A mindful approach to eating is something that can be learned and can be an invaluable tool for transforming someone’s relationship with food for the better…
The word mindfulness is now well known, and in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s words, it can essentially be summarised as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and non judgmentally”.
So what does a mindful approach mean in relation to eating?
Eating is one of the most basic and fundamental things that people do, hopefully both out of necessity and enjoyment. However nowadays, whether someone has an eating disorder or not, it can be very easy to eat in automatic pilot mode, be it due to lack of time, stress, unhealthy dieting or simply the fact that food is generally abundant and available all around us most of the time.
Eating mindfully means eating with purpose and presence, with intention and attention. The purpose/intention of doing something good and enjoyable for yourself, and the presence/attention to be aware of how your body and mind are experiencing it. But this process starts even before you sit down in front of your plate. It starts with being aware of why you want to eat.
Am I eating because I am hungry? Because “it’s lunch time”? Because there is an uncomfortable emotion that I am trying to avoid? Because it is a nice way to enjoy sharing time with someone?
When you are preparing your food, notice the aromas, temperature, colours, shapes: what ingredients can I identify? How does it feel as I stir the meat, knead the dough, roll the pastry or chop the vegetables?
Once you are in front of your food, start experiencing it with attention through your other senses: what flavours am I experiencing on the tongue? How does the texture feel in my mouth? What other physical sensations am I noticing?
While you are experiencing this physical aspect of the food, ask yourself: What am I thinking? Am I emotionally engaging with what I am thinking, or am I observing the thoughts in an objective, non judgemental manner?
Learning to eat mindfully can take some practice but reaps rewards.
Here are 5 reasons we encourage mindful eating:
- It is a powerful way of getting back in touch with your physical and emotional cues so you can more easily recognise when you are hungry or full. As you reconnect with these feelings, you can begin to identify and communicate what you need and want which gives you a sense of purpose, direction and achievement that can so often feel like it’s been taken away by your eating disorder.
- It helps you to become more aware of how you feel about food, as well as reminding yourself of what foods you do like and don’t like, and empowering you to make food choices from a healthy place either because you want to nourish yourself or because you just want to really enjoy it to the full. It puts you back in control, rather than your eating disorder – over time, improving your relationship with food and encouraging you to trust yourself more.
- It heightens your senses which can be nurturing. When you feel like you are battling with so much in your head, bringing your attention back to what you can see, hear, smell, taste and touch helps us to feel comforted.
- It promotes gratitude. In the depths of illness it can be hard to find any ray of light, but as you begin to appreciate each bite and how food helps your mind and body, providing you with energy to keep going on your recovery journey, it begins to feel a little bit easier each time.
- It helps you to live in the present and slow down. We all lead such busy lives and can forget that pausing and investing that time in ourselves and our healing can be the most rewarding. From here, you can apply your mindful eating techniques to other parts of your life, making you more aware throughout the day, helping you to find peace gradually.
If you or a loved one may be suffering with an eating disorder, body dysmorphia, trauma, anxiety or depression we are here to help. Reach out to our friendly advice team today.