I love Sundays. It’s the one day of the week where I set aside 3 hours to slow down and practice mindful eating. I sit down with a cup of tea, a meal planner and my favourite cookbooks (including Deliciously Ella’s: Every Day Cookbook). Here I let my fingers run through the pages as I take a moment to appreciate the beautiful pictures in front of my eyes. Then with my favourite pen in hand, I carefully and thoughtfully choose recipes that will nourish me and give me the energy that I need for the week ahead. I include a mixture of quick and easy meals, as well as ones that take longer to prepare and I ensure that I include a few home baked treats to nourish my soul. Then I lovingly put together an organised grocery list paired with my green shopping bags and head to the supermarket.
Upon arriving at the supermarket I take a moment to not become overwhelmed. I tune into the music playing and start humming along as I work my way up and down the aisles finding the appropriate ingredients for my week’s meals. Once I get home, I put on a Spotify playlist that fills my apartment with some upbeat tunes. I then take the time to pack away my groceries in an orderly manner before starting my meal preparation.
Meal preparation is perhaps one of my favourite unwinding and distressing activities as I am able to use my hands to create something beautiful. As I peel and chop fruit and vegetables I take a moment to be thankful for the variety of produce that is available all year long. Then as I mix herbs and spices and simmer my meals on the stovetop, I let the aromas fill the air before I allow myself to taste the flavours to ensure that they are balanced.
Once the cooking is complete, I sit down with my partner at our kitchen table that overlooks the front garden. Not distracted by technology we discuss our plans and goals for the upcoming week and reflect on the fun that we had over the course of the weekend. Tuning in to my senses, I take time to chew my food in between talking, or take a moment to put down my cutlery and simply savour the taste of the meal and wait for my stomach to feel full. At the end of our meal and conversation we take the time to lovingly container up the weeks meals, snacks and baking to enjoy the following day and throughout the week. Now each day, I am guaranteed and thankful to have something healthy in the fridge ready to nourish me and fuel me, even on the run!
Perhaps my Sunday mindful eating practice seems a little over the top and isn’t particularly your cup of tea. Life is busy, it’s hard to set aside a chunk of time to thoughtfully prepare meals, let alone eat them when there are so many distractions and things to be done. Sometimes cooking simply feels like a chore that needs to be completed and there’s nothing particular about it that you can appreciate. However mindful eating doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing affair. There are plenty of ways to work mindfulness into your daily food habits without consuming too much of your time.
The Centre for Mindful Eating describes mindful eating as the practice of allowing yourself to become aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities that are available through food selection and preparation by respecting your own inner wisdom. It’s about using all your senses in choosing to eat food that is both satisfying to you and nourishing to your body, acknowledging your responses to food (likes, dislikes or neutral) without judgment and becoming aware of physical hunger and satiety cues to guide your decisions to begin and end eating.
With this in mind here are some of my favourite tips you could try out, play around with or adapt to begin to introduce mindfulness to mealtimes in an easy and attainable way and assist you in developing a healthy and respectful relationship with the food that you eat.
Be realistic and set an attainable goal. Choose one meal or snack each day (or even every second day) and commit to focusing on mindful eating at that time.
Choose your meals thoughtfully.
At the start of the week, take some time to plan your meals. Grab some inspiration from cookbooks, phone apps, newspaper articles or Pinterest. Write a grocery list and go shopping to stock up on wholesome ingredients.
Lovingly prepare your own meals.
The cooking process can be as relaxing and enjoyable as eating if you let it. Try to be as non-judgemental as you can in the kitchen. In the words of Rachael Kable There is no “wrong” way to create something, just opportunities to learn and have fun in the process! Become immersed in the actions of cooking your meal, from chopping ingredients up, to stirring, to arranging your meal on your plate.
Stop multitasking at meal times.
It’s really difficult to focus on eating if you’re doing other things. Put your phone away for 5 minutes. Turn the television off. Take a short break away from your computer screen. Enjoy a park bench and some fresh air. Or simply enjoy the ambience of your lunchroom at your workplace. Take a moment to enjoy your meal without distractions.
Be aware of your senses.
Eating is more pleasurable when it is a multi-sensory experience. Use your eyes and notice what is on your plate. Take a moment to appreciate the beauty of the food you are about to eat. Smell the aroma. Chew it slowly so that you can appreciate the flavour and experience the textures. Listen to the sound and crunch of the food as you chew. Focus on how much you like, or dislike these sensations.
Use cutlery and put it down between mouthfuls.
Following this simple step will allow you to take smaller portions and slow down between each mouthful so that you can focus.
Talk and share.
One of the joys of eating is sharing a meal with loved ones whether that is family, friends or your partner. Turn the focus of the conversation onto the meal while you are actually eating. Share what you are experiencing in terms of flavours and textures, likes and dislikes.
Take the time to notice and be thankful. Appreciate all the good things that food can do for your body. It can nourish you, energise you, calm you and keep you well. Be grateful that you can afford such wholesome food that is available all year round.
By incorporating mindfulness into your daily eating routines you will discover that eating is not about willpower, restriction or following rules. Instead it’s about caring for yourself with compassion and kindness and allowing yourself to reconnect with your belly, taste buds and emotions to create a healthy and loving relationship with food.
1. The Center for Mindful Eating. 2014. Principles of Mindful Eating. [ONLINE] Available at: www.thecenterformindfuleating.org. [Accessed 22 February 16].
2. Rachael Kabel. 2015. Let’s Eat…Mindfully. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.rachaelkable.com/blog/. [Accessed 22 February 16].
A woman with an ambitious heart and big dreams, Nicole’s mission is to inspire people to seek freedom from disordered eating and poor body image to lead an authentic and passionate life. Having suffered from an eating disorder for eight years, Nicole’s story of hope, freedom and recovery inspired her to found Life in The Aftermath, an online community for woman in recovery. Her stories of hope, mindful eating, positive body image, self-care, anxiety management and recovery will inspire and encourage you to love and accept who you are and make positive steps towards living an authentic life.