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Conscious eating

Nimisha Rattan


This article is an effort to bring about awareness of the food that we eat. There are certain guidelines that help us become conscious of what and how we eat. The message here is to stay healthy and happy by celebrating the moments of conscious eating every day.

With the advent of the New Year, I was planning to incorporate many new things in my life. One of those changes I was excited about was the change in my eating habits. Being used to giving long hours to my work, I had developed the wrong habit of eating fast just to fill my stomach, without knowing how and what benefits the food was giving me.

Suddenly one day I came across a person in my meditation group who was working on the philosophy of mindful or conscious eating. I was excited to learn more and attended his class on the subject for one week. I learnt that such conscious eating helps to reduce over-eating, increases enjoyment of the food, helps to improve digestion and teaches us how to be satisfied with less.

What is conscious eating?

Conscious means being aware and deliberately paying attention to the present and being non-judgmental of it. It also means paying attention to our thoughts, emotions and physical sensations. Also conscious eating means allowing ourselves to become aware of the nurturing and nourishing benefits of the food that we are eating and using our inner wisdom to select and prepare the food so as to get the maximum benefit from it.

We all know that in Āyurveda it is said, ‘We are what we eat’. But mindful eating is ‘how to eat what we eat’. Hence we can gain awareness of how we can make choices that support health and well-being. Eating is a natural, healthy and pleasurable activity when it is done to satisfy hunger. Choosing to eat food ‘mindfully’ or in other words eating with full attention will allow you to have optimal satisfaction and enjoyment without eating to excess. This practice makes it possible for you to experience the difference between physical satisfaction and fullness. Knowing what satisfies you and getting the most pleasure from your eating experiences are the key factors for a lifetime of good health.

Simple steps for mindful eating

1. Acknowledge if you are hungry before you start eating for if you are not hungry, you will be least interested in eating food by staying focused.

2. Choose food that will satisfy both your body as well as your mind: eating is your right, so don’t be obsessed by others’ choices when it comes to eating to your satisfaction.

3. Eat without distraction: If you eat while you’re distracted by watching the television, driving or talking on the telephone, you won’t be giving the food or your body’s signals your full attention. As a result, you may feel full but not satisfied.

4. Take a few breaths and centre yourself before eating: this will help you slow down. Give full attention to your eating.

5. Appreciate the aroma and appearance of your food: Notice the colours, textures, and smells of the food and imagine what it will taste like.

6. Decide which food looks the most appetising and start eating that food first: if you save the best until last, you may want to eat it even if you are full.

7. Savour the aromas and tastes of your food as you eat: put your fork down between bites and be conscious of all the different sensations you are experiencing.

8. If you notice that you’re not enjoying what you chose, choose something else if possible: eating food you don’t enjoy will leave you feeling dissatisfied.

9. Set the table in a pleasant manner: creating a pleasant ambience adds to the enjoyment of eating and to your level of satisfaction. Besides, you deserve it.

10. Appreciate the occasion: appreciate the atmosphere, the company, or simply the fact that you’re giving yourself the opportunity to sit down and enjoy your meal.

11. Eat in the yogic way of eating: You should masticate liquids and drink solids. This helps to digest the food properly. And slowing down helps you to eat more mindfully.

12. Water should be taken half an hour before the meal and one hour after the meal.

According to Āyurveda, it is advised to take lukewarm water during the meal. Food helps to enrich the quality of our life.

A healthy decision about eating in a right and proper way will help us to stay happy and healthy every day. As life is a celebration so eating the right food can be a feast forever.

Nimisha Rattan is a holistic healer based in Rishikesh in India and is associated with Ananda Spa in the Himalayas.

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