Personal Development and the Importance of Eating Mindfully

Personal Development and the Importance of Eating Mindfully

Personal Development and the Importance of Eating Mindfully

Personal Development and the Importance of Eating Mindfully

Since getting back from my first retreat of 2018, I’ve been very mindful of my eating habits.

Food is a huge part of our lives. Sometimes it can be a source of energy, so we grab a sandwich to keep us going. Sometimes it is a social event, a celebration with others. Sometimes it is a task to do in a busy day, such as the evening meal to make for our family.
We are living in extremely lucky times. My ancestors in Northamptonshire were so hungry after the Enclosure Acts took common land from the peasantry that salt and pepper soup was a warming way to fool your stomach into thinking you’ve eaten.

Now, we have masses of food choices. Walk down any high street and you are bombarded with fast food, health foods, superfoods, low GI foods…the list is endless.

How connected are we when we eat our food though?

My goal is to can enable you to reflect on your own eating practice, and maybe change at least one meal to be one eaten mindfully.

I’ve enjoyed a couple of week-long retreats over the past year, and part of both has been focusing on mindful eating. I thought that eating meals in silence with strangers would be a challenge. However, I have found the practice to be really rewarding. It’s an enjoyable meditation I carry out each day now.

I made a chocolate and banana loaf yesterday, a new recipe for me, and yet when I sat down to eat it, I realised I’d eaten most of the slice I’d cut for myself without fully embracing its deliciousness. It was so delicious, I had eaten it too quickly. I felt the last mouthful, hungrily eaten by me, travel down to my tummy. There was a horrid heartburn-like moment as my body struggled to keep up with my mouth, and I felt really sad that such delicious food had been eaten so hurriedly by myself.

Lifestyle, time pressures, and habit can cause us all to eat in a non-mindful way. We can get real benefits when we eat mindfully.

Chewing for our digestive system

When we eat hurriedly, we could be causing harm to our digestion, like me yesterday. Chewing our food is the mechanical process of digestion, so it is important to chew food 10-20 times in the mouth, so the stomach can then get on with the chemical process of digestion.
If you have IBS, irregular bowel movements, and/or heartburn, then get into the habit of chewing every mouthful of food. Softer foods like yoghurt or bananas naturally need less chewing, but meat and ‘al dente’ vegetables need over ten chews to make a pulpy mash for the stomach to receive.

Chewing for our taste buds

The first exercise of the Jon Kabat-Zinn 8 week mindfulness course is to eat a single raisin. I use this exercise on courses I run – first looking at the single raisin, then smelling it, then with awareness taking it into the mouth, and chewing it. I’ve had people who thought they didn’t like raisins eat one, and then realise with wonder how full of flavour a single raisin is.
When we eat mindfully, we connect with the smell, flavours and consistency of our food. I have found it has heightened my awareness to flavours, consistency and the seasoning of food. I love cooking, so I hope it has improved my skills as a cook, too.
One of my course attendees used to eat a bag of salted potato crisps every night. When she ate one or two crisps mindfully, she realised she didn’t like them – all she could taste was the salt, and she actually felt repulsed by the taste. We miss this when we eat hurriedly.

Which brings me onto…

Eat what you need – mindfully

When we are attuned to what our body needs, we eat what we need when we need it. A lot of us eat so quickly, we are overeating. We take in too much food, leaving our stomach very little space for proper digestion. The extra calories we are taking can cause sluggishness, stress, and extra weight.
I think I have learned that when I eat mindfully, I am thankful and grateful to those who have provided the food. The farmers who cared for the crops and the animals, the cooks who prepared the meal.

Here are my tips for eating mindfully:

  • Only take what food you think you need
  • Eat whilst seated at a table
  • Wait until everyone is seated before you start to eat
  • Look at your food before you pick up any cutlery – notice the textures, colours and look of your food
  • Embrace the smells of your food before you start to eat
  • Load small amounts of food onto your cutlery
  • Put your cutlery down after you have placed your food into your mouth
  • Chew each mouthful thoroughly, even when you think you have chewed enough, before swallowing
  • Pause to savour the food – avoid hurrying through the meal
  • Be aware when you are full, and resist overeating

Kay uses mindfulness to enable Leaders and Managers to be more mindful in their roles. She has been practicing mindfulness meditation since 2003 as an aid to anxiety. She incorporates mindfulness in retreats, stress management, time management, and most of her personal development programmes. Contact Kay to discuss how mindfulness can help your people be at their best.

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