How many times a week do you:
Eat at your desk while working?
Snack while you're making the kid's dinner without sitting down yourself?
Scroll through social media over breakfast?
Race through your meal without even realising?
Yeah, me too. But one of my favourite things in life is food, so I love taking the opportunity to practice mindful eating when I can.
There are heaps of benefits to mindful eating:
Brings you into the moment, and helps with mood regulation
Helps you de-stress
Slows down your eating, which helps digestion and nutrient absorption
Trains your brain to soak in positive experiences
Makes food more enjoyable!
This type of mindfulness is a form of open awareness, as opposed to focussed awareness. This means that your attention is on your experience as a whole at that moment, including the physical sensations, sensory input, and any thoughts or emotions. When we practice mindful eating, we're taking in the tastes, smells, and textures of the food, as well as how it makes us feel.
So why MasterChef Mindfulness? Honestly, I just liked the alliteration. Also, my mum has gotten me kind of hooked on it, despite my best efforts to stay impartial to it.
But the MasterChef judges are there to deconstruct and fully experience the dish. There is a huge element of curiosity and wonder that is involved, as they try to detect every subtlety of the food and flavour.
We're going to take this attentiveness and love of food, and use it as a mindfulness exercise.
Right, you're a MasterChef now. No cooking experience required! Putting your meal together can be as simple or complex as you like.
I used to watch TV while I was cooking, but then I realised that I really love absorbing myself in the process of creating food. It makes me more attentive to balancing flavours and textures, whether I'm making a banquet or a sandwich!
Do you know the term "Cooked with Love"? It really does make the food taste better! As you're preparing your food, try to make an effort to send love and care to whoever is going to be eating it, especially if that'll be you!
Create the atmosphere
While the MasterChef producers have their ways of setting the scene on the show, you can do the same at home. If you have a little time, make it special with whatever mood setters that you like. But even if you don't have much time, try to get some space away from screens and distractions, as much as you can.
This might mean sitting outside or in a different place, scheduling in some time you won't be distracted (however little!), or getting out your fancy plates and cutlery.
Racing through your meal doesn't give you a chance to actually enjoy it!
Try taking smaller bites, chewing your food properly, and taking a breath in between mouthfuls. You don't have to go at snail's pace, but take your time.
Savouring the food and taking in the feeling of enjoying it can't be rushed. Slowing down also really helps your digestion, and chewing better can help your body absorb the nutrients in the food.
Use all of your senses
Your neural pathways strengthen when there is more information available to be encoded. That's a fancy way of saying that absorbing the experience helps the benefits stick.
Looking at the food- noticing colours, shapes, textures, details, and presentation. Try making the food look pretty, even if no one else will see it.
Listening to the sizzle, crunch, squelch, or whatever sound your food makes
Feel the sensations, textures, and temperature of the food. Feel it in your mouth and on your tongue, and even eat using your hands if you can.
Smell the food- this is one of the best parts!
And of course, taste the food. Notice each flavour on your tongue and hold onto the taste a little longer.
Time to judge- without judgment!
It's time to put on your MasterChef judge's curiosity. But instead of judging and critiquing the food, I want you to try to experience the food as it is, with complete acceptance.
Start by naming all the elements and ingredients on the plate. Can you taste each of them individually? Then, can you focus in on each flavour? Salty, sweet, spicy, sour, bitter, and umami.
Tell me about what you're experiencing, trying to put it into words. Does the food make you feel anything? Try to name any emotions that come up, and experience them without judgment.
Lastly, sit with the enjoyment of the food. Pick out the best parts of the dish and sit with that feeling of contentment. Let yourself smile or giggle. Taste is one of the simple pleasures in life that we can enjoy every single day, and we should take advantage of that.
Feel it nourishing and fueling your body, visualise the nutrients soaking into your body and filling you with energy, and let yourself get excited about the experience of eating!
Take a moment, before, after, or during your meal or snack to sit with the feeling of gratitude. You might reflect on what it took to grow or produce that food, the people who brought it to you, your ability to earn money to buy food, and your ability to enjoy it.
How often should you eat mindfully?
It just isn't realistic to try to make every single meal totally mindful and distraction-free, so don't put those kinds of expectations on yourself. Instead, look for ways to make this work for you. Maybe one meal or snack per day you try to take some screen-free time to yourself, or in each meal, you try to make an effort to savour one moment.
For me, I usually try to make my breakfast that meal that I set aside for just me and my food. Then one of my meals is usually social, which in itself has great benefits. And whenever I'm having a food that I particularly love, you best believe I'm soaking up that experience!
But some days my bed is cozy and I'm running late, or I'm in a rut and can't get excited about food. Then I might make an extra effort to make a meal that feels special, that I can really enjoy.
But I will say, the more you do it, the easier it is. You're essentially training your brain to look for the good and to stay in the moment. Once you start making an effort to bring your attention to it, you'll naturally start feeling more comfortable in that mindset, and that's where the real heart of the benefits are.
So, step into your own MasterChef kitchen and give mindful eating a go!
Let us know in the comments what you'll be cooking up this week
[Bumblebee Yoga is in no way affiliated with MasterChef. Please don't sue me Channel 10!]