By Heather Sears
Scientists have found we make 225+ daily mealtime decisions and are unconscious of around 200.
After going through a stressful period of life and literally choking through multi-tasking, unhealthy meals, I began applying a personal mindfulness approach around all areas of food - meal planning, shopping, cooking and eating. The result was more time, ease, enjoyment, more wholesome choice and I lost weight.
Being mindful helped me make better decisions.
Through shifting my approach to my food my well-being and productivity also improved in other areas of my life. Just like our unconscious food decisions, many of our thoughts are running in the background repeating a narrative that may be influencing our lives in ways differently than we would prefer.
Here are a few of the ways mindfulness shifted my behavior beyond the kitchen table, and how it may help you too.
Engage wholly: Yes, I post #food pics on social media. But through going analog around food I expanded my ability to connect with life. The difference between looking at great Instagram posts and taking the raw salad fixings and using my hands to wash, chop and arrange on a plate is the multisensory connection between the food and myself. I've learned to lean into these moments through my senses - without critique, judgment or a need to "like" it.
Consciously working with raw ingredients feels rich and authentic, simple and perfect. Getting cookie dough under my fingernails seems to quiet my mind and connect me to the food in a straight-forward way. It helps me get real with myself and I now purposefully take this approach to being with people.
I like to listen with my eyes and ears and sense the whole situation, not just wait for a gap to speak. Rather than take more time, I've found these conversations are more productive and I think it's because I'm "getting" the whole person and they don't need to spend time repeating things they thought I did not hear or defending themselves.
Move through resistance: Thanks to a lot of practice noticing and dissolving my resistance to meal planning, cooking new foods and chopping onions, I am now able to recognize my resistance in other situations - like starting various projects, making certain decisions, having uncomfortable conversations, and turning off my screens. I now know how to move through them successfully.
I am also more comfortable being uncomfortable and can use my breath to get through 'fight or flight' reflexes. This has saved time by dislodging procrastination and has led to many opportunities that would not have existed if I let my resistance hinder me. For example, I was nervous to make a public statement at a large conference the other week. But I did it. Afterward, several people found me to discuss working together and one person insisted on giving me cash on the spot for some material I was discussing.
Nourish creativity: Practicing real-time mindful observation around food has illuminated countless insights and shifted my dining habits. I like to try innovative approaches to suit my newfound understanding. Not only are meals more flavorful, textured and nourishing, so is life.
By carrying the practice of observing with fresh senses and dropping stale assumptions beyond the kitchen I've applied insights to creatively increase productivity and insert fun into otherwise dreary activities. Now I optimize activity timing to suit energy levels and insert playfulness into personal goals. I've found novel ways to reach deadlines with less effort.
Mindfulness helps me see more clearly what is around me, create mental space for new ideas to show up and get out of my own way to execute them.
Why does this shift of being around food impact other parts of life?
I believe it's because how we do one thing is how we do everything. We bring our identities, habits, preferences, and life approach to all we do. Shifting ourselves in one area changes us and will flow to other areas as well. Learning to engage with your food in real ways along the entire path to consumption is a great place to start to deeply and authentically engage with ourselves.
Heather Sears is the author of the award-winning book, 'Mind to Mouth: A Busy Chick's Guide to Mindful Mealtime Moments'. (Download a free book excerpt.) She is an accomplished marketing executive and founder of Kensho Kitchen. Heather has a BA with high honors from the University of Michigan and an MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University. She volunteers to teach mindfulness and meditation in Boston where she lives with her husband and son. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.