What is Mindful Eating?
Our relationship with food is one of the most significant indicators of health and wellbeing. We have more control over our eating habits than we may think, or choose to believe! For many of us, informed decisions, making subtle changes in eating habits and taking our relationship with food seriously can have an almost immediate and significant impact upon our mind and body. “Let food be thy medicine”; a truism most often attributed to the Father of Medicine, has never before been more relevant in today’s modern society.
Mindful eating is more than simply making sensible food choices. It’s as much to do with how we create the time and space to enjoy our food, as well as the people we (intentionally and unintentionally) share that experience with. There are no magic formulae other than avoiding the “quick fix” scenarios I mentioned in my previous blog. However, the following points are worth considering for anyone interested in a more positive, sustainable relationship with food:-
- Choose healthy unprocessed foods which allow your body to derive the maximum nutritional benefits from their ingredients, such as fresh vegetables, fruits and whole grains
- Recognise that our food has the ability to impart a significant effect upon our weight and physical health, whilst helping stabilise our blood sugar and moods
- Also of high importance is the act of conscious eating. It may seem a little onerous at first, but we’ve all gotten used to perusing the ingredients list to check for things like E numbers. So why not take it a step or two further? Where was it grown? Who produced and packed it? How did it arrive at the place you bought it?
- Tune in to the seasonal cycles of when fruits and vegetables produced near you become available. Grow your own if you can. There is something quite extraordinary about eating something you grew yourself
- Eat with little to no distraction around you, and take stock of your satiety whilst you eat. This will very quickly give you a sense of what portion sizes and volume of various foods meet your particular nutritional needs
Feed the Body and Nourish the Mind
Once we start paying more attention to our relationship with food, we find it is the gift that just keeps on giving. Eating mindfully helps us appreciate the taste, texture and sensations of our foods. Even if we don’t, our body knows what’s good for it and, more importantly, what kind of nutrition is needed at any moment in time. So why not listen to it?
Actively check in with your emotions and thoughts whilst you eat. Remember, with all that’s been said about the nutritional aspects, we cannot ignore the fact that our relationship with food is fundamentally an emotional one. So when we eat mindfully, we are not simply scratching the itch of hunger; nor simply undertaking a perfunctory ritual. We are nourishing our minds too.
“Let food be thy medicine” – Hippocrates
Eating With Purpose is Good Medicine
So if these thoughts and ideas about mindful eating resonate with you on any level, you’re definitely at a place where food can be your medicine. Only, this treatment is self-prescribed and entirely down to you and your instincts in terms of dosage and treatment options. Which in actual fact, is fantastic news. Just in case, you’re still teetering on the edge of one of the most impactful decisions you can make for your own wellbeing, here are our TOP 7 practical “take home” pointers:-
- Eat your meals with your friends and family, without the distraction of TV or reading. Talk about the foods you are consuming, the flavours and the aromas. Share your eating experiences.
- Buy more fruit, vegetables and whole grains. The more plant-based your diet can become, the better the health benefits are for your body.
- Actively avoid eating after 9pm at night. Set yourself a reminder on your phone every day that cuts you off!
- Busy home and/or work life? Make meals ahead of time and in bulk, this way you’ll have a meal, or two, spare in your fridge or freezer for hectic days.
- Make your breakfast ahead of time, or prepare simple smoothies and oat bars in the morning to start your day off correctly.
- Try not to skip meals, and make a plan of your mindful meals for the week ahead to prevent undereating and impulse buys from the supermarket.
- Chew your food slowly and with purpose, and remember to eat with as little distraction as possible.
Remember a good relationship with food is no different from all the other great friendships in your life. So make time for it; get to know each other’s story and most of all, never give up on a good thing.