Sunday, 20 September 2015

Meditation and Mindful Eating

As you may have noticed from my almost-silence in the blogosphere, it's been a busy summer over here. Quite aside from the usual home and work commitments, we've helped my mother-in-law to downsize from a house to a one-bed flat, and I've been writing my thesis, and I've been on holiday with my mum (more on that trip later!). These things all add up to a shortage of spare time and a lack of breathing space, and I've been feeling quite overwhelmed, which is never fun.

So about a month ago, I started meditating. Adding an extra item into a hectic schedule might sound like a recipe for disaster, but setting aside a little (tiny!) block of time to be entirely present in my own head is a worthwhile endeavour. I've been using an app to track my progress, and I've just hit a thirty-day streak of daily meditation sessions, which I'm pretty sure is the longest I've ever done.

But sitting down to specifically meditate is only one part of the picture. I'm also trying to be more mindful in day-to-day contexts.

Mindfulness is kind of trendy right now (oh dear, I'm being accidentally fashionable), but the concept is an ancient one. If it's somehow passed you by, the basic idea is to pay attention to the moment you're in, rather than imagining the future or fixating on the past. It sounds simple but, as with so many things, it's easier said than done.

I find that attempting to eat more mindfully is a particularly useful tool, for a number of reasons.

Firstly, you have to eat, usually several times each day. If you're trying to create any new habit, one of the biggest dangers is that you just completely forget to do it, so it helps to have a reminder. If you manage to train yourself that eating is a time to be mindful, then you have a few mindfulness reminders built into your day for free (because your body is quite good at telling you when it's hungry).

Second, thinking about food has the incidental effect of making you think about your food choices. For me, this is definitely translating into healthier eating patterns. I've realised I don't really enjoy mass-produced cakes, for example, and that means that now I generally just don't take a slice. I avoid a lot of disappointment that way, but also a lot of empty calories. On the other hand, I can get a huge amount of enjoyment from a bowl of fresh vegetables or salad.

Which brings me on to my third point: eating mindfully is fun. If you're paying attention to each bite, you don't gulp your food, and that means you actually taste it properly. You probably do this automatically when you visit an expensive restaurant, where the food is the focus of your night, but imagine if you could get that same level of enjoyment from your morning cereal or your afternoon snack. Okay, it might not be quite the same, but personally I'm finding I get a huge amount more pleasure from food when I take the time to actually taste every mouthful.

Have you tried mindfulness, in a foodie context or otherwise? I'd love to hear about your experiences -- especially if you have any tips!


Pauline Persing said...

Excellent idea about eating mindfully. I will practice that one. I usually squeeze in a few minutes in the morning. Being mindful does help me have a pleasant day.

Rachel said...

I find that embroidery usually gives me that, and if you talk to jugglers, they say that you can't think about anything else while juggling, and if you think too hard about the juggling, it goes wrong, so I suspect that works for them..

Elizabeth Braun said...

Yup, I do a form of mindfulness called 'Focusing'. It's a way of unlocking hidden feelings and messages that we would otherwise ignore. Hard too!

mypixieblog said...

Love this, Rachel, and yes--so true. I don't eat mindfully nearly enough but your words made me give pause with my breakfast this morning. There's a restaurant in the city where you are blindfolded and it's supposed to help heighten your senses as you eat. I was always terrified but curious to try; does food really taste differently if you wipe away all of the distracting elements of a dining experience?

Thanks for sharing :) Hope you are well, my dear. Sounds like you've been a busy little bee! XOXO

Jonathan Clark said...

Very true. Martha was turned on to this by Paul McKenna, who did this blindfolded eating as a very simple means of weight loss. People were simply told to eat until they were full, and eat more slowly. When you don't see how much food is left, you're not nearly so pressured to finish it all.
Being mindful of the other, and thankfulness for all that is good in life, is an ancient idea. When focussed God-ward it's prayerful meditation. Something that's been highly recommended by Christian writers for nearly 2 millennia ;-)

Jeanne Estridge said...

Probably the closest I come is when I walk the dog.

Charlotte Klein said...

It's a good thing I came by here today as I'm currently shoveling food in my mouth for lunch. I need to slow down. I hope all is well with you, Rachel, and that you're enjoying the fall! XOXO

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