Mindful Eating…what is it?
We hear a lot about mindfulness now… you might even be doing some yourself. So Mindful Eating…what is it? Let me explain a bit about general mindfulness first.
Mindfulness from the Oxford Dictionary:
1.the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.“their mindfulness of the wider cinematic tradition”
2.a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
So how can you do this without jacking in your job and day to day life and heading off to a retreat in the hills somewhere (which obviously you can’t do right now anyway, thanks Covid! 🙄)
But there are apps like Calm which I personally use most days (one thing I have learned is that Mindfulness, like everything else is not about being perfect, you might not be able to do it daily or get a 100 day ‘streak’ and that’s ok) or Breathwrk if you prefer less human involvement – both can be done within 10 minutes so even if that’s all you have to yourself in a day, it’s a great way to make time for some self-care practice.
How does this relate to food? Think about your day… do you make conscious choices for your health and well being with what you eat or do you eat the same things because ‘that’s what you’ve always eaten’ or maybe you just don’t have much time so you eat on the go, or at your desk, hardly recognising what you’ve just eaten.
The brain needs time to know you’re full, this is a brilliant animation to explain:
Hopefully you came back after the animation, so I’ll go on…
If you’re already thinking that you have no idea how to get started, Jean Kristeller PhD points out in her book, The Joy of Half a Cookie, that you have undoubtedly already practised mindfulness, many times! Jean explains that mindfulness can be the moments in life, the appreciation of a sunset or rainbow, stopping to smell a flower or gazing into the eyes of a loved one. They are all mindful experiences; when you stop thinking and just appreciate the beauty and serenity of the moment.
So food… I have a challenge for you.
if you want to know more on Mindful Eating…what is it, read on:
I want you to find an items of food you enjoy. Something you eat often because it feels like a treat, the kind of thing you have at the end of a stressful day when you want to feel better. Not something you eat for nutrition or hunger. If you’re not sure what to try, you can use an apple.
Next, sit down alone (if possible) with that item of food with no distractions and definitely no mobile phone on the table
Before you start, inspect the food, is there anything you have never noticed about the food? The packaging, the label, the shape, the way it feels
Feel: starting with your mouth, describe to yourself what you feel. Is your mouth, dry, moist or salivating? Next your stomach, is it hungry? What does that feel like? What else do you notice?
Sight: take a look at the food, pretend as if you are seeing it for the first time. What does it look like?
Smell: smell the food, what does it smell like? Is it an appealing smell? Does the smell remind you of anything?
Touch: feel the food, is the outside smooth or bumpy, cool or warm?
Taste: take a bite from the food, don’t chew yet. Take a moment to notice the flavours and feel of the food in your mouth. Does the flavour change as it sits there?
Chew and swallow: begin to chew, notice the texture and flavour. When you are ready, swallow, and feel the piece of food move through your body.
(Adapted from Sports Dietitians Australia)
How did that go? Did you enjoy the food as much as you thought you did? Did it bring the feeling you were eating it for? Stress relief, happiness, any other feelings.
Often we use food to quiet our feelings but after we’ve eaten the food, the feelings are still there. This may also be true of alcohol, drinking to forget problems so I will leave you with one last task.
Challenge your thoughts
I want you to challenge your thoughts. This is from Mindful Drinking by Rosamund Dean which I highly recommend for anyone wanting to cut down. In her book, Rosamund encourages the reader to challenge their assumption on how alcohol makes them feel. We can apply this to food too.
Eating Pizza makes me feel happy – ask yourself why do you think that? How does that happen? Is that really true after the event as well as in the moment?
Eating a whole bar of family sized dairy milk is ‘just what I do’ on a Friday night – how did that start? Do you feel it’s a good habit to have? Do you want to keep doing it or could you choose differently?
Only you know the answers to these questions of course. This is about doing what’s right for you, for your health and your goals and the outcomes you want.
I’ll leave you with a quote, allegedly from Einstein but who knows… “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” – Is it time for you to try something new?
I hope that gives you an insight into Mindful Eating…what is it
I look forward to your thoughts on this if you give it a try.
If you want to find out more about working with me, head over to my last blog post to read about the 4 tiers of support available: Work with me
If you want to know more of the evidence base behind this, check out The Centre for Mindful Eating here