You know when you sit down to watch a film at the cinema and start eating your popcorn and then reach the bottom of the pot half way through the film and think ‘Damn, where is it all gone? Have I eaten it all already?’, maybe blame your husband or partner for eating most of it when you’ve only eaten a handful (but actually, you know very well he had his own pot and didn’t touch yours once) and have no recollection whatsoever of actually eating it? Tasting it? Enjoying it?
This is how we spend our eating lives. This is how we eat our breakfast, lunch, dinner and all our snacks too. Standing up at the kitchen counter, while cooking, interrupted by a toddler who needs his bottom wiped, listening to a really interesting interview on the radio, constantly checking Facebook, daydreaming, watching TV, worrying about all the things we still have to do before the children’s bedtime, worrying about the size of our bottom and the dimply bits on our thighs. Never pausing, never actually enjoying what we put in our mouths, never thinking about what we’re doing, never being mindful, doing everything mindlessly.
And when it comes to eating ‘naughty food’, it’s even worse – we hide, we pretend it’s not happening. So guess what? Our body thinks it hasn’t been fed. There is no registration whatsoever, at any level in our body or mind, that we have actually been eating and nourishing our body and mind. (Yes, food nourishes our mind – that’s the subject of another blog post.) And so just an hour later, we think we’re hungry. And we eat again. Mindlessly.
This is a vicious cycle and here’s how to stop it. Please note that this is a one-step-at-a-time process. It won’t happen overnight.
- Decide just for today, just for one meal, to sit down and look at your food for just 30 seconds before tucking in. This is how your brain will register that you’re about to eat. There is a physiological as well as a spiritual reason for thanking God for the food that is in front of us.
- Take three deep, calming breaths. Same reason as above.
- Be grateful for the food that is in front of you. Take an extra 10 seconds to say ‘I am grateful that I am about to eat x’.
- Avoid thinking bad thoughts such as ‘It’s too much/salty/sweet/fatty, I really shouldn’t, it’s bad for me’. If you’re truly hungry, eat. If you’re not, ask yourself ‘Could I eat this later? Could I keep it for later?’ You could also ask yourself ‘What am I actually in need of, rather than food? A cuddle? A rest? Some sleep? Some time to myself? A walk?’
- Savour the first 3 mouthfuls. Identify what you like about this food. Even if you’ve been told it’s ‘bad for you’ all your life. The sweetness, the saltiness, the crunchiness, the runniness, the smoothness? By looking for what you like and enjoy, you release hormones and neurotransmitters that tell your body it can relax and enjoy and make the most of this food in your body. Regardless of what the so-called experts tell you about what’s ‘good’ and what’s ‘bad’ for you. What’s definitely bad for you is to eat on the run, while feeling guilty and telling yourself negative things about your food and yourself.
That is mindful eating. And you don’t need to do meditation and be all hippy and have your fingers in any particular ‘mudra’ to eat mindfully (unlike the picture above). But if you want to do that too, by all means do. Every kind of daily mindfulness helps being more mindful when you eat. When we slow down by doing yoga, pilates, meditation, single-tasking (instead of multi-tasking), eating mindfully becomes that little bit easier.
So, next time you go to the cinema, arrive early, get yourself a bag, pot or cup of your favourite food, sit down in the lobby and ENJOY every mouthful. Then go into Room 2 and ENJOY the film.
Feel the difference.
You’ll feel good about having enjoyed your food first and then will be able to enjoy the film too. Double enjoyment!
To read more about mindful eating and how to change the way that you eat, read The Slow Down Diet by Marc David.
To find out more about my Freedom from Food programme, book a free 30-minute consultation and we can discuss your requirements and if it would suit you. Contact me here.