Have you ever….
- Followed a restrictive diet?
- Attended weekly meetings to combat weight problems?
- Eliminated entire food groups in the name of weight loss?
- As a result of any of the above ended up feeling frustrated, guilty and even more focused on food than you were before?
Join the club. Or actually, don’t join a club, consider Mindful eating.
Food has always been a big feature in my life. My mother was a trained patisserie chef and always in the kitchen baking and cooking. In my childhood, like most other children my age, trips to the sweet shop were a highlight and clandestine visits to the biscuit tin at home were common. As I grew up, external influences like the presence of magazines and media caused me to become acutely aware of the shape and size of my body and that began to inform my relationship with food, rather than an understanding of what was a healthy food choice.
When I left my corporate career last year, I managed to get a role cooking at a holistic retreat called Breathing Space. Through this work I have come to realise that many of us spend a great deal of time thinking about food and our physicality, very often in a negative way. I have listened to many women talking about their relationship with food: those who perceive themselves as borderline overweight and have pursued different faddy diets; those who are managing illnesses and are starting a journey of treatment by seeking to understand more about how food, or elimination of certain foods, might be used to remedy symptoms; and those who feel simply helpless in their battle with weight management and are truly desperate to find answers.
It is through this that I have come to realise that there is a real need to find the solutions that the diet industry is failing to provide and to help women to discover an ongoing, long term way to create a more peaceful relationship with food. One that is permissive, aware and accepting, and empowers us to make conscious decisions about what we eat without prejudice.
I have come to conclude that the way forward is to ditch the diet and take a look at becoming more Mindful.
We have so many mixed views on food and eating. We associate the act of preparing and eating a meal in many different ways: A chore, a comfort, a treat, a social thing, a boredom alleviator. We tend to forget that food is simply a nutritious substance that we eat to maintain life and growth.
The starting point for being more Mindful about what we eat is to recognise that food is a fuel that we need to sustain us at a cellular level and to be healthy we need to ensure that our cells have everything they need to thrive.
The principles of Mindful eating start at the food sourcing and preparation stage. All too often we mindlessly scour the aisles of the supermarket, chuck together a meal in a hurry, chop the ingredients aggressively as we release the frustration from the day and rush through the cooking process so we can move on to the next thing. Mindful practice encourages us to give consideration to the ingredients when we are shopping for them and using them in recipes – Where did it come from? What nourishment/nutrition will it provide for me/the family? And to take a moment or two when we are preparing and cooking food to observe the colours, the smells, the textures and to be present in the process of creating a meal.
Clearly we don’t all have the time to do this every mealtime, but practicing this when we can helps us to truly engage in the process of nourishing ourselves.
When walking, walk; when eating, eat.
Simple huh? How many meals are eaten at your desk, while reading, while checking your phone or while doing numerous other things that distract you from focusing on what you are eating.
Mindful eating simply encourages us to eat with our full attention on eating. To pause and breathe before we reach for the sweets because we are stuck on something at work, or frustrated at our desk. To eliminate distractions that might prevent us from stopping when we are full or giving proper consideration to how the food makes us feel.
Having tried this a few times now it is quite amazing how this simple practice can prevent you from overindulging, help you to make better decisions about what you put in your mouth – particularly when it is Fred’s birthday in the office and the cakes are out – and eliminate negative feelings often associated with mindless eating.
Perhaps just pick one meal a day to practice this on and see how it goes.