Mindfulness – what is it and how can it help you develop a healthier relationship with food?
Far from being a passing fad, mindfulness is a powerful practice with many potential health and wellbeing benefits. It is recommended by the NHS and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) as a way to help prevent depression and anxiety. It's also very relevant when it comes to developing a healthy relationship with food. Studies have shown that mindful eating can help you gain better control over your weight and reduce overeating and binge eating as well as helping you truly appreciate your food.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines mindfulness as:
‘The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.'
‘A mental state achieved by focusing
one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting
one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic
Mindfulness makes total
sense, but in today's busy world, it's not always easy to remain ‘present',
‘calm' and ‘accepting'. So how can you practically implement mindfulness into your daily life in order to improve your relationship with food? Here are five tips for mindful eating...
5 Tips for Mindful Eating
Ask yourself why
you're about to eat something. If you're genuinely hungry and you know that it's a good time for you to eat, great, go right ahead. But if you're honest with yourself you might discover that there are other reasons why you're tempted to eat that have nothing to do with hunger. Tiredness, stress and boredom are common triggers. It can help to keep a food diary, noting down not only what you eat, but also how you felt at the time. You might be surprised how often you are drawn to food when you're not actually hungry.
it's a good idea to take a moment really consider what you wish to eat. What
food(s) will best nourish you in that moment?
In my clinic I don't work with overly prescriptive diet plans that dictate exactly what foods you should eat and when. I much prefer to give guidelines and meal ideas, allowing you to select foods you feel like eating at the time.
Questions you can ask yourself include:
How does the weather affect what I'd like to eat?
Would a lighter or more substantial meal feel better?
What have I eaten earlier in the day?
What might I be eating later on?
What am I going to feel like after I have eaten X food?
One question I ask on my pre consultation questionnaire is 'do you chew food thoroughly'. So often, the response to this question is along the lines of 'I try to'! We are aware that chewing thoroughly is important, certainly from a digestive point of view, but it also slows down our eating giving us time to connect with our food. Taking time to eat more slowly also helps us recognise when we are getting full and stop eating before we are stuffed. It can take effort to get into the habit of chewing your food throughly. A good way to get started is to count your chews - 30 chews will ensure your food is fully soft before you swallow. As you get into better habits it will become natural to chew until your food is soft and squishy rather than solid, and just about in a state when it can be forced down your oesophagus!!
Focus on Your Food
Computers, mobile phones, televisions... how well are you going to connect with your food if you're busy scrolling through Instagram? Or binge watching Netflix? I know this can be a tricky one to overcome - all too often my lunch is accompanied by a side of MacBook Air! But getting into the habit of detaching ourselves from a screen and focussing on the food in front of us helps us become so much more engaged with it's look, smell and taste.
Gone are the days when we had to forage for our food, or grow and prepare it all ourselves. Goodness knows there are days when I depend far too heavily on Pret to feed me! But in a world where food is so easily accessible it's worth taking a moment to consider where your food came from and appreciate the effort that went into making the meal in front of you.
Develop an Attitude of Gratitude
When we aren't happy with our weight it's easy to slip into negative relationship with food, feeling like we have to choose between eating food we enjoy, or food that's going to help us achieve and maintain a figure we are happy with. The two do not have to be mutually exclusive. One thing I am passionate about it helping my clients achieve their optimal weight and state of health, whilst still enjoying their food. Developing a happy relationship with food involves being grateful for the enjoyment and nourishment it provides us, not resentful about the calories and confusion it causes.
If you feel like you're stuck in a negative relationship with food, unsure as to what and how you should be eating to help you achieve a healthy body and a weight you're happy with, I'm here to help. If you'd like to find out more then please do get in touch.
A healthy relationship with food is about so much more than simply what we eat. Eating mindfully can go a long way in helping you to develop a long-lasting positive relationship with food.