Eat Mindfully, Live Mindfully
If you’ve signed up for my DietBet contest, or even if you haven’t, here’s a trick to help you slow down and eat mindfully this holiday season and for a lifetime. So often we rush through our meals while reading emails or chasing after our kids (been there, done that!). But, through my yoga practice, I’ve really tried to cultivate a more mindful approach to everything I do. When we eat mindfully, we really taste and savor our food and we end up feeling more satisfied. Eating mindfully can also help with eating less as you are more aware of hunger signals. Here is an exercise you can do with a clementine (perfect this time of year–they are juicy and delicious and a healthy way to treat your sweet tooth) to help you learn to stay present when eating and cultivate mindfulness daily.
Step One: Look
Notice the color. Is it all one shade of orange? Notice the size. Is it perfectly round? Is it small? Large? Notice the texture. Think about the journey it took to get to you. Was it growing on a tree somewhere warm until it was picked and harvested? Was it shipped to a grocery store? Is it local? Did you buy it? Just notice it for what it is. Do not touch the fruit, just look. If you find that your mind is wandering, for example, you think about the journey of the clementine and that leads you to thinking about your grocery list, notice those thoughts creeping into your mind and turn your mind back to the fruit. Focus on the color and the shape.
Step Two: Touch
Feel the outside of the clementine and notice the texture you had previously observed. Is it smooth? Bumpy? Is the shape different than expected? Feel the ripeness, is it overly ripe? Rip into the peel and notice how that feels. Feel the flesh of the fruit. Notice the difference between the texture of the outside and the fruit. Notice the difference in the colors of the outside and the fleshy fruit.
Step Three: Smell
Smell the peel. How does it smell? Notice if the smell takes your mind to a memory linked to that smell. If it does, that’s ok, notice the thought and then turn your mind back to scent. Smell the fruit. Does it smell different than the rind?
Step Four: Taste
Take a small piece of the clementine. Hold it in your hand for a moment, repeating the first three steps. Bring the piece of fruit up to your mouth and take a small bite. Notice the taste as it hits different parts of your tongue. Is it sweet on the tip of your tongue and more sour to the sides? Notice the texture of it in your mouth. Is it firm? Is it juicy?
Step Five: Reflect
Continue this as you eat the entirety of your clementine. Taking time to look at the fruit, feel the texture, smell it and really taste it. Slowing down and enjoying it.
Throughout the exercise, distracting thoughts are going to come into your mind. Worries, tasks, to-do lists; and that’s okay! Part of practicing mindfulness is noticing these thoughts and not judging them. It is not “bad” that your mind is active, it is totally normal. Part of the practice is learning to realize when your mind is getting off task and to bring it back to the present.
Can you imagine doing this type of a mindfulness activity with a fast food item? Thinking about the whole process that the food had to go through before taking a bite out of it, may cause you to think twice about that splurge! Another easy way to slow down and eat with awareness is to use your non-dominant hand for a week at every meal and snack. I’ve tried this before and it’s so difficult; but definitely makes it difficult to eat without really tasting and enjoying every bite. Give it a try this week and let me know your thoughts.
Kristin McGee is a celebrity yoga and Pilates instructor in New York City. She is the star of over 100 videos, a contributing editor at Health Magazine and a spokeswoman for many brands and causes she believes in. Kristin also appears frequently on television. A proud mom to three, she sure keeps herself busy!