What is Mindful Eating?

I only heard the term ‘Mindful Eating’ last week, and I was interested in seeing what that actually meant. I’ve been practicing the Buddhist idea of Mindfulness in one way or another for around 10 years, and it makes a lot of sense to me.

If you’re not familiar with the term, it all boils down to being present, getting rid of all the peripheral thought that makes our minds fuzzy, and really listening to yourself.

My relationship with food is fairly good. As a child we didn’t buy junk food, home cooked meals were most nights, and on the odd occasion we had frozen pizza or ready meals (it was the 80s!) as we’d just got a microwave. I was allergic to artificial food colouring, and most sweets had those in, so I didn’t eat them and I’ve never liked fizzy drinks. We also believed I was allergic to chocolate, though it’s very possible that this was just early lactose intolerance symptoms. We didn’t have chocolate bars, and I remember eating a Club biscuit, finding it had no biscuit in it, and feeling really naughty that I was eating what was essentially a chocolate bar….. I didn’t tell my Mum (hehe)

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Over the years my habits have been on the healthy and then on the not so healthy side. Portion sizes grew and then diminished. Once I’d started running, my relationship with food changed. I wanted to eat food that was good fuel for the type of exercise I was doing, portion sizes were relative to the amount of energy I needed, and I was drinking a heck load of water to hydrate. I felt my body benefitting from these changes and learned what it needed and responded to.

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So, when I began looking up what Mindful Eating was, I realised that’s what I’d been doing without even knowing it.

According to Mindful.org, Mindful Eating is:

Mindful Eating is:

  • Allowing yourself to become aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities that are available through food selection and preparation by respecting your own inner wisdom.
  • Using all your senses in choosing to eat food that is both satisfying to you and nourishing to your body.
  • Acknowledging responses to food (likes, dislikes, or neutral) without judgment.
  • Becoming aware of physical hunger and satiety cues to guide your decisions to begin and end eating.

Someone Who Eats Mindfully:

  • Acknowledges that there is no right or wrong way to eat but varying degrees of awareness surrounding the experience of food.
  • Accepts that their eating experiences are unique.
  • Is an individual who by choice, directs their attention to eating on a moment-by-moment basis.
  • Gains awareness of how they can make choices that support health and well-being.
  • Becomes aware of the interconnection of earth, living beings, and cultural practices, and the impact of their food choices on those systems.

This made a lot of sense, and worked alongside what I have been doing for a while. But it was great to see it written down in this way. It’s not about stopping yourself from eating what you consider to be ‘bad foods’. It’s not about feeling guilty if you have one donut in a month. It’s about listening to your body, understanding what makes your body feel good, and making choices that are right for you.

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I’m glad to see this is something people are following and learning from. I feel like Mindful Eating is just good sense, but so often I see people not listening to their bodies, feeding themselves junk food every day that their bodies simply can’t use for nourishment, or eating far too much food in one day based on the amount of exercise they’re doing.

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I’m not judging those people – everyone’s individual relationship with food is so so personal. It can be a source of comfort, anxiety and some people don’t get any joy from food at all. But I think Mindful Eating is an accessible and simple place to start. There’s no fad dieting, no restrictions and no health dangers. To me, it’s just good sense.

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