Practising Being Present With Conscious Eating and 5 Other Mindful Moments
You may not connect your yoga, meditation, or other mindfulness practices with eating, but mealtime can be a profoundly meditative moment!
Food is often left out of the conversation when it comes to mindfulness, but learning how to practise mindfulness is one of the many ways we can be mindful throughout our whole day.
Eating is just one everyday activity that’s utterly transformed when you do it with intention. Waking up, exercising, and doing your daily commute can feel so much better when you do it consciously.
But what does it look like to be conscious in your daily life? And what is conscious eating?
What does it mean to practise consciousness?
We’ll be using consciousness and mindfulness interchangeably here, but how can you practise this in your everyday life?
Practising mindfulness means doing everything in your life with intention. Essentially, it means living your life on purpose – no more autopilot! Things that you do without really thinking about them are things that you don’t experience.
The problem is that most of us are deep in habits of disconnection. We are always checking our phones for the next notification, answering the next email or taking a look at the newest content. Multitasking, packed schedules, anxiety, and social expectations can pull us away from our own lived experiences.
This constant pressure is exhausting.
Bringing yourself back into the present can feel totally impossible.
The great news is that being mindful is simple and there are so many ways to do it.
The very first step is just noticing when you’re stuck inside your own head.
Then you bring yourself back to the present. The first way to do this is breathwork.
How to implement breathwork into your routine
There are many different kinds of breathwork, depending on what your goal is. Some kinds of breathing can help calm you, while others help engage your nervous system to boost energy.
Breathwork has even been shown to help lower blood pressure and increase alertness. This is why focusing on your breath is the very first step in practising mindfulness!
The most commonly used form of breathwork is box breaths. When taking box breaths, you breathe in for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4, breathe out for a count of 4, and then hold for a count of 4. Then you simply repeat.
Another way to bring yourself back to the moment is using Emotional Freedom Tapping (EFT). When you use EFT, you gently tap on specific acupressure points while thinking about the thing that is causing you anxiety and stress.
EFT is centred around bringing your mind and body into harmony. One of the key steps of the practice is deeply accepting yourself no matter how you’re feeling. EFT has been linked to positive mental and physical health benefits and has even been used to help treat eating disorders.
This makes sense!
When you can accept yourself without reserve, you can begin to heal from those disconnected habits.
And that brings us back to conscious eating.
No matter what kind of mindfulness technique you use, you have an opportunity to invite it into every part of your daily routine. Let’s look at some examples!
1. Start off the day with mindfulness
Starting your day with mindfulness can help you stay conscious throughout the whole day.
Many people find they rush through their mornings, getting to work just in time with no chance to catch their breath. The great news is that you can practise being present in just a few moments.
Pushing back your alarm by just five minutes can allow you to start a new routine of intention and mindfulness. You can take the extra minutes to practise body kindness, listen to a guided meditation, do some breathwork, or affirm your intentions for the day.
2. Practise conscious cooking
Cooking is a beautiful way to put love and intention into the foods you will later eat. When you practise conscious cooking, start by engaging your senses. Notice all the layers of your food and all the changes it goes through.
What kind of differences can you find between a whole vegetable and one that you’ve cut up?
How does it change visually?
How about the texture?
Then, what about the spices or oils you use to cook it?
What are they like alone and cold?
How about when you heat them up?
After that, notice the amazing changes that happen when you bring these things together! How do the texture, smell, and appearance change as you’re cooking? Every chef will tell you to taste as you cook, so how does the flavour change as you go?
As you’re cooking, think about the nutrients in your food, too.
That vibrant carrot is full of Vitamin A and Vitamin C to strengthen your immune system. Hearty steak is full of protein to help your body build and repair cells. Meditate on what a gift this food is to your body, and thank yourself for the care you’ve taken in preparing it.
When you practise conscious cooking, you’ll find that conscious eating is much easier. You’ve given yourself a little preview of your meal. Next, you get to fully experience it.
3. Rediscover food with conscious eating
So, what is conscious eating? It’s as simple as bringing presence to your meal and leaving your expectations and judgement at the door.
There are hundreds of videos on the internet of small children trying foods for the first time. Some have infants trying their first taste of solid foods, while others show toddlers trying a lemon for the first time or even primary-school-aged children trying something spicy.
No matter what age the child is or what kind of food they’re trying, one thing remains the same. They’re all fully immersed in the experience. They show wonder, surprise, shock, and excitement at these foods. Many go back for a second taste, even if the food they’re trying is sour or spicy!
They want to experience the sensations again and again.
Conscious eating is all about rediscovering that relationship with every food you eat. Bring yourself back to childhood when you’re eating. Imagine you have never, ever seen the food you’re about to eat.
Let go of negative memories or experiences you may have had with this food and examine it as it is in this moment.
Engage all five of your senses.
What does it look like? How does it smell? Sit and admire your food before you even begin to taste it. Then take a bit of your food and bring it up to your lips. Don’t eat it just yet, but notice the texture and appreciate the aroma more deeply.
Then, put it into your mouth.
At first, don’t even chew. Just hold it there. Notice the taste. Are the flavours complex or simple? Can you taste all the elements of the dish? Observe the change in texture. Is it crunchy and beginning to soften? Is it soft and melty? Finally, feel how your body responds. Does your mouth start watering? Do you find that you’re excited to start chewing?
When you begin to chew, take that slowly, as well. Notice how different the texture is with every bite. Are there any flavours that fade or get stronger as you continue to chew it?
The last step in conscious eating is to check in with your body after you swallow.
How is your body reacting? Are you full and ready to finish eating? Are you hungry for more of the same food? Do you want to try something else on your plate?
Continue to eat slowly. Relish every taste of your food, and check-in with your body and mind. Are you full? Are you hungry for something that isn’t on your plate? How are your mind and emotions responding to eating this way? You might even ask yourself, “am I emotional eating?”
You might be surprised at just how different it is to eat like this! Conscious eating can help you rediscover foods you’ve always loved and bring new life to foods you aren’t used to eating or disliked in the past.
4. Commute mindfully
Commuting is often stressful and rage-inducing.
At best, it’s forgettable.
How many times have you driven to or from work and not even remembered the drive? Or sat at traffic lights and felt like you must’ve teleported from your home to the traffic lights, you remember that little of the drive?
That’s not consciousness. You’re on “auto-pilot” again!
While you shouldn’t close your eyes or meditate while driving, you can still practise consciousness while driving safely. In fact, it may make you a safer driver!
Driving mindfully is all about bringing alertness and awareness to your surroundings. You can do this even if you commute using the tube, a bus, or a taxi. Notice your surroundings. How do they move and shift?
Notice the people around you – on the sidewalk, in other cars, in your car, on the tube – and spread some love to those around you. A kind word, a wave, or a friendly smile can go so far in making the world a better place.
5. Exercise with intention
Exercise is something that many people dislike or avoid altogether, but few people have tried to bring mindfulness to exercise. This is a real shame, considering that making a mind/body connection can help you reach your fitness goals up to 5 times faster than exercise alone.
That’s right, mindfulness can help you exercise up to five times more effectively!
This might sound far-fetched, but it isn’t. Think about it. When we’re aware of our body, what it needs, how it moves, and how it responds, we’re better at giving it what it needs. When you know how to give your body what it needs, you can love your body better.
When you love your body and feel comfortable in your own skin, you want to keep going! Your body is made to move. Your body loves joyful movement, whether that’s distance running or a dance party.
Exercising mindfully is all about feeling what’s happening right now and seeing yourself achieving your goals. Think about your fitness goals as clearly as if they were happening in front of you. Then think about the steps that you can take to get there.
Is your goal to run along the beach on your next vacation without being winded?
Imagine how your body will feel there. Imagine how your legs and arms will move.
Then start your exercise. How does your body feel different from what you imagined? Which muscles can you feel asking you to build them up? What is your body already strong at?
Building these clear goals and focusing on building yourself up motivates you to keep going! You’ll feel yourself getting a little stronger, a little faster, and a little closer to your goal every time. It doesn’t have to be a fight or a struggle. You can enjoy every step of the journey.
6. Practise mindfulness as you drift off to sleep
Last but not least is sleep. While you can’t practise consciousness while asleep, you can (and should!) practise it while drifting off.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: it’s late, probably later than you’d like it to be. You’re finally going to bed, but you can’t sleep. Your head is buzzing with anxieties, plans, regrets, and other thoughts. You toss and turn, but your body is as uncomfortable as your mind.
This is where you’d practise mindfulness.
Your practice here can help you in more ways than one. First, you can begin to let go of those thoughts keeping you up. You can’t live the past over and do things differently. Anxieties can be dealt with when you’re well-rested. You can bring yourself into the present moment, and realise that you are safe.
Then, turn your attention to (you guessed it) your senses.
When was the last time you really felt and appreciated how soft your bed is? Your pillows? Your blankets? Look around your dim or dark room. How do things look different? How do your eyes feel?
How about smell? Does your room smell of clean clothes or night air? Maybe you use an air freshener or candle and the scent lingers. Can you hear any distant noises? What do they sound like?
Relax into every part of the experience of just being in bed. Chances are, you’ll be asleep before you know it!
It’s time to start living on purpose
There’s an old African proverb that, when translated, means, “When death finds you, may it find you alive.”
Too many people go through the motions without really living. They eat to keep going or deal with emotions. They exercise because it’s “what you’re supposed to do”. They work to make money so they can keep their home.
Days and weeks and years might pass, but if you’re only going through the motions, you’ll hardly notice.
Mindfulness is about breaking that pattern in your life.
Conscious eating is about breaking that pattern in your relationship with food.
And it’s hard!
Turning off autopilot is real work, but it’s the most worthwhile work you’ll ever do. This journey is hard to do on your own, so you should never hesitate to reach out for help. My programmes can allow you to embark on this journey in a group programme or with me personally, in one-on-one sessions.
You deserve to live your life on purpose! And when death finds you, my friend, may it find you alive.