Mindful eating isn’t so much about what you’re eating. It’s how you go about eating it.
When my wife and I lived in the Netherlands, going out to eat was initially a little uncomfortable. Amsterdam is a small city, so space is tight. Many restaurants seated us practically should-to-shoulder with complete strangers. Coming form the wide open spaces of DFW, this was a challenge. Time and again, I found myself unintentionally eavesdropping on my fellow diners. It left me feeling drained, like I was watching two movies at the same time.
After living there a month or two, I adjusted. I learned to keep redirecting my attention back to my own meal, back to my own conversation. Over time, this process became automatic. My dining neighbors no longer distracted me, their conversations fading away to vague background noise.
Eating as Meditation
Life can feel like a cramped restaurant. You’re just trying to go about your business, but distractions of every variety keep begging for your attention. Juicy gossip at the office watercolor, the screeching of popular media, the prime time drama in your own living room. It can feel like all of these things are trying to hijack your nervous system. But ultimately, your attention, your focus, is your own responsibility. You can utilize the simple act of eating a meal as a reminder to stay present. Whether you’re eating alone or with others, try this simple two-step process:
First recognize when you’re distracted. Don’t judge yourself. Don’t blame someone else for distracting you. Simply note when your attention has wandered from the experience of your meal.
Then gently steer your attention back to the moment at hand. This is where your life happens. At first, you may have to do this hundreds of times daily. But eventually, your focus learns to stay put. It’s not “tuning out” the noise so much as it is intensifying your focus on your own experience in the present moment.