What is Mindful Eating?
by Jordanna Levin
Let’s just clear something up straight from the get go. Mindful eating has absolutely nothing to do with sitting in lotus position while devouring a raw sprouted vegan burger and sipping on the milk of a hindu unicorn (or zebra). Nor is it measured by your devotion to a spiritual practice or how many hours you dedicate to yoga each week.
SO WHAT IS MINDFUL EATING?
At it’s soul, mindful eating is about your relationship to food, and recognising that having a “healthy” diet, and having a healthy relationship with food are two very different things.
“Eating well” can be a very overwhelming experience. There are so many different diets, so many differing opinions, so many intolerances and allergies and superfoods and food combining methods and… well the list just goes on and on. What’s meant to be a soul and body nourishing activity becomes very stressful, regimented, exhausting, frustrating, and soon becomes quite detrimental to our health, no matter how much steamed broccoli we’re eating and organic kale we’re juicing.
My mission with The Inspired Table is to take the stress, guilt and anxiety off the table. This is where mindful eating comes into play. We’re going to explore a lot more of the how on the blog over the next few weeks, but here is a breakdown of what mindful eating is all about:
Many of us sit down to eat not sure if we really want to be there at all. We have a fork in one hand and our phones in the other while watching The Block and thinking about tomorrow’s 9am meeting. I’m guilty of eating lunch at my desk while replying to emails, and I know a bunch of you don’t even sit down to eat, or eat mindlessly while preparing dinner so by the time you serve it up you’re not hungry anymore. Taking the time to sit down and be present with your food is the first and perhaps most important step to eating mindfully.
EATING WITH INTENTION
Do you eat because you’re hungry? To fuel your body with energy? To nourish your body with nutrients? or because the clock says it’s a meal time? Having a clear intention behind a) why you’re eating and b) what you’re eating, shines a revolutionary light on mealtimes. Once you realise how much mindless eating you do and commit to adding intention to every meal it changes the entire experience.
TAPPING INTO YOUR INTUITION
Nobody knows your body better than you. There isn’t one diet for everybody. What works for me isn’t going to work for you. And what works for you now might not work for you in a few weeks time. So how the hell do you work out what to eat? Well, you listen to your body, it won’t lead you astray. For example I am not a big meat eater, but when my body needs red meat it will let me know. I’ll include it in my next meal and then I’m good for a few weeks. I’ll dive into this a little deeper in another post, but in the meantime take the time to really check in with yourself I think you’ll be surprised how in tune we are with what we truly need.
DITCHING THE GUILT
If two people are eating the same cup of Gelato Messina but one approaches it with shame, guilt and judgement while the other enjoys every mouthful, savouring the sweetness and being captivated by the creaminess who do you think is going to come out of the situation better off? They’ve both eaten it, that bit can’t be changed, but the stressed out one has raised their cortisol levels from the stress of the experience which puts the body into fat storage mode, while the other has immersed themselves in the joy of the experience and then moved on.
FACTORING IN INTERNAL PROCESSES AND THE EXTERNAL ENVIRONMENT
Just because you feel vibrant and energised from eating a plant based diet this week doesn’t mean you’re going to feel the same next week. Take each day as it comes. Seasons also play a big part in this. When the weather cools down you may find your body craves warm and nourishing foods while in the warmer months you’ll crave fresh and raw foods. I find my emotions also play a big part in what I eat. If I’m feeling stressed or anxious I have to remove stimulating foods like cacao or caffeine completely from my diet (e.g my recent foray into a coffee-free zone)
I am a chronic shoveler (is that even a word?) in of food. I don’t even know how it started, but I inhale my food like I’m competing in some sort of eating race. Slowing down and savouring each mouthful not only amps up the pleasure of eating, but it also allows you to digest your food properly and recognise when you’re full.
All of my clients have made mindful eating a priority as part of improving their health, and every single one of them (including myself) has noticed monumental shifts in their approach to food. I encourage you to take a closer look at how healthy your relationship to food is and whether you could do with a little more mindfulness at your next meal.
Jordanna Levin is the creator of The Inspired Table, which provides a body and soul nourishing experience around food, mindfulness and meaningful connection.