Mindfulness and Food
Food is a huge topic. We all have to eat and we all have different relationships with food. Food can be an opportunity for connection with others as we make meals for our friends and family and combine eating with lively conversation. Food can also be both a form of nourishment and a demon that links to body image issues and impacts on our self esteem. I could probably write months worth of blogs on food but today is some of my initial refections.
Anyone with any experience of mindfulness will have probably tried mindful eating. This is a great introduction to mindfulness but is also an opportunity to practice appreciating food rather than eating on autopilot. I often go for mindful chocolate rather than the traditional raisin – people often report finding that the chocolate is far more satisfying and that they need to eat far less when eating mindfully. Here’s how to do it:
Place the piece of chocolate in in the palm of your hand and just look. Notice the colour of the wrapping, notice any shadows and the way that the packaging catches the light. When you open the wrapping observe what the chocolate looks like. Observe with a sense of curiosity.
Notice how it feels to unwrap your chocolate. Notice the weight of it on your hand, the texture, and any sensation as it begins to melt.
Notice the sound as you unwrap your chocolate. When you take a bite, notice the sound of the chocolate in your mouth.
Hold the chocolate to your nose. Notice any smell. Notice any effect that this has. Maybe your mouth waters. Maybe the smell triggers a memory. Be curious about the experience.
When you are ready, place the chocolate in your mouth. Don’t chew straight away! Notice how it feels in your mouth. Notice the flavour. Notice how it feels to chew and to swallow.
Mindfulness can also be really helpful when we overeat and are trying to diet. Traditional diets often do not work because we become obsessed with food and feel that we are depriving ourselves. Mindfulness can help us to slow down and appreciate what we are eating, whether it is salad or chocolate. And importantly if we listen to our bodies we are more likely to know when we are full and know when to stop! Often we eat because we actually need something else, we are trying to distract ourselves from our feelings, our boredom or our loneliness. If we stop and recognise the times when we use food in this way, we can stop and choose something else instead such as practising a kindness and compassion meditation, or taking a walk.
Creativity and connection
Finally, for me, food is about creativity and connection. On many of the Mindful Therapies day events we have a shared lunch in which everyone brings one item of food and we end up with a tasty buffet, that is different every time, and it encourages far more conversation than we would have if everyone brought a separate packed lunch. I am also a big fan of dinner party cooking. I have a little look at a recipe, then totally ignore it and experiment with whatever is available in the kitchen to come up with my own creation. I don’t paint, I don’t play a musical instrument, so cooking is my opportunity to be creative – I experiment with ingredients and flavours and it can be a very mindful experience – which usually works out quite well!
So next time you sit down to dinner, consider where it came from, explore your senses and see if you can make food a mindful experience.