Life is busy and only getting busier. Most of us spend a huge proportion of our time thinking about our next step; focusing on what we need to do next and where we should be tomorrow. The nature of our days mean that food is often a second thought, we have a banana for breakfast on the train or eat a sandwich on the walk to a lecture. In our plentiful but diet-obsessed world, eating is often mindless.This has given us a detached relationship with food. No longer do we eat because we are hungry, because we are unconsciously consuming throughout the day. Eating is supposed to be a natural activity to satisfy our bodies, but we have lost track of our hunger and fullness.
But do not fear, this relationship can be fixed by one life-changing practice: Mindfulness.
The ethos of mindfulness is to encourage people to focus on the precise moment, rather than thinking about the past of the future. When applied to food, this means being conscious during the whole eating process. Consider if you are hungry. Resist eating. Let yourself eat. Chew slowly. Take breaks. Absorb the colour of the food. Take in the texture and flavour. Stop talking Do not watching TV or check facebook. Simply live in the moment and concentrate on your meal.
At the beginning it is hard but by the end of the meal you will feel so much more satisfied than previous dining experiences. Andy Puddicombe, the creator of popular meditation app ‘Headspace’, is an advocate of mindful eating, terming it the ‘anti-diet’. He explains how mindfulness can improve our relationship with food and prevent unconscious overeating.
Here are a few psychological benefits of mindful eating:
1. Understanding hunger and fullness. Most of us eat so quickly that we manage to scoff down a hell of a lot before we realise that we are actually full. Mindful eating encourages us to take time over our food allowing us to consider how hungry we are at various stages of the meal. This can help us to control our intake and eat what our bodies, rather than our minds, want us to.
2. Managing emotions. Many people will restrict or over eat as a way of coping with negative emotions or distracting from their worries. By consciously attending to how we feel before we eat and why we are eating, mindfulness can help to manage our emotions without hiding them with food.
3. Changing the way we think about food. Rather than reacting to food-related thoughts that urge you to overeat, overly restrict your diet or emotionally eat, etc., you respond to them. You can hear these thoughts without obeying them.
So this week I will begin a new challenge – a week of mindful eating.
To start, I realised that with our busy schedules, my family rarely sit down to a proper meal together. So in the spirit of mindfulness, I made us a delicious healthy meal that we took time to enjoy!