Undoing the indulgences of the season is a natural urge at the dawn of a fresh, new year. Being mindful might be the answer for those seeking fresh ways to eat better.
It’s January; a new month, a new year, and often a time where you might introduce a new diet or food rules into your life. If you’re feeling like you were slightly overindulgent from the year that was, Christmas and New Year’s festivities – you’re certainly not alone!
Starting a new year with a dieting mindset can naturally come with many rules, whether you are planning a juice cleanse, eating low carb or are ditching a food group altogether; all of these, spoken and unspoken rules, cause more stress and pressure, particularly around eating and the choices that come with it. If there is one thing the last few years have taught us, it’s that life is unpredictable, and to hold those you love close (including bread, pasta and dairy!).
It's also become clear that it's important to appreciate the simple things in life, and to invest in your mental wellbeing, through self-care and mindfulness practices. If yoga, meditation and journaling have a spot on your new year to-do list, it could be a good idea to add mindful eating too.
Mindful Eating is…
Mindful eating stems from the Hindu and Buddhist concept of Mindfulness; a way of introducing non-judgemental awareness, to thoughts and experiences that occur, in the present moment.
More specifically, mindful eating is eating with the intention of paying attention. It involves intentionally concentrating on your body’s own cues, thoughts and emotions that guide you to decide what to eat and, ultimately, the entire eating experience.
Mindful Eating can shift our habitual choices
Eating mindfully can shift food choices to be based on physical cues like hunger, fullness and your own food preferences, rather than emotional triggers; like the boredom that comes from unstructured routines and WFH schedules, or the stress that evolves from life’s uncertainties, which are more often than not, out of your control.
It’s completely normal to eat when you’re feeling overwhelmed
As humans, we learn to cope in many different ways, and sometimes this will mean opening the pantry 20 times a day, just to stare at the same packet of cereal. It is totally normal to respond this way! What isn’t ideal, are the feelings of guilt and anxiety that come with non-hungry and emotional eating. Focusing on eating more mindfully can help you identify the difference between true hunger (a feeling of discomfort or weakness that comes from a lack of food) and non-hungry eating.
Five ways you can eat more mindfully
1. Focus on your senses
Next time you sit down to have lunch, think about the smell, sight, texture, taste and sound (if there is one!) of the food in front of you. Focusing on these senses can help you be completely present at that moment in time.
2. Pay attention to your hunger cues and respect your fullness
With life being so incredibly busy, having many jobs on the go and food available nearly everywhere, our internal hunger and fullness cues can become dulled or less noticeable. Think about the difference between hungry and non-hungry eating, and in contrast, recognise when your stomach is feeling full and satisfied.
3. Eat without distractions
When was the last time you sat down to eat without a screen joining you?! Eating with little distraction just makes it slightly easier to concentrate on your body cues and to enjoy every mouthful. So, next time you sit down to eat your lunch, dedicate at least 5 or 10 minutes of distraction and screen-free time.
4. Slow it down
It can take up to 30 minutes for your body to realise that it has quite a full belly. A reason to slooow down the pace of your eating, is not only to savour every bite, but to also let your brain realise that, hey, I do have food in my stomach now!
5. Enjoy the simple things
Food and all the experiences that come with it, should be enjoyable! The rules that come with dieting can remove the joy you get from food, not only the physical side of things, but the social aspect of eating too.
This is a slightly abridged version of an article written for Harris Farm by Charlotte Murray. Charlotte is an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) who believes all foods have a place in a healthy, balanced diet. Charlotte enjoys celebrating food in all of its glory, and developing simple and delicious recipes to do so. Check out her Instagram page, The Nutty Gritty Here.