Traditionally, advice regarding food and eating emphasises whatwe should eat, not howwe should eat it. But this new way of eating- and living- is here to change the way we think.
I discovered the Mindful Eating craze as it became somewhat cult due to meditation app ‘Headspace’, created by Andy Puddicombe- an ex-Buddhist monk- and his business partner Rich Pierson.
According to Andy, British people have developed a “huge neurosis” with their food- a radical loss of touch- and his Mindful Eating ethos, based on Buddhist meditation practices, encourages people to live in the moment instead of being distracted by their worries about the past or future.
Here’s some things you should know about me so you can get a better idea of my experience with Mindful Eating: initially, as I’m sure some of you will be, I was sceptical. I had never really seen food as an area of my life that required more thinking- I buy the food I want to eat, I eat it until I feel satisfied, and repeat the same process when the time comes. I have a 9-5 job, I go to the gym four times a week, and I play for a netball team that plays up to five times a week. Generally speaking, I don’t enjoy cooking, I don’t particularly enjoy eating (I find it quite boring to be honest), and the food I do eat is pretty much the same every day. I think it is because of my lifestyle that I see food only as a source of energy to keep me going throughout my busy day- which ultimately it is, but I want to get something more out of it.
I have been eating ‘mindfully’ for six weeks now, and I want to share what I’ve learnt on this journey so far.
First things first- the pair behind ‘Headspace’ make it clear that Mindful Eating “is not a diet”; the ethos is less about calorie counting, and more about increasing your awareness of what you are eating. It was because of this, instead of it being just another fad diet, that I was keen to learn more about it and see how it could fit in to my busy lifestyle.
Mindfulness is about being aware, present, in the moment. You may be wondering how this ethos transcends into the food we eat; the desired outcome of Mindful Eating is to slow down long enough to think about what you are eating and enjoy it. It emphasises the importance of eating for pleasure, not just fuel. You should take time to think about your food, where it came from, its smell, texture and taste. You should instill variety and change into the meals you eat, so as not to “detract from your enjoyment”, and instead make eating a pleasurable experience, rather than feeling as though cooking and eating are repetitive and tiresome tasks.
I’ll be honest, it feels strange at first, and according to the app, it can take 60 days to “acclimatise”. You should be taking the time to analyse your plate before you tuck in, take in every ingredient of your meal, get to know the things you are consuming. As you become more aware and begin to cook your meals ‘mindfully’, you will be more conscious of the food you are eating and may begin to question your previous choices. For me personally, I realised that the ingredients in my standard meals were not as healthy as I previously thought, and I soon found myself opting for different combinations. I also realised that eating didn’t have to be monotonous and I developed a new found passion for cooking and eating.
The same applies to shopping- as I walked around my supermarket of choice, the usual items I put in to my shopping cart, almost on autopilot, actually made me feel guilty and a bit embarrassed that I used to purchase certain foods without even thinking. In the same way that your new awareness has the potential to improve your health if you change up your meals like I did, you might find that your spending habits will change, too.
The important thing to remember, though, is that mindful eating is not a diet. There are no rules dictating what you can and can’t eat. You are allowed to continue with your usual eating patterns, but I found that as I became more aware of what I was eating, I wanted to change some of my snacking habits. I ate meals based on physical cues- i.e. hunger signals- not emotional cues leading to comfort eating in front of my laptop or TV.
Mindful Eating is actually very easy to get your head around, and will soon become a part of your regular routine. If you’re busy like I am, mindfulness is a great way to catch a break from the hustle and bustle of your day. Here are some easy ways to get started on your Mindful Eating journey.
Whether you’re in a rush before or after work, or you haven’t eaten for 4 or 5 hours and are ravenous, it can be easy to practically inhale your meal straight off your plate.
Instead, take some time to think about what you’ve made or what you’ve bought. Take in the smells and the textures and you’ll find that eating becomes more enjoyable when you actually take the time to enjoy it.
In the same way that eating without taking a breath is very easy to do, it can also be easy to eat without thinking.
Whether you’re an emotional eater, or you eat when you have nothing else to do, acknowledge that that is the reason you are eating and do something to distract yourself. This way you don’t eat something you don’t actually need or want, and when you do eat, you’ll be grateful for it.
I’m not saying that you should spend every meal in silence, since food is often at the centre of social situations. If you sit around the dinner table every night to catch up on your day, don’t sacrifice that time all together either.
But when you have the chance to, take advantage of the silence and be mindful. Turn of the TV, move away from your laptop and put down your phone. No distractions.
If part of your weekly routine is eating in front of the TV on a Saturday night, though, make sure that it is a conscious choice that marks the exception, not the rule.