After many years of being incredibly restrictive with my food, I know all too well what it feels like to crave something and to ignore the craving. The result: I end up eating something I’m not in the mood for (but think I should eat), all in the name of trying to drone out that underlying need. I think if I ignore it, it will go away.
Wrong! It’s far better to eat something you’re craving in moderation than to binge on it later or to eat something you don’t really want.
And if after reading this you’re still afraid of giving in to intuitive wisdom (or baffled about how to go about it) because you feel as if your body will betray you or that this kind of process has gotten you into trouble before, don’t worry. Staying present to yourself and open to rediscovering yourself during this journey will bring you to a place of trusting, revering, and listening to your body’s wisdom.
How To Eat Intuitively & Consciously
One vital way to tap into intuitive eating is to simply slow down when you eat. We can all relate to scarfing down a burrito in the car during rush-hour traffic or gobbling down a snack bar. Nowadays, it is easy to neglect the sacredness of our food. But the quality of foods that you eat, and the attention that you give to the act of eating, deeply affects your health and consciousness.
When you take time to enjoy your food, you become attuned to what your body wants and when she’s had enough. Plus, you’ll notice that you end up eating less and enjoying what you’re eating more when you slow down and notice.
To support healthy digestion and optimal enjoyment, choose a relaxing and comfortable eating venue — ideally without TV, books, magazines, or other distractions. When I visit a restaurant, sometimes that means asking for a table farther away from the heavily trafficked entrance. At home it means setting a place at the table, turning away from the computer, or resisting reading a magazine.
Less-than-optimal dining scenarios are unavoidable facts of life, and, for most of us, it is a challenge to make time for a conscious eating practice at every meal! Increase your chances of success by choosing at least one meal a day when you can fully practice and be present with your food. Then for the other meals, incorporate what you can from the list below.
Ten Steps to Conscious Eating
1. Hydrate. Always keep a glass of water nearby you as you’re working, or carry a water bottle with you wherever you go. Aim to drink liquids between twenty minutes and one hour before eating. Drinking liquids during meals dilutes digestive enzymes and the stomach’s hydrochloric acid, thus impairing digestion. If you must have a beverage with a meal, drink small amounts of warm water (with lemon is nice) or an herbal tea such ginger or peppermint (herbs that aid digestion). Avoid cold drinks, unless it’s really hot outside, since these can dampen your digestive fire.
2. Breathe deeply. Before you eat, do several rounds of diaphragmatic breathing (especially if you’re feeling emotional or stressed). This relaxes the nervous system and enhances blood flow to the digestive organs. It also helps you tune in to your body so that you eat only what your body needs.
3. Extend gratitude. Recite a blessing of gratitude for the food, the earth, and everyone involved in growing, preparing, and bringing the food to you. Sentiments of gratitude alone can boost the immune system!
4. Engage the senses. Take time to look at the food and appreciate its shapes, colors, and textures. Smell your food, and enjoy its aromas.
5. Savor the first bite. Let your first bite rest in your mouth, and see if you can detect what flavors are present.
6. Chew well. Chew slowly and thoroughly. Notice the impulse to swallow prematurely, and resist it. Try chewing your food as many as thirty times, to the point where it is liquefied. The more thoroughly you chew, the better your digestion will be.
7. Slow down. Take breaks to stop chewing and breathe. This calms your nervous system and encourages optimal digestion. In addition, by slowing down you can tune in to when you are full and, in this way, avoid overeating and overtaxing your digestive system. It is best to finish eating when you still feel slightly hungry, or when your stomach feels three-quarters full. You can always eat again later if you get hungry!
8. Observe. Turn your awareness inside your body — to your mouth and your belly — to be as present to the sensations of eating as possible. Notice what images, feelings, and inspirations arise for you as you eat. Whenever you find your mind wandering, bring it back to what you are doing: lifting the fork, chewing, swallowing, and putting the fork down.
9. Complete the practice. Take a few moments before getting up from your meal. Take a few deep breaths and/or once again extend gratitude to the food and the earth and beings who provided it.
10. Notice the effects. Be sure to notice how you digest your meals and whether this practice has any positive effects on your body, your mind, or life in general.
Start putting some of these fundamentals into action.
Remember These Conscious Eating Tips
• Get involved with your food! Shop for it, chop it, smell it, cook it, eat it with joy and gusto.
• Cook for yourself with love. Then cook for others with love.
• Eat seasonally and locally. Emphasize lots of fruits, veggies, and whole grains.
• Practice listening to what your body wants to eat. When you pause and ask her what she wants, are you willing to listen?
• While eating, slow down, chew, and savor the experience.
• Stock your kitchen with the wholesome ingredients and supplies that you need to support your journey.
• Choose a relaxing and comfortable eating venue.
This article was reprinted with permission of the publisher,
New World Library. ©2011. www.newworldlibrary.com
THE WAY OF THE HAPPY WOMAN: Living the Best Year of Your Life
by Sara Avant Stover.
About the Author
Sara Avant Stover is a motivational speaker, teacher, mentor, and founder and director of The Way of the Happy Woman®. After a health scare in her early twenties, she moved to Chiang Mai, Thailand, where she lived for nine years, embarked on an extensive healing and spiritual odyssey throughout Asia, and, as a multicertified yoga teacher, served as one of the pioneer yoga teachers in that part of the world. Since then she has studied with many spiritual masters and has taught three thousand students in more than a dozen different countries. Visit Sara online at www.thewayofthehappywoman.com; she would love to hear from you!
Watch a video with Sara: Retrieving True Unconditional Happiness