Mindfulness and eating?
Two vast subjects that can allow us to live a more balanced life.
You probably heard about mindfulness and the many ways used to describe it. With this article, I will do my best to open your perspectives on the subject.
What instantly comes to my mind are the different questions that this title imposes upon us. The first obvious questions would be:
WHY being mindful? What’s the point?
Then, I would wonder WHAT to be mindful of and WHEN? While I eat? While I buy the food? After I ate? ... ?
Lastly, for someone who never heard about mindfulness, the question would be HOW can you be mindful? What do you do?
Hoping I am not the only one asking myself these questions when I see the subject, let me take you with me in the exploration of what mindful eating means to me …
Let’s imagine we have never heard about mindfulness, and WHY it seems to be such an important subject?
To get a clearer idea, we can look at the origin of this word used all around the world. Mindfulness also means awareness and it is one of the foundations of the Buddhist teachings. There are scriptures found that speak about mindfulness in the Hindu tradition, Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Mindfulness or awareness, means “knowing what is”, it is the observational process that allow us to look at reality the way it is and not through our personal filters or perceptions.
It is like a tool we all have in our minds, we can compare it to a microscope that allows us to see the physical world in a more precise and subtler way.
In my view, the main reasons WHY mindfulness is important are:
It allows us to respond instead of react. Mindful eating has been proven to be very efficient with subjects suffering from binge eating or emotional eating. Studies show amazing results: after being taught how to eat mindfully, subjects are having a mindful response to food instead of an unconscious reaction. This mindful response decreases the binge/emotional eating (1).
Mindfulness helps us to be fully in the present moment, to experience what is happening now instead of being in the past or the future in our mind.
It has positive effects on depression, obesity (2) and eating disorders (3).
It brings peace of mind, reduces anxiety, cravings and therefore suffering.
Many studies show the benefits of mindfulness on mental and physical health, on sleep and behavioural problems (4).
It allows us to have a conscious and objective look on reality and therefore adapt to it in the most appropriate way (see the example below).
With this in mind, we go further in our investigation and see WHAT we could be mindful of and WHEN:
For example, what would be the difference between someone who is not mindful while eating compared with someone who is?
At the beginning of a meal, somebody who is not mindful will react to cravings and instantly grab and swallow the food. A mindful person will take the time to be grateful for the opportunity to have food, grateful for the person who prepared the food, even for the farmer who grew the food, people who transported the food all the way to his plate and so on.
An unmindful person will eat without feeling the food in his mouth, will swallow and take the next bite after a few seconds. Whereas a mindful person will take time to chew, feel the food in his mouth, swallow at the right time and consciously take the next bite.
Another moment when it is clear to see if someone is mindful or not is when he continues to eat at the end of a meal, although he is already full and had more than enough. Compare this to someone who feels satiated, knows that he had enough food and mindfully stops eating.
We have seen HOW we can be mindful while eating, but HOW can we do the same before eating? While buying food for example.
This is a big issue for many people concerned with eating healthy. Because, if we can be mindful while buying food, we may make the right choices and eat the right foods at home.
So, HOW can we be mindful at the store?
I feel there is another question that comes first: What can we be mindful of, before going to the store?
When we are at home, knowing that we want to eat healthy and buy the right food, we can do the most powerful thing in our life: Take a clear and conscious decision. Often the problem is not whether or not we are mindful. It is that we don’t decide consciously what we want and what we don’t want. But if we make the effort to decide that no matter what, we will buy the right food when we go for groceries, it will make the process much easier.
Then, when we are in front of some unhealthy food and use our power of mindfulness, it may allow us to be aware we are craving the wrong food, remember our decision to eat healthy and, one more time, make a conscious and mindful decision. Therefore we choose the right food!
This is why I have the feeling that most of the work begins at home. Learning and understanding for ourselves what healthy food is and using our critical thinking will enable us to make the right choices. Once we are convinced about what we have learned and understood, mindfulness will help us make the right decision.
Now that we know WHY, WHAT and WHEN to be mindful, we can learn HOW!
There are many ways to be mindful.
Having practiced for more than 15 years and learned with great teachers, I discovered that the most efficient way to be mindful is to observe our sensations.
It is the most obvious to observe, for example, now that you are sitting and are reading this article, can you feel the sensation of your phone in your hands or the laptop on your legs? Can you feel your feet on the floor or your back on the chair? There are many sensations happening every second all over your body! Can you feel your belly being full or some tingling sensations on your face? And while you read my words, do you hear your voice saying those words in your head?
This is also an important place to focus your attention to: being mindful of the inner dialogue going on inside your head, trying to find excuses to eat this or that food. Being mindful of your inner dialogue will allow you greater freedom!
Well, now that I shared with you a few more ways to be mindful, I will let you experience these practical tools yourself. If you have more questions, you are welcome to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for private counselling sessions or discover my books here.
I would be happy to hear your feedback on how this article helped you with mindful eating. You can share your journey in the comments below or send me an email.
I wish you to be happy, mindful and free from defilements.
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1) Mindfulness meditation as an intervention for binge eating, emotional eating, and weight loss: a systematic review; Katterman SN et al.; Eat Behav. April 2014
2) Mindfulness-based interventions for obesity-related eating behaviours: a literature review; O'Reilly GA et al.; Obes. Review, June 2014
3) Mindfulness-based prevention for eating disorders: A school-based cluster randomized controlled study; Atkinson MJ et al.; Int. J Eat Dis, Nov 2015
4) A cognitive-behavioral and mindfulness-based group sleep intervention improves behavior problems in at-risk adolescents by improving perceived sleep quality; Blake MJ et al.; Behav Res Ther, Dec 2017
Frederic Deltour was born March 30, 1982, in France. He grew up in the suburbs of Paris and spent his childhood on the judo mat. He won many competitions in his youth before becoming a model, actor, and stuntman.
He created and managed 3 companies specializing in natural products and renewable energies, and also worked as a life coach.
Frederic followed a spiritual path for many years, after which he taught Yoga and Tai-Chi.
He has traveled in over 40 countries, climbed several mountains in the Himalayas and the Andes, studied for months with a shaman in Peru, practiced with a yogi in the mountains of India, and lived in a Buddhist monastery for several months. After traveling for over five years, Frederic is now sharing his experiences in his books and lectures, all while he continues to explore the world.