What is Mindful Eating?
The opposite of Mindful Eating is “Popcorn Eating” – the way we can eat a bucket of popcorn when we are watching a movie, whist hardly noticing what we are doing.
In contrast, when we are eating mindfully, we focus purely on our food and our thoughts related to it. Think of it as Mindful Eating, awesome restaurant style – because when you pay a lot of money at an awesome restaurant for a fantastic meal, you definitely ensure that you stop to savour every moment of the experience. When you pay mindful attention, you can gain great pleasure from the way food looks, smells, feels and of course tastes. It also means that you notice when you are full, so mindful eating is often used as a way to support successful weight loss.
Turn off, Tune in
Remember how much junk food you can eat when you have a movie or the TV to distract you? Practice eating more mindfully by giving your food the attention it deserves: turn off your TV, close your laptop & put your phone face down on the table. Let your food entertain you; what can you see & smell? What colours do you have in front of you? Is your food all a boring beige colour or is it full of life and vibrancy? Do the aromas bring back happy memories for you?
What noises can you hear? Try screening out the noises around you and focusing on the feel of the cutlery in your hand, or the texture of the food itself if you are picking it up. Can you tune in to the very subtle noises that the food itself makes as you touch and then consume it? Broadening your focus out again, does the noise in your environment lift your spirits or raise your stress levels? Can you move to somewhere more relaxing, or put in your headphones to access a chilled out playlist?
Stop, Breathe, Be
Before you take each bite, stop and breathe. Mindful Eating means that our mind is focused on the food in our hand or on our plate in the present moment. Have you, your mind and your body fully noticed that you are about to eat? Or are you still thinking about a billion other things whist running to your next appointment?!
Our nervous systems are either in “flight or fight” mode because we feel threatened, stressed or too busy, or they are in “rest and digest” mode, ready to be nourished. Ensure that you let your body know that food is on its way by stopping, breathing and tuning in to your stomach. Does it feel tense or relaxed? Is it ready to receive the nourishment that you have carefully chosen? Can you let the tension of the day go, and enjoy each mealtime as a peaceful pause in your day, when positive, happy and creative thoughts have a chance to be heard?
Find Happiness in Your Food
What can you feel & taste? Different textures make a meal interesting and sometimes unexpected; notice how these relate to the various flavours that each mouthful contains. When we practice Mindful Eating, we can find happiness in the pleasure that each ingredient enables us to discover.
Releasing Unhappiness at Mealtimes
If eating brings up negative thoughts or difficult memories, stop and breathe. Don’t judge yourself for having these thoughts, but instead view yourself with the same compassion that you would view a child, who was experiencing fear or distress. Step back from the emotion and watch it, so that you are able to realize that it will pass, that you are separate from it and not defined by it. Keep breathing slowly and gently until that emotion becomes less intense and easier for you to manage, or dissolves away completely.
If that emotion was driving you to eat things that you know undermine you rather than support you, put down the food that it drove you to choose. Now imagine the emotion being gently encased inside a beautiful multi-coloured balloon. Tie a knot in the balloon to secure it. Take the string of the balloon in your hand, and walk away with it to a space where you are free, then mindfully let it go. Watch it float away, to be replaced by a smile, and a moment of happiness that you will always remember.
Nourish: the Mindful Eating Food Diary
To practice your Mindful Eating skills, you can use “Nourish”, the reflective, photographic food diary at Soul Nutrition free for 7 days. If you choose to subscribe after that, 50% net profits will be donated to brain cancer research projects studying the potential links between the ketogenic diet and brain tumour management.