Did you ever notice strawberries are crunchy? Until I started to live more consciously I really hadn't noticed that strawberries crunched when I ate them, I just thought they were a soft delicious fruit. I know I can easily become ‘unconscious’ when I eat. At these times I just keep piling food into my mouth and before I know it my plate is empty and I think I want more. At these times I would often be eating whilst doing something else - talking, watching TV, checking my email – and, of course, paying no attention whatsoever to what I was putting into my mouth. The real breakthrough for me was keeping myself conscious when eating. How do I do this? I take a breath and ask myself am I really hungry? If the answer is yes then I decide what I am going to eat and how that will feel in my body after I eat it. Will it energise me or make me feel lethargic? I decide what I really feel like and prepare that food, I sit with no or little distraction and concentrate on enjoying the experience of eating. Following this routine helped me notice also when I was full, how food felt after I ate and I paid more attention to the taste, texture and feel of the food while I was eating it and after I finish. I remember visiting a health retreat where there was a silent table, and wondering why on earth you would sit there. I was so used to doing multiple things while I ate, I couldn’t imagine just sitting quietly and not talking to someone else. Then I attended a session on mindfulness with a fabulous teacher who gave us each a raisin and instructions to close our eyes and chew it over and over, just concentrating on the fruit, the taste, the texture, the saliva in our mouths and any thoughts that came up. We were not to swallow. WOW what an experience. I had never really tasted a raisin before - not in this way. I had never noticed the flavours and texture in fact raisins now tasted very different to my previous experiences. Now I knew what the silent table was for, I decided to take myself there when I next ate. I noticed so much more about the food on my plate. There were foods I would normally have just shoveled in, however when I was being mindful, taking my time chewing the food and noticing taste and texture, I found there were some combinations I didn’t actually enjoy. I left that food to one side and found other foods with wonderful tastes and texture sensations. One discovery I made was that strawberries actually crunch. I had eaten many strawberries in my lifetime – even beautiful fresh ones picked and eaten straight from my grandparents’ garden - but I had never experienced them like this before. This event impacted on me more than any other. It made me realise just how unconscious I was of what I was eating and drinking, how it really tasted and how I felt afterward. So here is the key: be conscious when you eat. Stop and connect with yourself. Ask what’s going on, am I really hungry and, if so, what will make me feel good? When I ask myself this questions my body rarely replies with chocolate or pretend foods - it always asks for beautiful, wholesome foods. However, when I am sad, angry, anxious or some another negative emotion I may look for something to stuff down that feeling. This is when I look for sweet treats. Treats are OK now and again, however not when you use them as a way to ‘deal’ with emotional pain. Now that I am more aware of what is going on for me I can make a conscious choice. I ask myself why I want cake or chocolate and I can choose what to do about it. Rather than acting unconsciously and feeling bad because I have eaten something I would prefer to eat only occasionally, I now choose when I want to eat choclolate, for example, and really enjoy the experience. The reality is that when I just stuff food in I don’t enjoy it and I rarely taste it, which is why at those times we eat so much before realising it’s time to stop. Outrageously Healthy Tip: when deciding on food or beverage choices, take a couple of deep breaths, clear your mind and ask yourself what will energise my body right now and what does my body really want? When you decide, ask how will I feel after I eat or drink this? Your body knows what it needs. Let it be your guide. When you eat consciously, taking your time to chew and enjoy your food, you rarely overeat. It’s when we unconsciously keep putting food in our mouth that we overdo it and feel overfull and uncomfortable afterwards. Remember eat a little now and enjoy it and, if in an hour or two you are hungry, then go through the same process again. There are no diet rules in conscious eating. You do not need to eliminate any food groups. In fact I would encourage you to include them all, as it is important that your body receives all food groups to gain the nutrients needed to function effectively.