How often can you honestly say that you eat your food mindfully? Think for a moment how you eat your food. Do you taste, savour and enjoy your food, or do you wolf it down on the hoof? I am betting that for most it is the latter.
For clarity, mindful eating is not the same as mindful nutrition. You can eat anything mindfully. Whether it is a piece of fruit, or a piece of chocolate cake you can experience the taste, texture and the sensation mindfully whereas mindful nutrition considers the food as a whole and its effects on the body.
Mindful eating is an integral part of the mindfulness journey and is a strange experience when you first encounter it. The concept of taking a piece of food and noticing how it looks, its texture and its smell before it reaches your mouth to savour it fully before swallowing is just not how we are conditioned to eat as we get older, but mindful eating is how we all began to be introduced to food as small children.
If you watch a child who is being weaned on to solid food you will see that she will pick it up, look at it, lick it, poke it, spit it out and consider it (and quite often throw it). I can remember as a child being told not to rush my food and oddly when I think back to family Sunday lunches now I can still taste my mothers roast potatoes, cooked around the joint. How many times do you reflect back on a food and think “that takes me back”. The fact that you remember that experience means you were, at that time, eating mindfully.
I, like so many other people, have let my eating become mindless. I am an emotional eater and when things get tough I throw caution to the wind and stuff my face. I just don’t care, I don’t consider the consequences at the time but then feel terrible afterwards.
One of the most important things you can learn on your mindfulness journey is to understand what kind of eater you are. Are you an emotional eater, are you a picker, are you conditioned to clean your plate even if you are full, do you reach for the salty snacks when you have had too many drinks? Once you begin to understand your eating patterns then you can begin to unlearn some of your bad habits.
When I began my mindfulness journey part of the course I took was to eat a raisin mindfully. Even though I was on my own, at my own table I felt utterly stupid. Why was I taking the time to roll this wizened bit of fruit between my fingers before nibbling it and what was it going to achieve?
As it turns out all I achieved was a slightly warm, sticky little raisin that ended up stuck to the carpet when I dropped it. So I tried again. And again. I had a box of raisins and I kept going and eventually the light bulb popped on and I realised the importance of mindful eating. This was not just a tiny bit of fruit. It had once been a seed, nurtured, watered, then sun ripened – totally different in form, then dried, packaged, imported, purchased, and consumed. Many people had been involved with that fruit so that I could sit at my table, mauling it about. It tasted sweet, and had a rough outer texture but a soft middle. It was lovely.
We live such fast paced lives that food is grabbed while we work or deal with a hundred-and-one other things and quite often little or no attention is given to what we are actually consuming and how it reached us.
“DON’T EXPECT TOO MUCH, TOO FAST”
Don’t expect to wake up one morning and become a “mindful eater”. Over recent months I have really started to pay attention to what I eat and why, but that didn’t stop me stuffing my face at 1am this Saturday after a night out! Start slowly, don’t expect to sit down to a meal of a many flavours and expect to notice and savour every ingredient and understand their origins but do begin to chew your food and taste it before swallowing and shoving another forkful down. If you have taken the time, or if someone else has put some love in to your meal, take the time to enjoy it.