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  • Writer's pictureClaire Harrison

Got a lot on your plate?

Mindful eating is not a fad diet or miracle weight loss phenomenon, but it can be used to guide thoughtful diet choices and contribute to a holistic approach to diet and exercise focusing on physical and mental health and well being. Incorporating mindfulness practice into forms of diet and exercise, like mindful eating and mindful movement through the Gyrotonic Expansion System, offers us a more measured, conscious understanding of the physical and internal mechanisms that are at work during eating and exercise. It is about recognising a truly healthy and nourished body and mind not just looking at the external body and ultimately, it teaches us how to live a full and satisfied life.

A mindful approach to diet and exercise offers an alternative to conventional diet culture which places a great deal of stress around eating, often leading to an unhealthy relationship with food whereby ignoring feelings of hunger is rewarded and overeating is punished. Are you sure you want to eat that? We all lead busy lives and at times it's easier to grab a sandwich on the go. It might get us through the day, but is it really doing us any favours?

Mindfulness promises to help us cultivate a better relationship with food and mindful eating contributes to a careful and considered approach to health and well being as a whole.

Mindful eating is all about offering our full attention to the overall experience of eating; what we are eating, when and how, but more importantly how we feel when we are eating certain foods. This can be as simple as paying attention to the colours, smells, textures, flavours and temperatures of foods, as well as savouring the flavour of every bite. But mindful eating also challenges us to recognise how hungry we are. Where is this hunger and how can it be truly satisfied? What does hunger feel like? Mindful eating disrupts our conditioned response to food by encouraging us to recognise the way we feel when we are hungry and appropriately satisfy our hunger with foods that the mind wants and the body needs.

How many times have you gone back to a box of chocolates to enjoy those favourites you had saved, only to find out you’d eaten more than you thought? Or, experienced eating lunch at your desk, being distracted by an incoming email and before you know it your sandwich has disappeared! The enjoyment of eating is lost - this is the foundation of our struggle with the simple and natural pleasure of eating. Practising mindful eating encourages us to remove distractions and reconnect with the experience of eating. The Headspace website describes this effectively; “In eating more slowly, we savour the flavours, the aromas, and the textures. We reconnect with our senses… we allow ourselves to be re-acquainted with the pleasure of eating.”

Through mindful eating, we tune into the natural processes of our bodies and become more aware of feelings of hunger and fullness and recognise the foods that will satisfy these feelings. We develop a relationship with food and the experience of eating – recognising that food is more than fuel and that eating is more than calorie counting!

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