Try Mindfulness During Mealtimes to Support Your Relationship With Food
May 31, 2023

Mindful eating is making its rounds through wellness spaces as an option for anyone looking to build supportive mealtime habits. It might seem straightforward, but the approach takes major effort. As a technique, mindful eating helps to build a mind–body connection between you and your food. There are many instances when this practice can support you: If you find yourself regularly grazing throughout the day, if you’re consistently turning to food during times of emotional distress, or if you find yourself eating to a point past physical comfort more times than not, then chances are you should try adding mindfulness to your eating routine.

For dance educators, busy schedules, eating on the go, and late nights at the studio might make mindful eating feel like an afterthought. But making an intentional effort is the first step to introducing mindfulness at your table. Here are three considerations to kickstart it at your next mealtime.

Plan for the Experience

With a steady stream of media flooding our homes, you might need to set aside time to plan for a mindful meal. A tenet of mindful eating is to bring awareness to the present moment. Flicking through channels, scrolling on social feeds, and even chatting about studio happenings will get in the way. Look at your calendar to flexibly schedule a handful of meal and snack times when mindfulness can be accessible. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, then start with just one meal per week, such as dinners on “mindful Mondays.”

Set Yourself Up for Success

If there’s one thing that makes mindful eating seemingly impossible, it’s when you’re experiencing extreme hunger. In these instances, the focus shifts from mealtime experience to survival—your body is aiming to make up for an energy deficit. To make mindfulness more accessible, you want to steer clear of such circumstances. Focus on consistent and reliable eating opportunities to promote nutritional adequacy. This involves eating regularly throughout the day. (Planning a few emergency studio snacks will help.)

Journal in the Moment

Now that you’ve built your mealtime into your schedule and set your body up for the task, you’re ready to add mindful eating to your mealtime toolbox. To start, survey your surroundings: Is it a quiet moment? Can you set the table and portion an amount of food that will leave you feeling satisfied? From there, take a few check-ins while eating. Consider the aesthetics of your food, along with the flavors, aromas, and textures. Is there a flavor or texture that stands out to you? If so, how can you re-create it in the future? How could this meal or snack be made differently to your liking? When you’re halfway through your meal, take an internal scan. Are you starting to experience fullness? If so, will this level of fullness last you until your next meal or snack? Journaling your responses to these prompts will allow you to reflect back and make mindful eating more habitual.

Mindful eating offers a tangible strategy as you work to both maintain your own supportive mealtime habits and model them for your dancers. But if you’re aiming for mindful eating 100 percent of the time, then you might risk disappointment; instead, start to slowly incorporate this practice into your daily life. Working alongside a registered dietitian nutritionist can also be a helpful step in bridging the gap between mindful eating and your hectic schedule as a dance educator.  

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