7 Ways to Eat Mindfully on Thanksgiving or Any Day


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  31 comments   :  16,740 Views

My mother is the most mindful eater I know.  She is 90 years old, and I have never known her to rush through a meal, eat in a car, dine in front of the TV, or consume food out of a box or bag.   While she is showing signs of dementia, my mom is still fully aware of the food she is consuming at all times.  She eats when she is hungry and stops when she is full.

An avid gardener, canner and freezer for most of her life, she treats food with respect, values the labor needed to bring it to the table, appreciates how it nourishes the body, and cherishes the variety of flavors and texture that come from quality food and impeccable preparation.  When I take her out for lunch, I know I need to be prepared for a meal that will last at least 75 minutes… and it’s not because of slow service. My mother will correctly set the table at a restaurant where the silverware is all wrapped in the napkin.  She will carefully place the napkin in her lap and talk about the need for cloth napkins.  

On a recent fried chicken adventure, we discussed the coating and frying technique, the homemade mashed potatoes with just a few tiny lumps, the tangy coleslaw, and the cinnamon-sugar sweetened acorn squash.  I am sure you will understand why I had to giggle as I recently read how one can now dine with Buddhist brothers for a “day of mindful eating” at the Blue Cliff Monastery.  Trust me: These monks have nothing over my mother. 

This Thanksgiving season may be the perfect time to start dedicating a little time daily to increase your appreciation and focus on the foods you select, prepare and eat. 

Start with small, simple steps.  Implement techniques and easy acts to eat more slowly, experience the flavors of food more intensely, and to seek pleasure in the complete eating process.  I share these ideas as a starting point:
  • Shop at a local farmers market and obtain several food ingredients that were locally raised or produced.  Take time to talk to the vendors or perhaps the actual farmers. Discover 1-2 farming practices that were used to bring this food into your possession.  Understanding the hours of labor, skills used and resources needed to feed the masses increases one’s appreciation for the food.   Food does not just miraculously appear at the store or on the table.
  • While at the grocery store, imagine the steps needed to get that food from the farm to your store.  The harvesting, processing, traveling, loading and unloading, storing and stocking, selling and bagging.  One natural disaster or man-made error brings the entire system to a screeching halt, altering food safety and food availability. 
  • While you prepare your family favorite recipes for your Thanksgiving feast, remember how modern kitchen equipment and supplies have greatly altered the cooking process and food choices. Think about running water, refrigeration, small and large electric appliances, your stove, range top and microwave. Could you possibly prepare a meal without them? Savor the smells of the ground cinnamon used in the pumpkin pie, the sage in your dressing, and the buttery-sweet yeast-leavened dinner rolls.  Become aware of the motions of your body as you stuff the bird, mash the potatoes, and stir the gravy.  Experience the coolness as you open the refrigerator, the stifling heat of the oven, and the warmth of the dishwater in your sink.
  • Prior to eating, turn off the distractions:  television, radio, phone and computer.  Quiet your mind as you prepare to “dig in,” but first stop, take a deep breath, and position your body for the bounty you are about to receive. 
  • First, give attention to your hunger.  What messages are you receiving that your body needs food?  Where are the places in your body that you feel hunger?  As hunger increases do you become light-headed, does your tummy growl, or do you become anxious? 
  • Give 100% attention to every food on your plate.   As you take the first bite, notice the size, shape, and color.  Feel the texture and delight in the flavor as the food travels your mouth and coats every taste bud.  Experience your food intently and enjoy the pleasure it brings. Notice the feeling of comfort as your hunger subsides.
  • You will probably discover that this level of focus is difficult to maintain.  You probably won’t be able to do it 100%.  But like all new habits, it is a work in progress. Continue with your mindful eating project.  Set weekly goals as you increase the number of meals and amount of time you are able to dedicate to this practice.
Become present at your meals this holiday season by shining the spotlight on your food selections and the act of eating.  This mindfulness can play a huge role in changing the way you approach, enjoy, honor and relate to food.

NOTE:  If Thanksgiving Day is too chaotic for this mindful eating project to begin, feel free to select another starting date in November.
Have you ever implemented a mindful eating technique?  Describe the experience.

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  • 31
    I will practice this one today and really focus on it T-day!! Thank you. I freeze and can a lot of my produce, the rest is from the local market, grown within 50 miles. I bake and dry my own bread for stuffing, desserts,etc. NOw to extend the eating part of it... - 11/22/2014   4:00:44 AM
  • 30
    Really good blog on mindful eating, Becky. I would love to meet your Mom. Give her a hug for me (-: - 11/17/2013   5:59:31 AM
  • 29
    I'd love to shop at a Farmer's Market but there are none that I know of at this time of year. - 11/16/2013   11:44:55 AM
  • 28
    I love this and while I have implementing trying to chew slowing at least 25 times for each folk full I put in my mouth. These mindfulness eating is greater and I will incorporate them one at a time. Thank you Thank you!!!!!!! - 11/15/2013   3:09:22 PM
  • 27
    My Mom is 87. I think there is more appreciation too because of the depression. But your blog made me smile. :) - 11/13/2013   1:47:23 PM
  • 26
    Fabulous! We are blessed! - 11/12/2013   12:07:21 AM
  • 25
    Thanks For These Instructions. I Try To Mindful Eat But Sometimes I Find Myself Rushing And Sometimes There's Really NO Rush Needed lol. The Most Mindful Meals I Have Are The Ones Where I HAVE To Chew My Food Thoroughly Such As Breakfast Of Oatmeal With Added Ingredients Such As Seeds And Walnuts. I Think About The Textures And The Taste. I Am Amazed How Different The Taste Can Be From One Bag Of Walnuts Or Sunflower Seeds To The Other. Or The Sweetness Of Frozen Strawberries Which I Also Like To Use In My Oatmeal. I LIke The Idea Of Shopping And Thinkig About Where Everything Comes From. Gives Eating More Meaning Than Just Taste. I Will Start Eating More Meals With This In Mind. Makes For A Greater Appreciation Of Food. :))) - 1/26/2013   8:25:29 PM
  • 24
    I agree with post number 11 "tortuous" comes to mind but I do agree with the "give attention to your hunger". - 11/19/2012   8:47:47 PM
  • 23
    Thanks for sharing. Have a happy Thanksgiving! - 11/19/2012   9:28:21 AM
  • 22
    Great article. I really appreciated you writing this. - 11/19/2012   7:11:54 AM
  • 21
    I try to always be mindful, but it doesn't mean I stop eating. LOL - 11/19/2012   12:23:35 AM
  • 20
    No, I have not done this, but it sounds like a wonderful thing to try. It would be very enlightening. Your Mom sounds like a very special individual, and you must delight in dining with her. - 11/18/2012   11:20:19 PM
  • 19
    I, too, am learning the art of mindful eating--especially when going outside my regular routine. I have learned not to taste test quite as much as I cook. I take extra time to prepare my meal and make that part of the new ritual of eating and it is even a time with family that is replacing eating/social time. Slowing down my eating and savoring the taste and texture has been a challenge, but am beginning to emerge as a mindful eater. Thanks for the article, I am sure it will help many. - 11/18/2012   10:48:51 PM
  • 18
    Lovely article, Becky. I wonder how many people today really are like your mother! We all live in such a fast paced world we just don't take the time to enjoy every bite. Maybe that is why there are so many overweight folks today - they don't realize they have eaten and are full. - 11/18/2012   8:57:26 PM
  • 17
    I loved this topic. I personally add that: if I truely "give thanks" before I begin eating, I enjoy every bite much more. I really loved how you touched upon soil to table. I hope you write more on this subject. Sincerely, Julia - 11/18/2012   6:43:11 PM
  • 16
    I give thanks to you, and to a number of other folk who share their food values. - 11/18/2012   5:37:51 PM
  • 15
    Excellent blog! it is so easy for me to fall back into the habit of eating mindlessly. Thanks for the reminder to slow down and enjoy the food I'm eating. - 11/18/2012   12:39:59 PM
    Great article! Just thinking about it makes me feel grateful. Thanks! - 11/18/2012   10:46:10 AM
    I am a speed eater - and will be trying to put some of this into action - old habits die hard - but they do die in the end - this one is on notice lol
    - 11/18/2012   10:14:05 AM
  • 12
    Easy to say, but hard to do, especially for the rest of one's life. Not enough time to "ponder" over life's little issues at this point in time............wonder if people in prison ponder over their food, since they don't have work to do or people to take care of?? - 11/17/2012   9:43:59 PM
  • 11
    This article reminds me of a tortuous way to control your unmindful eating habits... LoL After each bite tuck your hands under your behind and chew each bite not just squish and swallow. Thank you for the remider to savor our food ( even the junk food and desserts of course) I believe the more you savor the less you'll overeat/ binge. - 11/17/2012   2:43:18 PM
  • 10
    I've slowed down quite a bit since I take much smaller portions. I make them last so that I don't finish before my family otherwise I'm more likely to grab additional food to eat with them. - 11/17/2012   8:20:03 AM
  • 9
    i like to say grace and thank God for the food in front of me. I find it helps me to appreciate what I HAVE as opposed to that which I think I NEED. - 11/16/2012   10:14:12 PM
  • 8
    Really appreciated this. - 11/16/2012   9:45:17 PM
  • 7
    Wow! What a timely piece. My biggest fight still is with eating too fast. Maybe it came from growing up and knowing that, with 6 others at the table, I had to hurry to make sure I got enough...whatever it is, I haven't been in that situation for way too many years to still be exhibiting that behavior. I will make a conscious effort to slow down. Thank you for a great blog! - 11/16/2012   5:33:14 PM
  • 6
    This is a very good article. When I get sad and depressed, every therapist tells me I need to be 'more mindful'. But that is hard to figure out how to do. This gives excellent tips! Thanks!! - 11/16/2012   3:38:41 PM
  • 5
    Great post!! Thank you for reminding us of this :D - 11/16/2012   2:03:52 PM
  • 4
    I like this sort of article much better than the articles I usually see that encourage restriction of the food on Thanksgiving. It's a holiday. Live a little! - 11/16/2012   1:58:19 PM
  • 3
    I need to work on mindful eating. I need to slow down and enjoy more. Thanks for this post on appreciating those who do mindful eating. - 11/16/2012   1:38:30 PM
  • 2
    I really liked this blog post. My husband is similarly mindful about food, and sometimes it drives me crazy, but I'm learning to be more this way, especially since starting my weight-loss efforts. I would much rather enjoy the food on my plate and think about how good it tastes and how valuable the nutrition is than watch TV or drift around on the internet while I eat. Life's too short for poor-quality, rushed meals. - 11/16/2012   1:34:17 PM
  • 1
    I love this. Thank you for posting it. Breaking everything down and really centering oneself is so important in this age of fast-paced everything and instant gratification. It might seem like overkill to think of all these things in so much detail, but, I know for me, when I do this, I am so focused, happy, and at peace. Ah, serenity :) - 11/16/2012   12:43:28 PM

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