The Art of Mindful Eating within the Family

Posted on in On Our Radar by Mary Serphos


Emerging research indicates that mindfulness practices can help both adults and children make more informed decisions and help regulate emotions. When done consistently, mindfulness can be a powerful tool that allows adults and children alike to live with more focus, gratitude, and peace.

As the pace of our lives continues to increase, creating space and time for daily mindfulness is one of the most significant ways to help us slow down and live with more satisfaction and less stress. Taking the time to nourish ourselves consciously, starting with the most basic of all human functions—eating—is truly becoming a radical act!

In this country, food is accessible everywhere at every moment. The abundance of food—especially processed foods void of nutrients and filled with GMOs—has led to dire health consequences. As we become more and more disconnected from our natural rhythms, we have lost track of the most critical reasons to eat. Rather than eat when we are hungry, so many of us eat as a way to cope with life’s ups and downs and, when convenient, between meetings or activities. This is a nationwide epidemic that is affecting all of us.

It is time to commit to making mealtimes sacred times without interruption so we can be present with one another and with our food. When we choose to feed ourselves and our children with awareness by making conscious choices, we participate in a critical act of selflove and care for the planet. This is the first step to mindful eating.

The next step is to research and purchase food from sources that are as humane, sustainable, local, and organic as possible. Let these choices ripple out into the greater community and world by inviting others outside of the family for a mindful meal and then spread the word through social media, blogs, and face to face. It is also time to teach children about mindful food choices and integrate conscious food education into homes and school curricula across the country.

The third step in mindful eating is to establish a ritual around food preparation by involving the whole family. Pay attention and point out the simple tasks that help make a delicious meal possible. Educate yourself and share your knowledge about how the food was grown and sourced before it landed on the kitchen counter in front of you and your children. Do the same when eating out, and make it a habit.

Before sitting down to eat, create a peaceful atmosphere with as few distractions as possible. Turn off the television and devices, and move them away from the table. In order to be fully present during mealtimes, take a brief moment not only to express gratitude for the food you are about to share, but look into each other’s eyes. Expressing gratitude in this way encourages a sense of ease and stillness within the body. Staying centered in the present moment even for brief periods throughout the meal shifts stress levels and mood. This is truly an art! Notice the effects.

Mindful eating means eating with all five senses. Be aware of the different tastes, textures, aromas, flavors, emotions, and energy, and ask your children to do the same. Take in the deep hues of a beet or a sweet potato, breathe in the varied scents that emerge from a steaming bowl of soup, marvel at the different bursts of flavor that are enhanced by either pink Himalayan salt or unprocessed sea salt. Make it a practice to change up your eating routine by eating something new. Try purple sticky rice instead of brown rice, or add a new fresh herb such as dill or thyme to your salad. Take your time, breathe, and put your fork down from time to time just to take it all in. Notice what entices, and observe all of the internal energy shifts in the body. This is a powerful practice that is not always feasible. But even engaging in a mindful meal once a week may shift internal and family dynamics drastically.

Becoming attuned to what the body truly needs to be nourished, and balanced in good health and weight, creates the building blocks for productivity, creativity, and fulfillment. Notice how mindful eating also affects the other areas of life such as work and social relationships, as well as overall awareness and peace of mind. Be aware of what happens with your children and other adults in the family. After a mindful meal, encourage children to journal, draw, collage, or partake in any expressive art that allows them to creatively share all that they have felt, witnessed, and internalized around their mindfulness practice.

Enjoying a mindful meal with family and friends is sacred. When we create a mindful atmosphere inside and out, compassion is ignited in our hearts. As this compassion thrives, we are more aware of those who are suffering and in need of support and true nourishment. With this insight, it is critical to educate and help others in need and to give back within our communities.

Change is possible throughout the world, and mindful eating is one major step in that direction. It is time to inspire positive transformation on a micro level in the health and wellness of our children and families, all the way to a macro level in the health care system, the animal welfare system, and the planet at large—one mindful meal at a time.

Mary Serphos is a licensed psychotherapist at the Child Therapy Institute of Marin in San Rafael, as well as a nutrition consultant, certified health coach, and a teacher at the Marin Mindfulness Institute in Fairfax.

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