How to Eat Mindfully and Soulfully
Dr. David Wiss
August 13, 2022
We’ve encouraged a loose structure of “when” to eat by distributing meals and snacks evenly throughout the day. This strategy is designed to prevent the extremes of hunger and fullness that can lead to mood dysregulation and possibly poor food choices. Have you thought about your meal timing strategy yet? This is one of the easiest ways to improve dietary patterns.
You can always modify your “when” strategy as you evolve as an eater. Just remember to avoid going more than five hours without eating unless you’re sleeping! We don’t recommend fasting because we want to avoid hunger, but of course, everyone is different. Remember the mantra: Never Hungry, Never Full.
We’ve introduced a universal food group system to consume all food groups daily and use multiple food groups at every meal and snack. Even if there are apps that do the math for you, we’ve found that math-centric approaches are not ideal in the pursuit of peak mental wellness, as they can create new problems. There’s a revolution going on for people who are done counting their food. Are you here for it?
It’s better to focus on internal hunger and fullness cues rather than relying on external indicators. The next step is to think about “how” to eat. This represents how you are as an eater which includes the rate at which you consume food and the environment when eating. This is part of the emerging field of nutritional psychology.
Much of the wisdom in this domain has been developed by concepts of Mindful Eating. While there are many definitions of Mindful Eating, we think it’s best remembered as the opposite of mindless eating, or distracted eating.
Mindfulness is best summarized as “doing what you’re doing while you’re doing it,” in contrast to activities with less intention or even from a dissociated state. Mindful Eating is about slowing down to experience the sensation of food and cultivating awareness of these sensations throughout your entire body. The best way to start being a mindful eater is to chew your food slowly and thoroughly. It might help to emphasize food eaten with utensils rather than handheld.
The term Mindful Eating has been used to exhaustion, and many people often equate it to eating with their mind. We think it’s wise to go one step further and to consider Soulful Eating.
This may involve bringing spirituality to the eating experience. Human beings have a depth to us that we often ignore or forget. We often fail to see ourselves as small parts of an integrated whole, or parts of a collective consciousness.
Soulful Eating involves the cultivation of gratitude for the nourishment made available by Mother Nature, and how we connect to our food. Eating represents our most profound interaction with nature daily.
For this reason, we don’t use the familiar adage that “food is fuel” because we see it as so much more. Food represents complex information that is communicated to our gut and relayed through our nervous and endocrine systems to eventually register with our brain, which sends the signals back.
Soulful eating recognizes how precious and dynamic this intricate process is. Soulful eating encourages you to access that quiet space before, during, and after your meals. This is one way to access your Wise Mind.
Implement a “how to eat” strategy by selecting which of the recommendations feel appropriate for you. You can practice Mindful Eating and Soulful Eating as soon as today! Choose as many as you like:
1. Only eat while sitting at a table. Clear away the clutter that distracts you.
2. Serve food in a presentable fashion that is pleasing to your senses. Adjust the lighting or consider candle lighting.
3. Take five cycles of breath before each meal or snack to bring your parasympathetic nervous system into dominance.
4. Consider writing a mantra or a prayer to cultivate the spirit of Soulful Eating before meals and snacks. A focus on gratitude works excellent here. Acknowledge the domain of the sacred. Live in a mindset of abundance rather than scarcity.
5. Stop multitasking when eating. No screens, no scrolling, and no reading. But playing soothing music can be helpful to the healing process. If this all feels like a tall order, commit to this at one meal per day, and see if you can eventually do more.
6. Engage all your senses when eating. Take the time to smell your food, listen to it while chewing, let it linger in your mouth, and see how the taste of it changes as you approach satiety.
7. Chew your food slowly and deliberately. Convert your food into a paste-like consistency rather than swallowing large chunks.
8. Choose “fork and knife” food over handheld food.
9. Put your food and knife down in between bites. This helps to slow the process down through the promotion of proper satiety signaling.
10. Stop halfway through your meal and check in with your hunger and fullness. Individuals who overeat might strategize how much of their plate to finish, and individuals who undereat might commit to finishing their plate.
11. Be nonjudgmental about the eating process. Let go of any unkind thoughts you have about your body and your relationship to food. Acknowledge your positive and negative responses to food without any judgment. Invite self-compassion into each meal.
12. After some meals, you might want to journal about the feelings and thoughts that came up.
13. Welcome uncertainty and unpredictability into the eating process. Be perfectly imperfect.
14. Clean up as you prepare your food and finish cleaning shortly after the meal. Postponing this activity creates an unnecessary burden that should be disentangled from the eating process. Convert the cooking and clean-up into a prideful meditative process.