Here is what intuitive eating looks like in practice.
Set aside a time to eat a meal alone at a table. Silence your phone. Take ten to get into your body, counting ten deep, intentional breaths.
Now look at your food. Really look at it, as if you are a scientist seeing this particular food for the first time. If it’s currently in a take-out container, transfer it to a pretty plate and grab some real cutlery if you can.
Now think about the food you are eating: Consider where the food came from, what it looked like in the ground or in the water or in the sky. Who grew or harvested it? Be thankful for all the people it took to get those morsels to your mouth. Appreciation appreciates; gratitude for your food is crucial in intuitive eating.
Now, place the first bite of food on your tongue, but don’t chew it yet. Just leave it on your tongue and notice how it feels in your mouth. Maybe even close your eyes. Now chew, while continuing to notice any sensations. Engage all of the sensations. Pay attention to the textures, temperature, flavor, and crunch. Notice any smells or sounds. Try to taste and identify all the different ingredients in your meal. Simply be curious about the experience. Also, enjoy the experience.
Continue to eat, slowly, silently and with intention. Don’t move so slowly that it feels forced or awkward; just stay present with the experience of eating.
Eating with others can be a mindfulness practice too. Work together to prepare the meal or set the table. If going out, choose a restaurant that has a soothing, quiet atmosphere (this is getting harder and harder. Cue my rant about televisions at dining establishments. Turn the game down already). Be present with the taste and texture of the food, but acknowledge the presence of those around you. Smile at them, look into their eyes as you speak. Remember that gratitude is the doorway to the joy and peace you seek. Honor the meal by discussing how delicious it is or how grateful you are to the waiter, chef, farmer or earth for making it available to you. Eat slowly and avoid overeating. Phone should stay in pockets and purses.
My family started a tradition at the dinner table a few years ago we call GLAD. Each person takes a moment to share something about their day for which they are grateful, something they learned, something they achieved or accomplished, and something that delighted them. It is so, so easy to grumble and moan about our days. It’s a practice to recondition our minds to focus on the positive. Our mind looks for what we tell it to; we might as well set the knob to curiosity, understanding, and awareness. GLAD has become such a habit, we all three find ourselves looking for GLAD moments, taking note of things to report on that night.
I am Grateful for…
I was Delighted by…
If you consider that gratitude, knowledge, pride, and wonder lie in the parts of the brain associated with present-moment awareness, then you can more easily see why this tradition compliments intuitive eating.
Sometimes we have to grab food on the go, eating in the car or at a noisy bar. Use these as opportunities to practice mindfulness too; take ten while waiting for your coffee in the drive-through line or in your car before you enter the Sports Bar. Remember that we practice mindfulness in calm waters, so that it becomes our go-to even when the storms hit. Our days generally contain more chaos than calm. Work the practice so the practice works for you.
Try to incorporate at least one lone intuitive eating meal each week. And before each and every meal, take ten. Over time, these skills will bleed into all of your eating experiences, helping you to write a food story that is meaningful and fulfilling.