Just last night I was discussing eating habits with a good friend of mine. We talked about unhealthy diets and the over-eating epidemic that's going on in the States right now. (Although she is generally very healthy) she confessed to me, "I'm proud of myself. I just learned to stop eating my meals before I got to the point of being overly full. You know, when you feel like your stomach is so big you just want to lay down and take a nap for a while." I think everyone can relate to this- even kids. One out of every there kids are overweight or obese. It is pretty obvious that many young people should be eating better. - But kids as well as adults need to start being more mindful and appreciative of their food.
Coincidentally, I just came across an interesting article that I thought would be perfect to share on this blog. As a yoga teacher who has taught the young and older, I have repeatedly expressed the important philosophy of "mindfulness." The instructions to being more mindful are quite simple, but to truly practice mindfulness even some of the time is challenging and takes effort. Nevertheless, it is critical to utilize while eating, which is what this particular article touched on. Mindfulness is purely being where you are in the present moment. It is being aware of your surroundings - soaking up every piece of life you are privileged enough to enjoy. It is noticing the shapes of the clouds, the eyes of the passerby, the way your body moves so uniquely to anyone else as you walk and run.
As a child, we are given the blessing of automatically thinking and feeling in this way when we play. (As adults, this is often lost.) Being present and conscious of our feelings and of our world is so important to creating a positive and fruitful life. It is key to experiencing true appreciation for the way things exist. From my own personal experience and research, I believe this kind of practice offers great emotional and physical health, as well. It is so important because it is how we can tap in and listen to our higher selves to understand what we really need and desire in life to live fully. But how can one practice this mindfulness while eating?
Mindful eating is as this New York Times article describes: " ... not a diet, or about giving up anything at all. It’s about experiencing food more intensely — especially the pleasure of it. You can eat a cheeseburger mindfully, if you wish. You might enjoy it a lot more. Or you might decide, halfway through, that your body has had enough. Or that it really needs some salad."
All you have to do is take your time. If you can, cook and prepare meals yourself or with family (stay away from take-out). This helps build a greater bond with your food. Take the time to appreciate what you have in front of you. When you've sat down to eat, focus on your meal without talking, watching TV, or reading. Look at your food, take a small bite and taste it. Let it sit in your mouth and really absorb all of the flavor. Maybe you could even put your fork down as you chew and swallow. Just go slowly. Feel a connection to your food. Touch it, smell it, and bask in the pure beauty and color of your senses. Mindful eating will help everyone better understand the absolute vitality of healthy eating - how your body responds to what you put into your mouth and stomach and if you are in fact, really hungry or just indulging!
Next time you eat (or are eating with your child), encourage yourself or others to take time. Nothing is more important than what goes inside of your body; what fuels your heart to pump your blood and keeps your lungs soaking up oxygen. Unconscious binge eating of sugary and refined foods is at the center of America's eating, health, and even environmental issues. Let's begin our journey to a healthy relationship with food starting at the family dinner table, through eating habits that really pay attention.