We were going through a difficult patch in Paris, it felt as though a lot of things weren’t going to plan, and we were all unhappy. Seriously unhappy. Our lives felt out of control. The kids hated their French school. And I didn’t know what to do. I was stuck, feeling paralysed, scared and lonely. Around that time I had just finished reading about Mindfulness. I started practising some mindful techniques with the kids to help them relax and sleep. It worked. Both children, after a session of Teddy Breathing, would fall asleep, waking up refreshed with a little less angst. Mindfulness is a way to feel present, appreciate the moment, let go of crazy thoughts that clog up our brains. And mindfulness can be applied to other parts of our lives, even eating. Yes, there is mindful eating.
I always used to eat at my desk
Back when I was working, I had a full-on job in communications. But I loved it. Every day, every hour, every minute was jammed with organising high-profile corporate conferences, commissioning films, writing strategy documents, and non-stop emailing. I crammed all of this into three days a week. A lunch break was a luxury.
But who needs a lunch break?
I was a furious multitasker – I’m a mum, this comes naturally – I could eat my Pret chicken and avocado sandwich, slurp my skinny cappuccino while drafting an urgent email and checking messages on my i-phone. A second was never wasted.
And my colleagues? Some of them did away with food altogether and brought in giant tubs of green sludgy smoothies, filled with nutritious kale, cucumber, spinach, courgette, Spirulina prepared that morning in their high-performance veggie blenders.
As one co-worker put it: “I have so many meetings, I don’t have time to eat. Drinking this (veggie concoction) means at least I get some form of nutrients down me.”
I have pressed the pause button
The move to Paris has given me some respite from that frenetic, frantic, frazzled life.
And life has taken a different pace. Slow(er).
But it’s giving me a lot of time for reflection about how we choose to live our lives.
Because when I get back to the UK I will need to get a job, glue my ass back into an office chair, and hit the fast forward button on life.
But I want to be more mindful, grateful, joyful.
How does mindfulness work?
Mindfulness has its roots in Buddhist meditation, and mindfulness is the secular form of this.
According to the Greater Good Science Centre, University of California, “Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.”
What is mindful eating – do I just chew really slowly?
Mindful eating is not about excluding food, we can eat whatever we want, even a Big Mac can be eaten mindfully.
As Dr Michael Finkelstein puts it: “What’s on your mind when you’re eating: that’s mindful eating to me.”
How do I eat mindfully?
Before thinking about mindful eating we need to understand our digestion a little better.
As the dudes with big brains at Harvard Medical School put it: “Digestion involves a complex series of hormonal signals between the gut and the nervous system, and it seems to take about 20 minutes for the brain to register satiety (fullness). If someone eats too quickly, satiety may occur after overeating instead of putting a stop to it.”
Mindful eating is about:
- Taking time to be appreciative of our food
- Engaging all our senses when we eat
- Thinking how full we might be
- How does this food make us feel, eating can be an emotional experience
- Gratitude for our food
Benefits of mindful eating
As well as learning to enjoy food, taking pleasure in eating, studies are starting to show that mindful eating could help with binge eating, eating disorders and weight loss.
As Psychologist Jean Kristeller at Indiana State University says: “Mindfulness helps people recognise the difference between emotional and physical hunger and satiety and introduces a “moment of choice” between the urge and eating.”
Want to know more?
- Centre for Greater Good, University of California
- A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled: Ruby Wax
- Savor, Mindful Eating, Mindful Life: Dr Lilian Cheung and Thich Nhat Hanh
- Meditation for Real Life: New York Times
Photo credit Hey Paul Studio, courtesy of Flickr