Food for thought, mastering the art of mindful eating

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 isn’t a diet. We can be mindful about pretty much anything. We can be mindful on a train ride, sitting at our desks, making coffee, eating chocolate.

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?

Photo credit Hey Paul Studio, courtesy of Flickr

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30 Comments

    • It’s so hard not to, isn’t it?! I do have to force myself to sit and simply just eat!

  1. I have been thinking about mindful eating recently. I tend to eat while doing other things and I think it makes me eat more. I don’t mean that I just keep eating without realizing it. The solution to that is simple. Just put as much as you plan on eating on a plate and stop when the plate is empty. The problem is that eating distracted makes me feel like I haven’t eaten and gives me the illusion of hunger. Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next Sunday

    • Mindfulness is an amazing and powerful tool, and we have all the tools ready to practice it. But it does take a bit of discipline! I really recommend checking out Ruby Wax’s books. They are a great introduction to mindfulness.

  2. What a great perspective of seeing things. Never quite looked at it like that before but having read your article it makes sense. Thanks for sharing #KCACOLS

  3. I never thought about combining mindfulness with eating. I’m lucky that I get an hour for lunch everyday. I don’t eat breakfast though.
    Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next Sunday.

    • Thanks Vicki for your lovely comment. I can really recommend Ruby Wax’s books they are really fab and incredibly honest.

    • That’s me to too. I am trying to be a more mindful as I eat as well as mindful of what I eat. Mind you with your recipes who can’t not want scoff those down!

    • Thank you lovely! We can all do with a little mindfulness in our life!

  4. I try to take my time over my food. I like lengthy meals with my family where we talk while enjoying our meal. By taking our time we let ourselves feel full quicker than if we wolfed it down. I have always made time for lunch but my husband finds it very hard like you did in his work environment. I do worry what effect it’s having on his metabolism.

    • That’s brilliant that you take the time over your food, it’s the best way to get pleasure and not just simply see it as fuel! I admire my husband who always takes a full hour for lunch. He says in his office in Paris, everyone takes their full hour lunch breaks. It’s a healthier way to live!

    • Eating and working is such a bad habit – I am totally guilty of that. Glad you are taking your time to enjoy your food, eating is a pleasure!

    • Me to. I want to try and eat, with my thought and really enjoy what I am eating, I just have to slow down!

  5. Everything is such a rush these days, eating included. I suffer from anxiety and Mindfulness has been suggested as a CBT, but so far I haven’t found time to try it… #kcacols

    • Why don’t you have a read of Ruby Wax’s books – they are both great, New Sane World and Frazzled. They will talk you through mindfulness, it’s pretty easy! And you don’t need that much time!

    • Thank you! I’m a gobbler I eat way too fast, I am trying to slow down and really experience the smells, sounds, flavours and textures of my food and maybe even eat a little bit less!

  6. I’m definitely guilty of scoffing down my lunch as quickly as I can when I’m working! On my non-work days I’m far more considered and appreciative of what I eat, and I eat much better and feel much better as a result. Thanks for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove
    Katy – Hot Pink Wellingtons recently posted…Living Arrows 16/52My Profile

    • I was like that when I worked, food disappeared in seconds. I too am trying hard to be a bit more appreciative of my food. Thank you!

    • I know that feeling, it’s hard to find the time to relax and reflect on our food, when there’s hungry mouths nearby!

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