31 Jul Eating Alone – How to Do This Mindfully
Part of the homework during the last Bringing Mindfulness to the Table workshop I taught was to practice the art of eating alone. It was interesting to hear some of the comments the women had before they practiced this homework and what they reported back to me after they had tried it. Initially, some women had anxieties about the idea of eating alone while others said they do this all the time at home.
I explained that the importance of eating alone is to reconnect back to yourself, be mindful during your meal to become more aware of your hunger and fullness cues, and to truly savour the experience instead of rushing through it. In order to be mindful while eating alone it’s important to have no distractions; put away your phone, turn off any music or shows, set your work or your book aside. I asked them to practice this at least once a day for the next week and report back to me when we meet again.
For the women that said they eat alone at home all the time they came back surprised, saying how many distractions they surrounded themselves with while it was meal time. They noticed typically listened to music, played on their phone, watched T.V., or read a book to distract themselves. When they sat in complete silence it was “lonely, irritating, or boring”. Most admitted that they began to wonder if they truly even enjoy their own company. One woman bashfully admitted that she was happy eating alone because she realized how much of her meal times are focused around serving everyone else by making sure her husband has enough and helping her son cut his meat. By the end of the week they all felt that they were truly listening to their hunger and satisfaction levels without overeating which left them feeling more satisfied and experiencing better digestion.
To practice eating alone with a sense of mindfulness there are a few key components:
1. Remove any and all distractions
Check your schedule and give yourself enough time to prepare your meal and sit down to eat it. When you eat mindfully, you will be eating a lot slower so account for this time. Put your phone away, turn off the T.V., and put anything else away that will allow you to lose touch with yourself during your meal.
2. Before eating ask yourself what you want
Are you wanting something salty, sweet, bitter, pungent, or astringent? Do you want something warm or cold? Light or heavy? Crispy or soft and chewy?
You don’t need to answer every question but these questions should give you a general sense of what type of meal will be satisfying.
3. Immerse yourself in the preparation
I like to light a candle, set out a placemat at the table, and quietly play music (I love using 8tracks because I pick my music based on my mood or the type of food I’m cooking) while I prepare my meal. Sometimes I’ll follow a recipe but usually I let me intuition guide me and I end up with a delicious meal. When you are done preparing your meal, serve it to yourself in beautiful dishes or garnish it to add a special touch.
4. While eating check in with yourself
Before taking a bite and with each new bite, notice the colour and aroma of your food. As you place the bite into your mouth notice how much food you have placed onto your fork or spoon. As you chew notice the tastes, texture, and observe how the flavour unfolds with each bite. Follow the food from your mouth down to your stomach. Maybe take breaks between each bite to check in with how you are feeling, what your fullness level is, take a sip of water, and put your utensil down.
I always know if I’m truly practicing mindful eating because I will feel a sense of calm and peace at the table. If I’m rushing through the meal without noticing I might get to the end of the meal and realize I haven’t even taken a sip of water.
5. Leave everything in the kitchen
When you’re finished your meal move on with your day. Clean up your dishes, maybe go for a brief walk, or brush your teeth and allow yourself to become focused on the next part of your day. There’s no need to stay stuck in the meal.
Try eating alone for one meal a week and let me know what comes up for you. If you’re interested in listening to my mindful eating meditation track you can find it here on my Break Up With Your Diet Album.