Mindfulness is a way of thinking which is popular today in healthcare. Put simply it means paying attention to our thought, emotions or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis but without judging them. The intention is that we pay attention to what is going on in our minds.
That sounds like quite a lot of work doesn’t it? Listening to your thoughts, emotions and experiences every moment! Well another way to think of it is that if we are in a neutral state we have a connection already to these things. We notice them. But in todays world because we have so many things to do, so many places to go, so many things to read and listen to, and so many things to eat, we have lost touch to a large extent with how we feel inside. So mindfulness attempts to redress the balance and now it is being applied to eating, where as well as paying attention to what is going on in our mind, we also pay attention to what is going on in our body.
Instead of categorising foods into right and wrong and then feeling proud or guilty for eating those foods, depending on which types of food you eat, mindfulness acknowledges that there is no right or wrong way to eat but varying degrees of awareness around eating.
This doesn’t mean that it doesn’t matter what you eat, rather, there is no need to feel guilty about eating certain foods. Instead you take note of what you feel (without judgement) mentally, emotionally and physically when eating and view eating as a positive and nurturing opportunity and one where it is helpful to listen to your own inner wisdom. This can bring about a gradual shift of your relationship with food so that you eat food that you really enjoy and is nourishing to your body, rather than seeing it as just ‘fuel’.
Mindful eating also means the awareness of the link between the earth, living beings and cultural practices and the impact of a person’s food choices on those systems, so that you have an appreciation of the food and where it has come from.
So what does this mean in practice?
1. You listen to your thirst and hunger more
We all have a routine around eating. If it is a work day, we may eat breakfast soon after we get up, regardless of hunger, eat lunch at 1 o’clock, because that is our lunch break, and eat dinner once we have prepared it and got all our jobs for the day done. Mindful eating is not saying that that is a bad thing, remember it is a way of thinking that is non-judgemental, but encourages us to be aware of how we feel eating, whether it is hungry, not-so-hungry, full, thirsty, rushed, stressed or relaxed. This way of eating could help with eating to your appetite when you do sit down to eat, rather than clearing everything on the plate.
2. You allow yourself some time and space to be able to listen to what is going on inside and also around you?
In terms of space, that might be making sure you eat at a table instead of in front of the T.V., where you can feel more relaxed whilst eating rather than trying to watch tele and get food in your mouth. It may mean that you don’t eat at a crowded table with non-food related things all over it but you make sure the table looks nice and you have all the things you need, and maybe even a nice table decoration.
In terms of surroundings, make sure you don’t have loud music or the T.V. blaring out, but gentle music and if possible someone else to talk to whilst you eat. On your lunch break, you try to leave your desk and find somewhere else that you can go and eat. It means doing what you can to create a nice eating environment so you are able to relax and respond more to your body’s cue that you are full (or still hungry).
3. You listen to the effect of foods on your body?
We are all different and different foods affect each person differently, but to apply mindful eating, you may notice the effect that first coffee of the day has on you (good or bad), or that can of coke, or bag of m&ms in the evening. Being more aware of how you feel eating foods will help you to change habits that are really not making you feel very good.
Mindful eating is an approach to eating that could help you to enjoy your food more and make better food choices by freeing yourself of habitual patterns of thinking, feeling and eating.
I would be interested to know if you have applied any of these suggestions to your eating and what the results were?