits tend to naturally veer towards those that are healthier and more aligned with what our bodies need.
How Nature Intended
When our actions support our bodies, we also support nature. All of the vitamins and nutrients needed for health and vitality live within the diverse array of plants and animals that we have evolved to eat. How this food is grown and processed is very important to consider, the biggest difference being the food our food is being fed.
Most conventional farming includes the use of pesticides, herbicides, and antibiotics. These harmful and sometimes carcinogenic chemicals are only needed because of the lack of animal husbandry and consideration for the land with a large-scale, corporate approach. Today, most conventional farmers only grow genetically modified corn and soy, which is then turned into high-fructose corn syrup and refined soy to make the ultra-processed, addictive food products mentioned earlier. Additionally, this mono-cropping technique has stripped our soils of the microbes and nutrients needed to support a healthy cycle of food production, so not only does this result in a lack of nutritional content, this technique depletes our earth of the vital living organisms to support all life.
This is where mindful eating comes in. When we pay attention to the details of the who, what, and where of our food, we can make conscious decisions that serve both our bodies and our earth, our two homes.
So next time you are planning your next meal, consider being mindful every step of the process. From supporting your local farmer’s market, where you will find stewards of the land–dedicated to growing and raising food as nature intended to savoring every bite with all five senses. In doing so, you will not only find yourself more physically and emotionally satisfied with your meals, you will be supporting all life on earth, down to the underrepresented microbes within our soil.
So, dig in and get curious! Your relationship to food matters. Who knew there was so much power on your plate?