Mindfulness and Nutrition
Let me ask you about the best meal you’ve ever eaten. What made it so memorable? Was it the smell that hit you first? The taste of the components of the meal? The texture and the way the food felt in your mouth? Or was it the environment, the company you were in, or the fact you were particularly hungry and ready to receive it? You might have heard the term ‘mindfulness’ before. It’s often used to refer to a complete state of being in the present, with no thought for anything else going on around you other than what you are currently experiencing. It can apply to a whole range of situations, and it’s increasingly being utilised within the world of nutrition.
With the growing amount of stress we encounter in our busy, modern day lives, food often takes the form of convenience and necessity rather than enjoyment and nourishment. How many of us eat at our desk at work, or scrolling through our phones, in front of the television or whilst on the move?
We all know the feelings of being hungry, and I’m sure we can all recognise when we eat past the point of fullness. So why do we find mindfulness so difficult when it comes to our nutrition?
Many of us will have been brought up to eat everything that was put on our plate. There might well be other food ‘rules’ that have been unknowingly instilled in us since we were children. Today’s portion sizes are larger, particularly in restaurants and when eating out. This availability of food often means we consume more than we need. We can also be influenced by the behaviours of those we spend our time with.
Nutrition to optimise performance or achieve a certain goal, be it for a sport, weight loss or muscle gain, can often lead to us ignoring our homeostatic signals of hunger and fullness. Trying to lose weight? There will be a certain element of hunger when in an energy deficit. Muscle gain your goal? The pressure to eat multiple times a day can be overwhelming, especially when you’re not hungry. Optimising your training performance? You might be earnestly calculating and then consuming certain macronutrients designed to support your training.
Busy lives can mean often we forget to eat, convenience eat or seek to honour our emotions through food. All these things are completely fine! Life happens. Food and nutrition shouldn’t have to be another source of stress. The problem lies when this becomes the ONLY way we consume our food.
So How Can I Apply Mindfulness when I Eat?
I’m going to circle back to the best meal you ever had. Try to remember why that was so good. You were probably completely in the present and wanted to savour every last mouthful. Whilst I appreciate the inability to recreate a Michelin-star experience at every meal, when you consume your food, STAY IN THE PRESENT. Put your phone down. Turn the television off. Put away the newspaper/magazine/laptop. Enjoy pleasant conversation with your loved ones, and focus on the smells of your food, the tastes, and the textures. My other top tips would be:
- Chew until you’re ready to swallow.
- Allow yourself time to eat it.
- Build your meals around good quality ingredients, and sit around a dinner table to enjoy your food.
- Check-in with yourself throughout your meal to recognise your hunger levels. How hungry are you on a scale of 1-10?
Finished your meal and you’re still hungry? It’s ok to eat more! It’s also ok to finish everything on your plate because you wanted it. And leave a little if you didn’t enjoy it. And to have the Brownie for dessert.
Also, mindfulness is something most of us will continually need to PRACTISE when we eat. Just like most things in life, sometimes we’ll get it right, and sometimes other things will take priority.
Interested in changing your nutrition habits? Get in touch with us here at LiftOff Gym to find out how one of our coaches can help.