Mindfulness and Meditation
Post by Olivia Martino, Registered Dietitian and Co-owner of Nourish Northwest
“Spring” in Portland feels like a state of limbo to me. We’re neither in winter or summer. Some days it’s rainy and some days it’s sunny, and I just can’t seem to get dressed for the day appropriately (I’m wearing rain boots today and the sun is out). I can’t figure out when to plant my garden. I’m mostly feeling stuck and uninspired in the cooking department. Do I continue to eat hearty winter greens? Do I want warming soups or colder salads? To gather inspiration for cooking ideas, I took a look back at my old food blog that I am no longer keeping up to see what I cooked last April.
The first recipe that came up was the first meal I cooked in my new apartment in Portland. I had just finished unpacking my kitchen boxes after their long journey from Louisville, KY. Thinking back to where I was last April brought back a flood of emotions. Last spring and the year that followed has been a huge period of transition in my life. From saying goodbye to a life in another place, ending a meaningful relationship and grieving the deaths of two friends to starting a new business, rebuilding old friendships and forming new ones, welcoming a nephew and preparing for another baby, this year has been a roller coaster.
Many people reflect on their lives in January, when making New Year’s resolutions. But I think spring is a good time to really think about what you have been through, where you want to go and how you are going to get there. As a dietitian, I talk with clients a lot about Mindfulness. Mindfulness, according to Buddha, is one of the seven factors of enlightenment and is defined as the attentive awareness of the reality of things around you. I often relate this concept to food and eating. Being mindful of the food we purchase and put into our bodies connects us to nature, the seasons, and the food itself. The Farmer’s Markets just opened, so now is a great time to visit one and see what is in season right now. Being mindful when we are eating allows us to slow down, taste and enjoy our food and in turn, be satisfied with less. When I feel confused about where my life is, I like to practice mindfulness in all areas. To me, this means going on a walk outside, doing yoga, reminiscing with old friends and practicing mindful eating.
Mindful eating, in a nutshell, is paying attention to your food. This means thinking about what you are going to eat and planning your meals ahead of time, focusing on the food and freeing yourself from other distractions. It also includes being aware of your physical surroundings and emotional state. Where are you eating… in the car or at the table? Why are you eating… because you are bored? sad? happy? hungry? It is also important to think about how the food makes you feel. Does it energize you? Or does it make you lethargic? Does it make you smile? Or make you feel a sense of guilt? Do you feel pleasantly satisfied? Or so uncomfortably full that you can’t move?
Some people roll their eyes at the thought of practicing Mindful Eating, or they simply feel that they do not have enough time. If you are trying to make healthy changes in your eating habits this is a crucial step. I am reminded of a story that was told to me by a teacher. He had a client that had a ritual of eating two McDonald’s cheeseburgers and a chocolate shake in his car on his way home from work every day. He was willing to make other significant healthy changes in his life but would not budge on this one. It was his ritual and he simply was not willing to let it go. “Ok fine, ” said my teacher. “You don’t have to stop eating the cheeseburgers but do one thing for me. Pull your car over at a rest area and eat your food there.” The client agreed. The following week, my teacher checked in to see if the client had done his homework. The client reported back that he had and he realized the funniest thing… he hated the taste of McDonald’s cheeseburgers. Hated them. He just never actually taken the time to pay attention to how they tasted before.
Here are some tips for implementing the practice of mindful eating into your daily life:
- Plan ahead: Plan your meals for the week, make a grocery list and stick to it. Prepare your meals and snacks ahead of time
- Set aside time for meals: Schedule it into your calendar if you have to. This is a crucial part of your day.
- Free yourself from distractions: Turn the tv off. Turn the computer off. Put your phone away.
- Use your five senses to examine your food: Taste, Sight, smell, possibly hearing and touch
- Chew your food thoroughly: this means 25 chews for each bite. Chewing makes the food more digestible, draws out the nutrients, lets you taste your food, feel more satisfied and gives your body a chance to feel full.
- Most importantly, no matter what you’re eating, enjoy your food!