As a solo traveler and someone who has nixed dating for the unforeseeable future, I eat most of my meals alone.
Until recently, I scarfed down these meals as quickly as possible while working, reading, or scrolling through my Instagram feed, so that I could quickly get back to being more productive.
During my Precision Nutrition Certification course, we learned about the concepts of “eating slowly” and “eating to 80% full”.
I had mastered the “eating to 80% full” part simply by reducing my portions, but I was still struggling with the “eating slowly” part.
Eating slowly is critical in actually feeling hunger and satisfaction cues, and having a relationship with food instead of treating it as a means to an end.
From a nutrition perspective, I knew that eating slowly offered more benefits than just being able to savor your food and avoid overeating though. It also gives your body time to properly break down and digest all of the nutrients from the food you’re consuming, it keeps your body focused on that task alone rather than responding to other stimuli, and it pulls you into the present moment of being aware of what you’re tasting, thinking, and feeling.
Just like most of you, I’m super busy.
So I multitask and try to get as much done at one time as humanly possible. That usually involves scarfing down my meals while working on something else.
The last thing I want to be is a hypocrite, so this moment of self-awareness and calling myself out on an area of improvement brought me to committing to eating more slowly from that point forward. I figured the best way to do that would be to block out a chunk of time at each meal to focus my full attention on the ONE task of eating.
The first couple of days that I really put my focus and effort into this, I felt a bit anxious. I was trying to stay present and aware of what I was doing but my mind just kept racing with all of the other crap I needed to get done, and I felt like I was wasting time.
Then I thought about my morning routine.
About 6 months ago, I got into the habit of going for a walk every morning to wake up my body, start the day feeling warmed up and energized and get some exercise in before sitting down in front of my laptop for the rest of the morning.
I considered this my “personal growth” time and wanted to make the most of it, so I started listing to podcasts and audiobooks during my walk to get my mind warmed up and energized for the day as well.
Most of the podcasts and audiobooks I listen to revolve around entrepreneurs sharing their tips for a successful life. Sometimes that includes the business aspect, but usually the ones I listen to are more inner-focused. They share their routines, habits, and lifestyle choices that help them improve in all areas of life.
One thing that comes up time and time again as I’m listening to these podcasts and audiobooks is meditation.
Every time another successful entrepreneur brings up meditation, I say to myself, “you really need to jump on that bandwagon.”
But then I get busy.
That’s when I got the idea to kill two birds with one stone and use my meal times for meditation.
Meditation is really just about clearing your head, focusing on one thing (usually your breathing, but in this case I choose to focus on the sensations of my food), and staying completely present with that one thing and feeling it throughout your entire body.
This is essentially what the “eating slowly” habit in my coaching program is all about, except I had never thought of it in terms of “meditation” before.
Having said that, you can still achieve the eating slowly habit without meditating. For example, you can’t meditate while eating if you’re sharing the meal with another person and carrying on a conversation.
For me personally, I actually find it much easier to apply this habit when I’m sharing a meal with someone else, and end up eating far less because I take frequent breaks in between bites to talk and engage with the other person.
It’s when I’m trying to quickly inhale my food in a mindless manner that I end up overeating and never really feeling satisfied.
I did also find that reading helps with the eating slowly habit. Take a bite, read a page. Take a bite, read a page. But I don’t get the same results as I do from meditation because I’m still using my brain power rather than giving it time to clear out all the muck.
Which leads me back to meditating while eating.
Meditation has a broad range of benefits, but it’s most popularly known for reducing stress, sharpening your mind, increasing focus and productivity, improving mood and self-esteem, and promoting overall well-being.
It’s actually scientifically proven to prevent emotional eating and addictions like smoking as well.
So, knowing even just a few of the countless benefits of meditation
, I changed my frame of mind to view my meals as additional “personal growth times.” Whereas my morning walk/podcast routine is meant to amp me up, my meal times are meant to wind me down, destress and declutter my mind, and give my brain a reboot.
This is still a work in progress for me. Sometimes I have really good days where I’m on point with all my meals, some days I eat mindlessly during breakfast but am able to pull myself together to eat slowly and meditate during lunch and dinner (this happens most frequently), and some days I’m running around like a chicken with its head cut off and can’t even remember what I ate two hours ago.
Remember, the goal is progress, not perfection ? That’s the rule I live by, and it’s the rule I encourage all of my followers to live by as well.
The best way to make consistent progress is through self-awareness.
Don’t guilt yourself during those inevitable times you slip up and make bad eating choices or fall back on an unhealthy habit, just make note of it and try to do better next time.
When we’re aware of our unhealthy habits and choices, and realize that we’re in control of choosing the healthy or unhealthy option, we’ll almost always choose the healthier option. It’s when we’re not paying attention, ignoring the consequences, and making mindless choices that we end up letting the bad habits pile up and take over our lives.
So I challenge you to give your meals for the next week your full attention. Be aware of the food choices you’re making, and how they make you feel (both physically and emotionally).
If/when you go grocery shopping or go out to eat this week, before making your selection remind yourself, “I have the choice right now to be better and make the healthier choice or to knowingly and willingly give in to my unhealthy habits.” Then make your choice. You may still choose the unhealthy route, and that’s ok.
This week’s goal is simply to be aware of your choices, how they make you feel, and what you can do to improve them from this point forward.
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