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Health & Wellbeing writer
Dining on a diet of Mindfulness can be just the ingredient to a happy and healthy life but what is the recipe? Sophie Kalinauckas discovers Mindful Eating
The popularity of well-being and the attention on the ‘mind, body and spirit’ appears to be growing all around us as we comfortably settle into 2016 but often with a surge of attention comes cynical thinking. So let’s break it down to the core and bring the ideas surrounding mindfulness back to basics: what exactly is mindfulness? It is the Buddhist inspired practice which helps you to acquire a calm mental state which is achieved through becoming aware of the present moment. It helps people to live in the moment and decrease time spent obsessing over past stresses or worrying about the future. The practice can involve lots of different techniques which bring attention to the body and observing the different sensations that arise.
What does it mean for us to be mindful?
Jon Kabat-Zinn an American Professor who specialises in Stress and Mindfulness and who is the creator of the Centre for Mindfulness Medicine in America said ‘The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate Mindfulness. Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing.’ This focuses our attention to our daily life activities; mindfulness means we are aware of each action we take and channel each moment into something calm and positive. Sometimes, when we think of our daily lives many of us imagine our never-ending to-do-lists packaged with a sense of overwhelming stress. To conquer Mindfulness means to help calm the day down.
So what about when it comes to food? Eating is one of our most basic daily activities; in many ways our meals structure our day. So the question on everyone lips now is – how can we adapt mindfulness to eating?
Mindful Eating has the same characteristics as Mindfulness, it is applying the same attitude of Mindful Awareness- slowing things down and appreciating things moment by moment. So in the case of Mindful Eating or also known as Mindful Dining it is about appreciating each mouthful of food and enjoying the food slowly. It is believed that this whole new attitude to eating can get rid of any food issues and also help you to lose weight but most importantly help you to acquire a greater sense of well-being.
Eating is often associated with stress. With so many diets trends cropping up, the very idea of a diet can make you feel stressed. Mindfulness Dining ditches the anxieties of calorie-counting, fasting or even starving oneself. Instead, it simply changes your approach to your body. It allows you to tune into your body and listen to what it needs. If you think about it, dieting tips can feel unnatural and if you think further, listening to what it is your body needs is more of a reliable source. How frequently have we grabbed a sandwich and eaten lunch at our desks or picked up a quick take-away as we don’t have the time to plan dinner. All too often we don’t even pay attention to what we have even eaten. Life Counsellor Kati Konersman said, ‘Mindful eating is eating with intention while paying attention.’
So what is mindful dining?
So what entails Mindful Dining?
It starts with awareness, recognising your current eating habits will help you become aware of the things you need to change. Take time to think about what it is you’re hungry for, without forcing something cheap and easy down just to keep up energy levels. Take the example of when our plates are filled to the brim and the saying ‘your eyes are bigger than your belly’ becomes truer than ever. Another example is that we often eat food just because it’s there. Listening to true hunger helps us to realise that we actually tend to eat more than is needed – think about whether you are actually hungry or not or whether you are tempted to eat because of emotional or physical triggers. Mindful Eating basically helps you to learn what the perfect portion size is for you.
When you do eat, mindful eating should help you to savour every mouthful and tempt you to take time while you do. The more you slow down the more this helps your digestive system to cope and your body is able to release the hormone called Cholecystokinin (CCK) which is responsible for stimulating the digestion of fat and protein. There are many practices which you can incorporate Mindfulness to a meal. One is carrying out basic meditations before you eat. Closing your eyes and stilling the mind and practising a body scan can help you to relax before you eat. You can also analyse your food before preparing, cooking or eating. This can involve paying attention to colour, focusing on the smell or exploring the texture of different ingredients. Fundamentally, this helps to heighten your eating experience. Mindful Eating goes further than slowing things down, with its focus on the body it helps one to understand one’s body and accept its frame. Finding the ideal weight can be achieved through a healthy appreciation of the body. The whole idea is that a Mindfulness diet is not really a diet at all, it is being aware of what you are eating and learning to love it.
Another step you can take is to source the right foods; thinking about where and how ingredients are sourced and considering the right restaurants. When it comes to supermarkets and restaurants we expect good food, attentive service and value for money but we also like to dine in pleasant atmospheres where employees are treated well. Mindful Dining incorporates these factors but not only that it searches for organic foods, natural products and favours locally sourced ingredients. It teaches you to reject convenience, avoid seeking a quick service restaurant just to save time, and instead seek clean eating and pick the dish designated as fresh and favour the meal which is locally-sourced. It also aids you to pick service above cost, it may seem more worthwhile to pick the more affordable option but this doesn’t always add up to the value of the food. What’s more, Mindful Dining teaches you that dining in restaurants doesn’t have to be an indulgence; it can simply be an opportunity to explore new foods and flavours.
If we forget all the fancy theories and definitions of Mindfulness Eating and Dining and think about it simplistically – it is fundamentally being kinder to yourself. Eating can often be associated with guilt, anger, and laziness. What’s worse is that eating can become tied up with insecurities and even food disorders. That’s not what it’s meant for, having good and healthy food should be appreciated, enjoyable and celebrated!
Time yourself while you eat
Try a body scan before you eat
Prepare a pack lunch the night before
Eat alone once a day
Avoid TVs, phones & radio while eating
Experiment with cooking
Go supermarket shopping at a quiet hour
Don’t snack for the sake of it