Mind­ful eat­ing gives me a lot of food for thought

The Hamilton Spectator - - A&E - SH­ERYL NADLER Sh­eryl@sh­eryl­nadler.com

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.

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