Sea­son your meals with mind­ful­ness

Mind­ful eat­ing helps us find a new kind of sweet­ness in our lives.

Living Now - - Mindfulness - By Deb­bie Pan­nowitz

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

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