Adopting simple food rituals is a great way of reconnecting with food. The point to any routine or ritual is to relax or connect.
Here are a few suggestions to help make your meals meaningful!
Even the most casual of meals benefits from the structure of beginning, middle, and end.
- Try expressing some pre-meal gestures that help move beyond the automatic eating phase. Take a breath or a short pause. Sometimes that is all it takes.
- When raising a toast or saying grace, take the time to acknowledge and connect to the pleasurable eating environment. Just like when you are holding hands with the one you love, you are connected. Connect to the satisfying moment.
- Take your time and slow down. Give yourself enough time to truly taste and enjoy your meal. Take notice off all things happening around you.
- Practice manners. Remember what your mother told you! Chew with your mouth closed and always say please and thank you. Show respect to your dining companions.
Create your Dining Space
A formal dining room is not necessary to have a pleasant mealtime experience. But what important to make an intentional transition between one activity and another.
- Clear all clutter from the eating surface of choice. Get rid of that stack of mail, newspapers, and homework.
- Create an ambiance. Set the table, light candles and dim the interior light. If you want to get a little fancy, turn on some background music or breakout the linen table cloth.
- Close the door to the kitchen, if you have that option. Turn off the light above the stove, if the appliances are in the same room. This will take the focus off the stove and onto your meal.
- Turn off the television and put away the phones. Give the meal your undivided attention, as if it were an occasion.
Research has shown that eating in the company of others is important. Taking the time to eat with friends provides many of the same benefits as eating with family.
- Schedule time to eat with friends several times per week. Be mindful when you schedule your dining around work and activities. You do not want to feel stressed or anxious when dining with companions.
- When a home cooked meal is ready, invite people to the table rather than hollering across the house.
- If you live alone, invite friends over. Find a group of friends that enjoy eating together and rotate houses.
- Try preparing family style meals rather than plating individual servings. As people pass food around the table there is more of a connection within the group.
- Avoid unnecessary conflicts or criticism at the table. Avoid topics that could create heated conversation or debates. Heated discussions trigger the sympathetic nervous system which shuts down digestion.
Be conscious of your eating habits. Many studies have demonstrated that being mindful can ease physical and emotional struggles with food. Mindfulness reminds us that we are nourishing ourselves with more than food.
- Be aware of your mental state before eating. Pause and reflect. Ask yourself what you want from this meal. Does it suit you nutritionally and emotionally?
- Body Language. Observe your body at the table. How do you sit, feed yourself, and chew? Are you breathing loudly? Are you comfortable?
- Put down your fork and relax between bites.
- Notice when you begin to feel full and if this feeling brings you satisfaction. Distracted eating can sometimes make you feel too full, but oddly not satisfied. Ask yourself if you need something other than food.
- If your lunch break is your opportunity to get caught up on texting or emails, be creative and take one conscious bite of food before writing each message.
Eating is essential to survival, it fuels our bodies. But being fed is not the same thing as being nourished. For that reason, food rituals and routines can go a long way.
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