Season your meals with mindfulness
Mindful eating helps us find a new kind of sweetness in our lives.
Mindfulness is an age-old practice experiencing resurgence in modern life. It is being explored in medical research and finding its way into corporations. One exciting area is using mindful eating to help people who may struggle with food, or understanding the varied media messages. It creates a space in the day to just be, rather like a meditation. Mindful eating is a way to take a moment to get off life’s treadmill and have a chance of three ‘sweet spots’ every day!
Many people hold quite rigid views of what is the right food for themselves and others. If you notice this in yourself you may also be familiar with feelings of guilt or shame when a choice is made that is not quite to the ‘letter of the law’. This can lead to more negative thoughts to the extent that ‘ if I have eaten a so-called bad food then I must be bad’. This type of suffering is experienced by all of us at one time or another. We have many messages about health and nutrition, but let’s face it, none of us eats ‘perfectly’ all the time.
Mindful eating can help us get to the bottom of what motivates our food choices and, from this grounded, compassionate sweet spot, make a choice in the moment that is not based on emotion, deservedness, stress, or habit. Mindful eating is a way to move from indecision over food to nurturing a more positive awareness of food preparation and consumption. With mindful eating we become less influenced by outside messages and environments so that food choices are nourishing to ourselves on all levels. It gives us the mechanism to recognise satiety as well as hunger and to notice our responses to different foods – a simple tool that can be used anywhere to listen to our body’s needs.
Just as some of us spend our time with a focus on what to avoid (food, weight, etc.) some of us also feel as if food ‘calls’ to us, usually with words like “eat me now, you deserve me after the day you have had.” It is like being trapped, and the more you fight, the more entangled you become in the snare.
Acceptance is a way forward from this. So, what is acceptance? One way to describe it would be to observe the emotion that is behind “I deserve this” for example, and just name it without judgement. What we next do to nourish ourselves becomes a choice, not a reflex to a comfort food in this example.
Mindfulness allows us to make food choices from a place of nurturing and nourishment, and not from a place of habit, fear, guilt, shame or loneliness. It is a way to achieve acceptance, to slow things down, awaken our senses to notice our food and appreciate it for its nourishment, colour, textures and smells, and is like a reset button to our food choices.
As mindfulness is practised,the patterns of negative feelings and thoughts we are feasting on at each meal slowly become clearer. To change this ‘ diet’ a whole new list of nurturing things can be developed just for you. This brings a type of self-compassion and a less weighty type of sweetness to your life.
The loveliest thing about mindful eating is that there is no right from wrong. No blame, just endless possibilities to do better next time, to know yourself and see yourself and others with a compassionate gaze. It is an opportunity to change your relationship with food. n