I was recently challenged by Legal and General to try mindful eating for a week. Mindfulness is a mental and physical practice that’s all about becoming more aware of the present moment. It involves taking a moment to stop and notice the thoughts running through your head which in turn helps to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.
Mindful eating therefore, is about increasing your awareness of what you are eating and why you are eating it, thinking about what your body actually wants and needs, and potentially changing your relationship with food. Mindful eating is about enjoying your food by really sensing the tastes, textures, smells, the atmosphere and taking in as much of the moment in as possible.
For me this challenge was quite easy, as for the last couple of years I have really thought about what I put into my body and about the ingredients in my food. I already did try to eat as little processed food as possible, and fill my body up with nutritious food. As a family we sit down to a home cooked meal every evening, at the dining table, and enjoy our food and conversation. I think that really makes a difference as if we all sat in the lounge in front of the television, we would just ignore each other and probably shovel our food in without thinking about it, and not stopping when we were full or really taking the time to enjoy it. It’s really important to sit down together every day despite the fact that Ava tries her hardest to persuade us that we shouldn’t.
I think it’s always good to have a little nudge to help you do better though. Every so often I will realise that I have slipped in my healthy eating, got lazy and started feeling worse for wear. And it kind of feels like I have to start from the beginning again, but really I have come so far since making an effort to be healthier and there are things that just come naturally to me now, like drinking lemon water in the morning that mean I am still being quite healthy even when I think I am not doing well at it.
I know when I eat crap and fill my body with crap then I really do see a difference very quickly. I feel more lethargic, get more headaches, get big spots that scar (this happens very quickly), get a sore mouth and mouth ulcers and generally feel run down. I always feel a bit jealous of those people who can eat and drink crap constantly and not be affected by it (but of course I’d still rather be healthy on the inside too), because as I have got older I really notice a difference in how I feel when I eat more healthily. I have noticed for the last couple of years that my mum has to be a lot more careful about what she eats as she gets indigestion very easily now and then really suffers so it just isn’t worth it to her to eat the foods that do that to her. And it is like that for me now too; if I have a Chinese takeaway I can feel really, really sick and migrainey a few hours later (I think it’s the MSG) so it really does help me to think about what I am putting into my mouth and how it will make me feel.
Sometimes, especially if we are enjoying something we keep eating and eating even when we are full, and I think mindful eating can help with that as you are going slower, taking your time and really thinking about the meal, rather than being distracted.
I guess for a while I have kind of done mindful eating without even realising it. I think about what I am putting into my body and how it will make me feel, but it really isn’t as conscious as it sounds. I think healthy eating fits really well with mindful eating, as those who try to eat healthy foods do usually think about their food more and what their body needs as well as what they want to eat.
During the mindful eating challenge I didn’t have any huge changes to make, but it did make me think about what I was going to have for each meal a little bit more. Like I said, we have a home-cooked meal almost every evening, but sometimes we will buy a pizza or have something that is a little more processed. At lunch I often have a sandwich, often with some ham or salami, so I switched those for something like mashed avocado on toast or a smoothie or salad. I do eat all of those things anyway but just tried harder to not have any processed food for this week.
In the week of the challenge we (the boy!) cooked with lots of veg and fresh ingredients, and we (the boy!) cooked all of our evening meals from scratch. We do tend to do this anyway, but it did make me think a bit more about what I was putting into my body and was a good reminder to keep it clean. It also made me slow down and enjoy the flavours whilst I was eating, which not only makes it more enjoyable, but also means that your body has time to realise when it is full, so you don’t overeat.
We are big foodies and love to sit down to an amazing meal and really savour the flavours. We are in Spain and Portugal at the moment for our honeymoon, and before we came away we mostly talked about the food that we were going to enjoy and being excited about it all.
For me food and the process of eating isn’t just because we have to eat, but because of the whole experience, like when going out for a meal; it’s about the atmosphere and the enjoyment of the whole thing, and being mindful about it.
I think that thinking about the food that we are eating a bit more, trying to eat food that is as unprocessed as possible, and taking the time to enjoy and savour our food can only be a good thing. Especially as we get older, eating healthily is really important, and impacts on our physical health as well as how we look and feel. For me, it is really important to make an effort to eat healthily and consider what I am putting into my body. Mindful eating helps me to slow down when eating a meal and enjoy the moment.
Have you ever thought about mindful eating, or have you tried it? Or have you practiced mindfulness in any other areas of your life?