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Natural Awakenings Metro Phoenix & Northern Arizona

Mindful Eating: A Healthy Relationship With Food: Steve Prices shares the basic steps in the practice of mindful eating.

Feb 27, 2015 12:43PM ● By Steve Price

Given the cultural, agricultural, economic and emotional implications, having a healthy relationship with food can be quite a challenge. Many of us were told to eat our veggies or no dessert as children, or to eat even if we're not hungry, because there are children starving in Africa. As we get older, processed and fast food appear as convenient ways to save time and money, followed by the pressure to lose weight. As a result of these patterns and the anxiety it creates, our energy can become so invested in researching, label-reading, calorie-counting, budgeting, planning and preparing that by the time we actually sit down to eat, we're often too stressed or exhausted to enjoy the food in front of us.

Mindful eating is an ancient practice that can heal the disconnection, confusion and guilt that most of us have experienced on some level. While the saying, "You are what you eat," is true, it is also helpful to say, "You are how you eat." While there is great value to educating ourselves about what we put into our bodies, it's empowering to balance that knowledge with the wisdom and insight gained by our own direct experience and enjoyment of eating, and from trusting our gut, as it were, in regard to how different foods, in different combinations and quantities, make us feel. Here are a few basic steps in the practice of mindful eating:

Minimize distraction. Turn off computers, televisions and cell phones. Avoid multitasking: no texting, working or even talking. When eating with others, invite everyone to eat in silence. Devote undivided, uninterrupted attention to eating. Establishing this intention beforehand sets the tone for us to honor this basic, yet vital activity that we often take for granted and hurry through because we think we have more important things to do.

Be grateful. Take a moment before taking that first bite. Look at and smell the food, reflecting on what was required to bring it to its present form: perhaps the farmer who tilled the field, the sun and the rain that made it grow, the workers that picked the vegetables or the person that, with love, prepared, cooked and seasoned it. As we open our heart, the mind becomes quiet, thus minimizing the stress that can adversely affect digestion and the absorption of nutrients.

Eat slowly. In this fast-moving world, many of us are challenged or even frustrated when invited to slow down, so more the reason to do so. There's that old rule about chewing food 30 times before swallowing, but we need not take it that far. Simply eating slowly and consciously will enhance our experience of taste, improve digestion and heighten our awareness of when to stop when we're full. Afterward, it's good to take time to notice how we feel. Through mindful eating, we connect our minds, our bodies and the Earth. If we are to heal ourselves, each other and the planet, this simple practice is a wonderful place to start.

Steve Price directs and teaches at A Mindfulness Life Center, in Scottsdale. To learn more about the center, visit AMindfulnessLifeCenter.com.

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