Mindfulness is something that we are encouraged to be in pretty much every aspect of our lives, and given the current pandemic situation, it’s something that probably a lot of us can benefit from. It can help calm a busy mind, gain perspective and just make you feel better and more in control of feelings and emotions.
Mindfulness is about being self aware, listening to your body and mind and being present in the moment, rather than participating in an activity with our mind elsewhere.
Practising mindfulness requires you to acknowledge feelings and sensations, and accept them, rather than overthinking or taking action on them, then let them go. A great way to start practising mindfulness, is just to spend a few minutes a day, in a quiet room, concentrating on your breath. Any thoughts that come and go, acknowledge them and let them pass as if you are sat on the side of a busy road, and watching cars pass. You don’t think about the cars, you simply let them drive past and onwards in their journey.
By doing this for a short period daily, you will find that you become more mindful of your feelings and thoughts in the rest of your day, and it becomes a little easier to accept these thoughts and feelings also, and move on from them.
Mindfulness and food
Developing mindfulness around our relationship with food, our habits, and being mindful when we actually eat, could really help us get a grip on our bad habits, over-eating triggers and help us to eat less and enjoy food more.
When it comes to habits, we know they are hard to break, and can sneak up on you without realising. But starting to pay your habits attention and being a little more mindful about the way in which you fuel your body, can help you to get them under control.
Do you taste your food when you eat, or do you eat to get the full feeling?
Maybe you just eat because you enjoy the feeling of being full, but you might find you enjoy food more if you took the time to really experience what your food looks like, the smell, the sound it makes when you crunch it, and the different textures and flavours. Using all five of your senses, instead of just shovelling food in to get that full feeling, will mean you slow down when eating, and therefore possibly eat less. Try chewing your food for longer, so that you release more of the flavours in your mouth. Your mouth is actually a major part of the digestion process, and your teeth and saliva start to break down the food and release some of the nutrients ready to be absorbed by our bodies, later on in the digestive process. The longer you chew your food for, the longer you will experience those wonderful flavours.
I do this sometimes with a piece of dark chocolate (or three). I like to break off a piece of dark chocolate from out of the fridge, and just put it in my mouth and let it melt slowly, rubbing it all around the inside of my mouth, so that it coats the inside of my mouth and I can taste it throughout my entire mouth, rather than getting the whole bar and chomping down on it without really tasting it. When I savour chocolate this way, I am satisfied with a two or three pieces. When I just chuck it in, chew and swallow I probably eat three times as much.
Do you eat fast without really thinking about whether you are full or not?
Try slowing down your eating, eating with cutlery, and putting the knife and fork down between mouthfuls. Have a conversation with those you are sat at the table with, talk about the flavours you are experiencing, take your time. We all enjoy eating, so why don’t we make this experience last as long as possible. Slowing down and eating with cutlery, also gives you time to listen to your body, and think ‘Am I full yet?’ When you are stop eating.
It takes 15 minutes or so for your brain to catch up with your body and realise you are full. Take your time with your food. This means your brain will catch up before you have perhaps finished your meal, and tell you that you are full and can stop eating, before you have cleared your plate.
When you eat, are you actually hungry?
Instead of reaching into the fridge and grabbing the first thing your hand touches, ask yourself if you are hungry, or might you just be thirsty or are you really just bored?
Try drinking a pint of water, and then go and do something else. Go for a walk, read a book, find a job that needs doing. Are you still hungry? Or were you just bored?
There are many different types of hunger, which we will cover in another article, but that feeling of ‘hunger’ isn’t always just a hunger for food. It could be thirst, it could be exhaustion, it could be the need to have a particular flavour – so think – ‘is it really hunger?’ and make a good decision based on your true answer.
Do you eat alone, at random times and places?
In the car, when no-one is looking? When the other half is upstairs bathing the kids? Skipping breakfast, giving you the excuse to binge later? If you are a secret eater, then you will more than likely be consuming excessive amounts of calories during these bouts of secret eating. Being mindful as to when and where you are eating and who you are eating with, why you are eating in these circumstances; can help you to come to terms with some really damaging habits.
Try only eating food at set times and places, as a social thing with your family. A time to sit and chat about your day.
Do you eat foods that are emotionally comforting? Or do you eat to nourish your body?
Take some time to learn about which foods give you the best nourishment. Quite often comfort foods offer us nothing more than energy, when the foods that we should eat, are those that offer us the micro nutrients to keep us healthy. Iron to keep our energy levels up, B vitamins to release energy from our muscles, calcium and vitamin D to keep our bones strong, zinc to promote healing, vitamin c to boost our immune system. If you take the time to learn about foods, you might find that you want to nourish and fuel your body, rather than comfort your mind.
Do you eat and multi-task?
When you eat, are you really just eating or are you doing something else too? We are all guilty of it – who sits and eats breakfast checking their phone messages, facebook and emails? Or sitting with the TV on for lunch or tea? Or working through your lunch?
This goes back to the first point about listening to our bodies and waiting for those cues that tell us we are full. If our minds are engrossed in the TV or our emails, this is front and centre, and the feeling of satiety won’t be as prominent.
We live in an age where it seems we have to be entertained for every minute of the day. If our brains are idle for more than 20 seconds we get out our phones and start scrolling. It’s an awful habit. Not only does it overstimulate our brains, but it takes away from living (and eating) in the moment.
Next time you eat, just eat. Savour the flavours, the aromas, the colours, enjoy the company you are with, wait for your body to give you the cues to tell you, that you are now full.
This coming week, just try and take some of these points on board, enjoy the eating experience. We all love food, that’s why we are here, so why not take the time to really enjoy it, and savour every mouthful. Put down the phones, laptops, switch of the TV, engage with your family and friends and love the food that you are eating. Choose food you love, in the portions that fit within your calories, and you will find that success on the scales will follow.