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How to Eat Pizza: Mindful Eating

Live in the Present

By Dr. Susan Mendelsohn

Contributor

Do you worry about the past or obsess about what will happen tomorrow? Most of our stress comes from thinking about the past or worrying about the future! When you live in the present moment, when all of your attention is focused on what you are doing right now, there will be no room for anything else to enter -- including fears, desires or anything else that may be a source of stress to you!

In the meditative state, all of your attention is focused on the present moment. We inhale, exhale, and chant the object of the meditation. When thoughts of past or future, desires or aversions, or anything else arises, you take note and gently turn your awareness back to the present. It is the focus on the now that allows your mind and body to enter a state of pure relaxation.

The beauty of focusing on the now is that we need not go off to some tranquil place in order to do so. We can concentrate on each task as we are engaging in it. Yep, it’s true. In fact, the odds are that you have moments every day which demand and catch your complete attention whether you are aware of it or not. Think about where your attention is when you are watching the best movie of your life... when your child awakens screaming... when you're reading a book.

The point is, you have the ability to concentrate on exactly what you choose to focus on.

Let's talk about meditation while eating. You eat every day, but how often do you really pay attention to what you are eating while you are eating it? Are you eating with other people? In front of the television? While at your computer? Do you usually finish a full-course meal in less than ten minutes?

For the sake of learning to meditate while eating, suppose you are eating pizza and follow these simple instructions:

1. Sit down with your pizza and take several deep breaths. Note the aroma, the colors, the shape and texture of your pizza. Does it seem appealing to you? Can you barely refrain from gobbling it down? Notice whatever your feeling is at the moment.

2. Be aware of your intention to begin eating. As you move your hand slowly toward that slice of pizza, make a quiet mental note of the action. You may say to yourself, "reaching... reaching... reaching." As you are labeling your actions, you are more apt to be mindful of your purpose. Similarly, as you pick up that slice of pizza, note that you are "lifting... lifting... lifting."

3. Watch your hand move the slice closer to your mouth. When it nears your mouth, take a moment to smell the pizza. Consider what you smell. Can you smell the cheese? The sauce? The crust? Take note of how your body is reacting to the aromas. Is your stomach growling? Your mouth watering? Notice the sensation of your body desiring the food.

4. As you take your first bite, feel your teeth penetrate the crust. When your bite is complete, feel how the food is positioned in your mouth. How is your tongue positioned with the food between your teeth? Feel the temperature of the pizza in your mouth. Begin chewing slowly. What flavors are you experiencing? What does the sauce taste like? How chewy is the crust? Where is your hand now? Did you release the slice back to your plate or are you still holding it? Notice the motions your hand is making.

5. When you swallow, try to become aware of how the muscles in your esophagus contract and relax as they impel the food into your stomach. Where is the food when you have finished swallowing it? Can you feel the sensations in your stomach? Can you tell if your stomach is full or empty or somewhere in between?

6. As you continue to consume your pizza, make a conscious effort to be aware of as many sensations as you can. It may be helpful for you to label these sensations. If you eat with your non-dominant hand, the awkwardness may serve as a reminder to pay closer attention. As with your basic meditation, when thoughts arise, notice them. Then return your attention back to your food until you are finished with your meal.

Taking time to "smell the coffee" will ultimately assist you in reducing the number of calories you are consuming and enjoying your food even more than ever. Being present in the present never felt so good!

Dr. Susan Mendelsohn is a Florida licensed psychologist who works with a variety of addictions and specializes in managing eating disorders.

 
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