Mindfulness is massive at the moment, but can you harness it to solve the specific problems of your relationship with food?
That’s what I wanted to discover during an Introduction to Mindful Eating seminar run by the London-based Mindfulness Project. So how does it work?
Think about the last time you scoffed a whole packet of doughnuts, or an entire baguette, or a family-sized bag of sweets. How did you feel afterwards: guilty? A bit sick? Disappointed in yourself? Maybe even worse than that.
The point about Mindful Eating is that it encourages you to be compassionate about your behaviour around food rather than beating yourself up over what you might think of as your ‘naughty’ eating habits.
In Mindful Eating, there are no bad or good foods, no calorie counting or portion control. It focuses instead on teaching you to be aware of what you are eating, helping you learn to make choices, and embrace your food issues rather than turn away from them.
So you ate more biscuits than you feel you should have done? Explore how you felt while you were eating them, how you felt after eating them, and how you are going to approach a packet of biscuits next time you feel the urge.
In this way, you will begin to create your own unique relationship with food – and learn that you can be in control of what, when and how much you eat. Applying the principles of mindfulness to your eating habits is all about recognising and thus harnessing what course leader Dr Cinzia Pazzolesi calls ‘the automaticity of eating’.
‘The mind is like a puppy,’ she explains. ‘It is easily distracted.’ So the key to Mindful Eating is to train your mind to focus ‘above the chatter’ so you can jumpstart yourself out of automatic pilot mode whereby you hoover up every crisp in the packet, then wonder where they all went.
During the free one-hour seminar, we tried simple meditation techniques designed to help put us back in touch with the reasons why we eat, and learned how to become more aware of the smell, feel and taste of the food we choose to consume.
Recognising the mechanisms of your eating is a way to help you decide whether to have one cookie/piece of chocolate/strawberry or go for a second or third. And that is why Mindful Eating is an ongoing choice rather than a diet or eating plan that lasts for a finite period of time after which you need to re-train your normal eating habits. Mindful Eating itself can become your norm.
The Mindfulness Project runs four-week Mindful Eating Courses, teaching techniques to help end mindless/stress-related/emotional/binge eating as well as help you free yourself from being painfully judgmental about your attitude to food, eating and your weight.