12 Mar Mindful eating
Mindful eating is nothing new, but in reality, it is so difficult to practise, especially at iftar time during Ramadan. We are obviously incredibly famished, thirsty and utterly excited as the sun sets, so we stack our plates with food that oftentimes we are unable to finish. We are often left feeling bloated, languid and lazy.
This is all because we are eating unconsciously. It is easy to voraciously indulge in our favourite foods after almost 18 hours of abstention, done solely for the pleasure of Allah. But eating consciously is an extension of gratitude for the food and the rizq that He has provided us with. We are infinitely blessed knowing that at exactly 8.42pm, we will have more than enough food available to satiate our hunger. Many people don’t. Our blessings are so immeasurable, that we even get to have cravings and choose exactly what we want to eat, and have an assortment of delicacies ready and waiting. Again, many don’t.
What is mindful eating?
Eating mindfully simply means to be fully present with what we eat and how we eat. It is to deliberately focus our attention towards the aromas, textures, tastes, colours and even sound of our food, and to be completely aware of how each bite is making us feel. We are all too familiar with the sensation of the first few sips cool water that rushes through our parched bodies upon breaking the fast, and the sweet, luxurious density of a date.
The Prophet ﷺ said: ‘…there are two pleasures for a fasting person, one at the time of breaking his fast, and the other at the time when he will meet his Lord.’
Ramadan is a month in which our awareness of food and everything related to it (gluttony, comfort, pleasure, hunger, craving) is heightened. The conditions are that the food is halal, nutritious, wholesome and tayyib. However, the blessing of sustenance is not just the food itself, but also the acts outside of it and the observation of manners, which have metaphysical consequences, i.e. tangible blessings in this life and the Hereafter. Our partaking in a meal is rewardable when our attitude and intention towards it is pleasing to God. And so we must be mindful that God sees us when we indulge in His provision. Being conscious of this earns us His pleasure – what more could we want this Ramadan?
I believe that mindfulness with eating begins before we actually even start to eat. It begins with the foods we purchase, how we prepare and where our thoughts wander while we eat. Mindful eating helps to lessen food waste and prevent common ailments such as poor digestion and bloating.
The underlying motive to eat is to strengthen our bodies for our worship to God, so here are steps towards eating with a mindful and conscious heart:
- Purchase good quality ingredients with a halal income; organic where and when possible, and avoid processed foods. It is important to know that your food is sourced ethically; in a manner where the people producing the food and the environment are treated with respect
- If you are preparing the food yourself, raise the vibrations of the ingredients by engaging in dhikr, Qur’an recitation or even singing nasheeds to increase the blessings and nutritional benefits of the foods. Since every single thing is made up of energy, our foods also consist of positive and negative vibrational energy. As well as buying high vibrational foods (fresh, organic, good quality etc), positive vibrations can be created around food through intentional thoughts, words and actions during preparation.
- If you are not preparing the food, offer to help if possible, or thank the chef and make a sincere dua for them
- Create a comfortable space to enjoy your meal, where you can give your food your full attention
- Switch off all electronics, put phones in the sock drawer and be fully present with the food (and people around you too)
- Ensure you have memorised the dua for breaking the fast, have internalised its meaning, thank Allah for the food in front of you and make an intention to eat mindfully
- Say bismillah with intention. Ask yourself, what is the reason for eating food in the name of Allah?
- Start with small portions, rather than filling your plate up to the brim. If possible, start with a fruit bowl as this will gradually help your stomach become accustomed to food again after the period of starvation.
- Notice the colours, textures and structures of the food
- Chew slowly and breathe!
- Inhale the wondrous aromas, think about the variety of flavours on your tongue, and savour each bite with a heart full of awe and gratitude
- Listen to your body. It takes between 5 to 20 minutes for your body to send signals to your brain, to tell you it is full. You may be ready to pile up on more food but your stomach might actually be satiated. If you feel unsatisfied, have a few more bites. If you’re feeling full, stop now and eat again in an hour or so
- End your meal with the gratitude you started with: praise God for His generosity and for Him to continue to bless your household and the world with wholesome food.
The sunnah of what we eat, the amount we eat and how we eat should be essential to our daily lives, and not just Ramadan. Let’s begin this practice today, insha Allah!