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Food is My Friend: 6 Tips for Mindful Eating

“Your body is precious. It is our vehicle for awakening. Treat it with care.” ~Buddha

Thank you for this food we are about to eat.

Many of us grew up with families who began each meal with a blessing. These prayers followed people from generation to generation like an affectionate family member showing up when everyone sat down at the dinner table.

These days, this honoring ritual is largely absent as we pick up food in a bag at a drive-through window, eat from cartons taken directly from the refrigerator without bothering to put the food on a plate or sit down, and spend meal times separated from family members.

When did our connection to the food we eat become so distant and problematic? Many people have a love/hate relationship with food; they disparage particular foods even when they crave them. They say, “I want you—go away!” Doesn’t that seem a bit neurotic? What a mixed message!

A mistreated person often acts out in ways that can cause trouble. I think of food as doing the same thing. It tugs at you when you have other things to do and makes demands that you pay attention to it when you would much rather think of something else.

A perfect example of this is when you are positive you don’t want to eat the ice cream that is in the freezer. The entire time you are thinking this, you get a spoon, get the ice cream and finish all of it!

I created the following exercises to remind myself to maintain a healthy and respectful relationship with the food I eat. As a result, I’ve lost weight and I choose healthier foods. Give it a try and see if it helps you, too.

1. Count your blessings.

Honor your food and express your gratitude. Do you feel fortunate to be able to afford the food you eat? Is your food nutritious? Does it look pretty on your plate? Tell it!

I admit to complimenting my food. I say, “Wow! You look delicious!” I say, “Thank you so much for being here with me.” I say, “I am so grateful for all of the people who made it possible for my food to be here with me.”

2. Be aware of your senses.

Eating is more pleasurable when it is a multi-sensory experience.

Use your eyes and notice what is on your plate. Smell the aroma. Chew slowly so you can appreciate the flavors and experience the textures.

3. Appreciate all food equally.

Don’t treat everyday food as boring and unimportant. Give it the same gratitude, interest and excitement that you offer a favorite meal. It’s natural to ooh and ahh over a favorite birthday dinner. But what about the chicken or salad you eat frequently? Take the time to notice and be thankful.

Arrange it on your plate so that it looks nice. If you have good dishes, don’t just use them for special occasions. Everybody and everything likes to be the recipient of good vibes and positive attention. Appreciated food is more likely to deliver all of its nutrients, partly because you aren’t gulping it down.

4. Feel your feelings.

Don’t require your food to be a workhorse for your emotions. It wasn’t designed for that job. Feelings are part of the human experience. Don’t be frightened of feeling bored, lonely or sad.

Sit with your feelings rather than fleeing from them. Determine whether you are hungry or bored. This small amount of attention and awareness helps prevent mindless eating.

5. Take the stress out of eating.

Be present when you're eating, and be mindful of the way you talk about food when you're not. Remember: complaining about bad eating habits doesn't actually do anything to change them!

When you habitually talk about your discontent, you create an ongoing poor relationship with food. If you were to constantly speak about your boyfriend or wife in this way, you would cause plenty of problems in your relationship.

Instead of dwelling on your problems with food, say something nice about it. For example, focus on the way food fuels your body and allows you to do the things you want to do.

6. Love your food.

Don’t buy into the idea that if you enjoy food too much, you’ll never stop eating it.  Take a chance and see what happens when you love your food. Doesn’t it make sense that just as in any relationship when love and appreciation are expressed a greater sense of well-being follows?

When food is your friend, you can’t help but feel happier. And that is a state of mind that we could all benefit from seeing more of in the world.

Photo by D. Sharon Pruitt

About Amanda Owen

Amanda Owen is the author of The Power of Receiving: A Revolutionary Approach to Giving Yourself the Life You Want and Deserve (Tarcher/Penguin, 2011) and the forthcoming Born to Receive: 7 Steps Women Can Take Today to Reclaim Their Half of the Universe (Tarcher/Penguin, 2014).  Connect with Amanda at www.AmandaOwen.com

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  • Love this! And you are absolutely right that mindful eating makes everything taste that much more exquisite and rich. (bright awareness tends to do that with most pleasant sensory experiences!)

    I also notice that when I am more mindful of what I eat, I am also more mindful of the digestive process, and how my body reacts to the food. When I eat something like McDonalds and I can almost feel the grease bubbling in my stomach. But when I eat something like green vegetables I feel it cleanse out my whole system. It’s a really interesting phenomenon!

    Great article, as always, can’t wait to read more!

  • Love this post! I think many people have such horrible relationships with food. They either think of it as their enemy, or secret mistress, or some guilt-ridden sin. We cannot live without food, as you so aptly pointed out, so there’s no way to get around eating it. Why not make the experience as full of health, and joy, and peace as you possibly can?

    Remember, as with all things, your relationship with your food mirrors your relationship with yourself.

  • Deja

    great post! thanks.

  • Andreamaria

    a few weeks ago I had an impressiv short lesson of foodvibration and information. at vacation time in italy I was eating for dinner a peace of scalopine. later in the night I wake up with horribel heartbeat, sweating and all that typical stress ~symptoms. My mind was recognizing, that my body and emotions were feelling lik in a fight of surviving. . .like the animal befor dying?
    I was totaly impressed by this short lesson and realized again, that we are vibrating beings to dance with other vibrations to teach us. Thanks a lot!

  • Marydig

    Amanda Owen is such a great writer – she captured my attention from the first sentence! And, the photo for this article was stunning –

    Mary

  • this says it all for me-and why I enjoy being ‘the cooker’

  • Mermaid Fi

    I actually think that this little article is a turning point for me. 🙂 Thank you SO much, for speaking to me in my “language” about something I have always had great difficulties with. All of the sudden, eating healthy food feels easy. Much gratitude x x x x

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  • Danine Mroz

    Thanks you for the words of wisdom, they are greatly appriciated.

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  • Mjglass123

    Insightful…. I’ll try it!

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  • Sidney

    That sounds so much like Thich Naht Hahn…

  • Anurag

    I have found this article so good that I am going to read it again.

    Some basic mistakes I was doing until now:-
    1. Reading newspaper or watching news on TV while eating at home.
    2. Having discussions at lunch with colleagues rather than focusing on food.
    3. Eating in hurry as if it is a task to complete hence end up eating more.
    4. Eating when feeling low (depressed) especially MacD.

    As a result I am overweight by 20 kg and getting treatment for depression.

    I hope I implement your tips in my life and get benefits.

    Thanks.

  • lalit kumar

    Thank you for these words and I do some basic mistakes in food.

    visit : http://www.fazlani.com/

  • lalit kumar

    Hi Amanda you write very well and Thank you for this great article..

    you can visit : http://www.fazlani.com/