Mindless Eating


At some point in recent times, it became impossible to do just do one thing at a time. Peeing started feeling too boring and unproductive so I got my phone out while I was doing it. Eating is another one. How many people just eat. No facebook, no BBC News, no radio, tv, emails or trying to play tennis at the same time. Just noticing the sights, sounds, textures, chewing, salivating, swallowing and digesting of eating. VERY FEW PEOPLE if you have a look around. I’m as guilty as the next person, but in recent times I’ve made a conscious effort to eat mindfully. Here’s why.

First of all, eating ought to be a pleasurable experience. Most of has have the means to eat almost any kind of food at almost any time, if we choose to. What a luxury! But you can’t enjoy it if you’re mind is on something other than the food. You won’t experience it. You have to connect to your senses to receive messages from them. I often find myself tasting the first and last mouthful, with only a vague awareness of what’s happening in between. When I do pay attention, I enjoy eating so much more.

Also, you can become more aware of how your body is responding to what you’re eating. I had a craving for a chocolate biscuit the other day, even though I’m trying not to eat sugar. I made a deal with myself that I could have it as long as I ate it mindfully. I started eating it while I was walking back to where I was sitting, such was my greed and impatience. I sat down and paid some conscious attention to the sweet, crumbly deliciousness. It was really pleasurable. I wasn’t even hungry. I carried on paying conscious attention to the aftertaste and to how my body felt. It wasn’t long before I started feeling a bit sick. That was enough put me off having another one, and I haven’t had one since. (Granted that was only three days ago, so that’s no huge achievement!) Also, when people eat mindfully they often say they feel fuller, sooner.

You have less desire to eat things that aren’t good for you, because you’re much more aware of your body’s signals that are saying “Yuk! No thanks!” and you’re more aware of what your body does like and how good your body feels when have it. This has led me to reducing how much dairy, caffeine, alcohol, sugar and wheat I have. People say to me that it must be very boring. It’s not boring feeling good, it’s boring feeling crap!

So my challenge for this week is to eat one meal per day mindfully. That is to say, do nothing else except eat the food and pay conscious attention to the whole process. Look at the food if for the first time. Notice how saliva rushes into your mouth the minute the fork starts moving towards it. Notice how fast you chew, how your tongue moves, which parts of it are doing most of the tasting. Notice how involuntary swallowing it unless you’re really paying attention. Feel the food travelling down your oesophagus and notice how when you stop being able to feel it. You’ll start to realise how much goes on with every single mouthful. It can actually be quite a deep experience!

As far as last week’s micro habit challenge, I did find that only committing to flossing a minimum of one tooth helped me do it every day, until I ran out of floss. Since then I haven’t remembered to buy more. D’oh! If you started a micro habit, let me know you got on.

This month I’m running a mindfulness group in Soho on Monday evenings.

I’m also running a Digital Detox Meetup on Thursday night, to help you get a better balance with how much you use you smartphone.