Mindful eating? Why in the world would that be a good idea? Or even necessary?!
Elementary school students were asked to ponder this question during mindfulness lessons over the last few days. Students recalled being so distracted by watching television while eating dinner that they ended up knocking plates and silverware off the dining table. Others revealed that they had almost put spoons in their ears or onto cheeks, instead of the intended target of mouths, as they ate while reading the side of a cereal box. And, still others were amazed when they realized how much food had been consumed when they were engrossed in a novel's storyline at the same time as eating food.
These stories were often considered humorous until the topic was discussed in greater depth. How often, they wondered, might someone keep eating long after they were full, just because they weren't paying attention to what their body felt like? Would that lead to a weight problem, or getting sick? Had anyone ever eaten spoiled food because they had neglected to notice the odor, or stuffed a yummy piece of fish in their mouths, only to realize that they were swallowing bones? Would it be necessary to go to the hospital, or would they just be ill for a night?
And that's when the conversation changed from silly to a bit more serious. In addition to concerns related to mindless eating, consideration morphed into research regarding the positive impact of families that eat together.
The elementary school students decided on the following guidelines for eating mindfully:
- People should pay attention to what they're eating; this includes sight, smell, taste, amount, and type of food. Being healthy is often a result of what is consumed. The type of food, having variety in one's menu, not eating too many sugary foods, and making sure to eat foods rich in the vitamins and minerals we need are all important in order to have strong bones, and a healthy body. Plus, it's just important to savor the food we eat.
- No one wants to be known as a clumsy or messy eater, or the person with poor manners. This can only be avoided if you pay attention to what you are doing during mealtime, and knowing where everything is located on the table. Eating with your mouth closed, avoiding slurping noises, and paying attention to your movements are important habits to form when growing up. After all, you hope people will want to eat meals with you, not only at home, but also at school or camp.
- In today's world it's very easy to just pick up fast-food, eat a meal out at a restaurant, or have processed food that's already made or just needs to be heated. While this might be convenient, it would be wise to have some meals made at home, with fresh ingredients. Different members of the family could help plan the menus and prepare the meals so everyone would feel they were involved.
Students were also interested to learn that research has shown that, when families eat meals together at least three times per week, the children are less likely to have an eating disorder, be more likely to eat healthier foods, and are less likely to be over-weight. When adding this information to the students' own insight regarding reasons to eat mindfully, students reaffirmed that being aware of what and how one eats is a very important concept to possess.
So, what are you having for dinner tonight?