Mindfulness & Diet: A How To

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In our never ending quest to look our very best, there is always some new fad  cropping up in our commercials and in our magazines and on our billboards which tells us how we can be the next very perfect version of ourselves if we just buy into the lifestyle choice of another. The quest for self-improvement – in theory – is an honourable one. Wanting to become the best version of yourself possible in this time on Earth is a wonderful thing. A person in alignment with themselves is at their most creative and capable. However, our human nature can’t help but put us at risk of self-deprecation by being so willing to ‘buy into’ any old fad.

You see, we each have different metabolisms, builds and lifestyles. There is no ‘one size fits all’. And you’re probably sick of hearing it, because thank the Lord there are so many voices speaking up now against things like the fashion industry and popular media publications that easily influence young souls into thinking that they are not classically beautiful. However, I do see it going the other way. I don’t think that everyone has to be stick-thin and willowy, but I also don’t think that for argument’s sake we should be telling obese people that they are healthy. A person at their most aligned will be a healthy weight for them. And shocker: it isn’t obese. It comes from eating foods and doing exercise that nurtures you.

Instead of showing someone images of body shapes varying across the spectrum and working from the outside in, we should be getting to the core and working on our emotions, trauma and life choices that are getting us to a state where we are torturing ourselves with our diets. It involves being conscious to each decision we make, in all aspects of our life. But for the sake of this post, paying particular attention to the foods we put into our mouths.

When it comes to food, be mindful of every single thing you are eating. You may think you have an uncontrollable sugar addiction that forces you to eat an entire pack of cookies, but tune in to the process of eating those cookies and you may be surprised at how you truly feel consuming them. And by the life force (or lack of) that they provide. I encourage you to give this a go. Set some time aside and pick the junk food that you feel controlled by.

  1. Look at the packet and read the ingredients list (yep, every single ingredient, even the ones with names that you can’t understand) and look at the advertising used which convinced you that this would satiate your needs. What do you think about it? Does anything on the packaging play to your emotions? How does that list of ingredients make you feel? Why do you think so many ingredients were needed to make those cookies? Key: these are because of two requirements: cost-effectiveness and preservation. The manufacturer wants to put in the cheapest ingredients to create the best-possible end product, increasing their profits. And a combination of the ingredients and packaging enables that packet of cookies to sit on the supermarket shelf or in your cupboard for a pretty good length of time without spoiling.
  2. Open the packet and look at the cookies. The key to this is to put the food into context. We are living beings and need sustenance that will help us to sustain our life force, right? Look at the cookie and ask yourself if it looks like they came out of the ground or fell from a tree. Do they look like they were ‘alive’ once? Would they fit in a natural setting outside? The answer is no, of course. Raw ingredients had to be processed to make those cookies look the way they do. Now, ‘processed’ need not be a bad thing and I think we get caught up and confused with our terms much of the time. Putting chickpeas, tahini and some spices into a food processor to turn into hummus makes that hummus processed, but the cookie and the hummus vary tremendously, obviously!
  3. Now, eat one of the cookies really slowly, paying attention to the way it tastes, feels in your mouth and feels in your mind. You’ll get an initial ‘wow this is great!’ sensation as the sugar hits your taste buds, but keep going and see if you hit a wall of sweetness overload, or decide that they don’t feel good working their way down your oesophagus and into your stomach.
  4. Keep eating them really slowly and with a break in between until you don’t crave any more. Then record how you feel. Record how you feel instantly after eating them, writing down all the feelings that come to mind. Then record how you feel half an hour later, an hour later, 2 hours later, 3 hours later, and finally 6 hours later. This may seem like a lot of work, but trust me if it involves changing the way you encounter food in a way that is much better for your well-being, you’ll be grateful you did this.

This practice doesn’t just apply to sugar. It applies to any packaged, preserved food that fell far from the tree if you know what I’m saying. There’s a fantastic TED talk (below) that I encourage you to watch. It’s all about changing your habits and being mindful, which is actually the way to self-improvement. You can live action-to-action by what truly feels good, not by what you’ve tricked yourself into thinking will make you feel better.

You can apply this mindfulness to all aspects of life. You’ll find some things are harder to be honest with yourself about than others, particularly when you broach bigger lifestyle choices and relationships. For now, start with food; small steps.

Photo via Unsplash

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