I am sitting alone with a slice of chocolate cake, the rich creamy type with an abundance of icing and several layers. What I do next is not my normal routine. Scooping up a piece of a cake with my spoon, I close my eyes, listening to the sounds around me, feeling my chest move up and down with each breath and then eventually move the spoon towards my mouth and eat the cake.
The cake is surprisingly soft, with the sweet and creamy icing makes the perfect combination. I slowly chew the cake, savouring every moment, every flavour until it is eventually gone. “That was absolutely delicious,” I think to myself.
One of the key principles of mindfulness: to be non-judgemental. If you find yourself digging into a slice of chocolate cake at lunchtime, don’t punish yourself or be angry about it, simple accept it and move on.
What I just did is not normally part of my routine. Generally I would treat myself to a small slice in front of the television after a long day, and before I knew it the cake would have vanished, leaving me longing for more.
This technique of mindful eating is rapidly gaining popularity in the nutrition world. In general, mindfulness focuses on being accepting and non-judgemental focus on one’s attention on the emotions, thoughts as sensations occurring at the present moment1. Mindful eating shifts the focus away from excluding specific foods or food groups, rather, encouraging attention and enjoyment of all foods in moderation
Mindful eating focuses on several core principles. This includes: using all the senses to eat foods to nourish your body, acknowledging responses to foods without judgement and being aware of physical hunger cues such as hunger, satiety or fullness2.
Dr Michelle May has developed a simple and visual diagram called the “Mindful Eating Cycle”. The cycle includes a series of questions that can be used to focus on the process of eating. The first question of the cycle brings attention to you eating habits, asking the question “why do I eat”. Are you actually hungry or are you eating because of your emotional situation. If you are hungry, go ahead, have some food, but if you are merely bored and looking for something to do, maybe ask yourself the next question in the cycle.
What is important not to forget is one of the key principles of mindfulness: to be non-judgemental. If you find yourself digging into a slice of chocolate cake at lunchtime, don’t punish yourself or be angry about it, simple accept it and move on. Remember, mindfulness is not a technique to cut out food, it is about self-awareness and an understanding of why we are eating in the first place.
If you would like more information on mindful eating The Centre for Mindful Eating has some excellent resources to provide more information on the principles of mindful eating. If you would like to make some changes to your diet over the Christmas period, or want some clinical advice on mindful eating, please speak to an Accredited Practicing Dietitian.