Eating together plays a huge role in the social life of Jakartans. That’s where mindful eating comes in – you don’t just eat to fill yourself up but pay close attention to how, what, why and when you eat.
Mindful eating means taking your time and making a conscious effort to enjoy what’s on your plate – take in the texture, enjoy the sensations on your palette, savor the smell, pause to give gratitude, have smaller bites and in the process eat less, make better choices and develop a better relationship with food in general.
The practice, some say, finds its roots in Buddhism and yoga. Buddhist monks encourage their students to meditate on food, expanding their consciousness by paying close attention to the sensation and purpose of each morsel.
Since monks are hard to come by, we suggest grabbing your partner this Valentine’s Day and embarking on a journey to practice mindful eating together.
Here are some tips – applicable both at home and when eating out.
Consider drinking an orange smoothie versus eating an orange. The former takes a minute and you might still be hungry afterwards. Eating an orange takes much longer. Eating fast almost always means eating more, and while our stomachs might be full, our brains actually receive satiation signals only 20 minutes later.
Step one of mindful eating is taking small bites and chewing each one of them. Develop a rhythm with your partner, sit down to eat, put your cutlery down between bites and finish before reaching for another. It’s easier said than done and will reset your body’s autopilot to overeat.
Share your dishes
A restaurant-sized portion is typically too big for one, and a dinner of appetizer, main course and dessert is a sure-fire way to overindulge. When sharing a dish, you take a reasonably sized portion for yourself to eat and create a mindful eating “speed bump” – where you and your partner both have to contemplate whether a second helping is really needed.
Hectic city life has our digestive systems in overdrive. So take a break between courses, talk about what you just ate and what you would enjoy next before rushing into cravings. Mindful eating can help you and your partner differentiate between what you really enjoy eating and what is just belly-stuffing and help raise awareness as to how certain foods make you feel.
Attend to your plate
Switch off your phone. Turn off the TV. When we are distracted, we ignore our body’s signals of hunger and fullness. To enjoy a meal, one has to allow the brain to process it by being mentally and physically attentive. Eat with all five senses – feel it, decipher it, sniff it, register the crunch or smoothness and then taste it.
Enjoy the company and conversation with your partner and together learn to rebuild the connection between the body and the food that fuels it.
Develop healthy eating habits
Consider where you want to eat before eating out and schedule meals at regular intervals instead of waiting for the “too hungry” danger zone. Proactively thinking about meals and snacks before consuming them is the mental space where better nutritive decisions are made. Sometimes it’s as simple as eating away from the buffet table in a social setting as opposed to in front of it, or stocking your fridge with healthier choices.
Mindful eating at its base is about rekindling your relationship with food. Give your partner the gift of eating with intent this Valentine’s Day and mirror a love for food that is healthy and wholesome. You might just find yourself fitter and lighter by the next Valentine’s Day.