Mindful eating gives me a lot of food for thought
We’re a week into February and you people are already stressing me out.
Is it because Valentine’s Day is a week away? Is that it? No date? Too many dates? Can’t find the right gift?
Just FYI, exercise equipment, books on losing weight, books on how to destress … these are all the wrong gifts. I don’t care if your GF/ BF is a super-fit gym rat who practises meditation and conflict mediation in his/her down time. It’s either going to be too practical or insulting.
When was the last time someone calmed down when you told them to calm down? Give your head a shake.
We are under assault with article after article on how to relax. It’s like the universe mansplaining how to be better, calmer, more fun versions of ourselves. What if I don’t want to be fun or calm or better? What if I want to wallow in stress and misery and be the worst version of myself until I implode? Well, that’s one way to go, I suppose.
Another would be to actually make an attempt at mindfulness, if not for me, then for the people around me. You’re welcome, by the way. The problem is that when I spend too much time listening to my own breathing, imagining a deep inhale travelling through my body, past each organ and bone and blood cell, as we’re often instructed in mindfulness techniques, I am reminded of that appointment I forgot to schedule. Or I feel guilty using my broken wrist as an excuse for not exercising. Or I pay so much attention to my breath, I start hyperventilating. Or the dog starts to lick my face.
So yes, I’ve tried mindfulness techniques, the apps, the visualizations, the deep breathing, the “forest bathing” (i.e. walking in a forest).
And I think it’s the preciousness around this topic that is my biggest obstacle. Do we really need to call it “forest bathing” or can we just say walk in the woods? Gawd. That alone makes me ragey.
BUT … I recently came across a mindfulness technique I thought I might be able to get behind. Mindfulness eating. Eating! Sounds good to me! It turns out, mindfulness eating does not mean being mindful of the fact that there’s a Bulk Barn on your way to work.
Nor does it mean mindfully making a sudden U-turn into the parking lot of said Bulk Barn and filling a bag with the trail mix variety closest to the door, forgoing the metal twist tie and just jamming fistfuls of cranberries and almonds into your face before even getting back to your car.
Turns out, this is the opposite of mindful eating. Huh. In fact, mindful eating is … um, the act of being mindful about what we eat. So, turning off your phone, TV, laptop and really focusing on savouring the texture and flavour of wholesome, healthy food. Like a homemade kale soup, for instance. It is the act of being present, being aware of what you’re feeding your face.
Leo Babauta, a blogger at zenhabits.net, writes that mindful eating is learning to appreciate: “Why you feel like eating, and what emotions or needs might be triggering the eating. What you’re eating, and whether it is healthy or not. The look, smell, taste, feel of the food you’re eating. How it makes you feel as you taste it, as you digest it, and throughout the day. How full (or sated) you are before, during and after eating. Your emotions during and after eating. Where the food came from, who might have grown it, how much it might have suffered before it was killed, whether it was grown organically, how much it was processed, how much it was fried or overcooked, etc.”
That’s a lot to think about when you’re starving and grabbing for a slice of pizza after work, the way my dog dive-bombs for dirty tissues on the street. Oh wait …
But proponents like Kaitlyn McLintock at Byrdie magazine claim that being more aware of what they eat helps them make better food choices. And because she makes better food choices, she eats foods she loves, eats until she’s full, feels better and has lost weight because of it.
“I love that I can mindfully eat anything,” she writes. “This means I stick to a slice or two of pizza, not half of it; I can tell the instant I’ve had enough.”
Ah, right. Well, I think I can get behind that. But can we please call it something less precious? How about “restraint”? Doesn’t that work?
Mindful eating is the act of being present, being aware of what you’re feeding your face.