EAT, DRINK, BE MINDFUL!
When it comes to food and diet there are ever changing opinions on super-foods,what not to eat; what to eat and endless lists of foods for detoxing, nourishment etc, etc. indeed when it comes to healthy eating the discussion tends to focus on what we eat rather than how we eat it.
Yet a growing body of research suggests that changing our attitudes and eating practices may be just as important as what we actually eat. Mindful eating is a concept with its roots in Buddhist teachings which aims to reconnect us more deeply with the experience of eating and enjoying our food.
In our fast paced society meals can often be squashed in and I must confess I am terrible for eating whilst multi-tasking which according to mindful eating practices is a big no, no.
Mindful eating is about slowing the eating process down and eating with attention. Contemplating what we are eating and why.
As a qualified nutritionist I can see the benefits of slowing down and eating with intention. Indeed some of my most pleasurable and memorable meals have simple ones from a culinary perspective, but they have been eaten at leisure, in good company and without any pressure to move onto another task.
There have been studies conducted that look at mindful eating and they have reported benefits such as weight loss, better digestion and positive effects on eating disorders, but it is certain that mindful eating practices is not a one size fits all practice as it has to fit in with your lifestyle in order to work.
Having four young children means that mealtimes can be hectic in my household and it is certain that as lovely as it would be to simply relax and eat my dinner in peace I often end up feeding smaller children, fetching drinks, mopping up spillages etc., but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been able to incorporate some mindful eating practices into mealtimes. Indeed I have built a few mindful eating practices into mealtimes, specifically for my children. You can read an article I wrote on mindful eating for families here
My top tips for getting started with mindful eating are:
Stop eating being a race…slow things down. Taking the time to savor and enjoy your food is one of the healthiest things you can embark on. When you eat with attention you are more likely to notice when you are full, you’ll digest it more easily, and you’ll probably enjoy your food more.
Enjoy the silence
Eating in complete silence is near impossible for a family with children, but you can still encourage some quiet time and reflection. It’s great to get children to consider the food they are consuming and its origins.
Silence the electronic devices
Our lives are full of distractions, mobile devices pinging, televisions blaring and telephones ringing, so make sure all mealtimes are electronics-free times.
Pay attention to flavour, texture, colour and aroma
Paying attention to the details of our food can be a great way to start eating mindfully. Considering the food we are eating and taking notice is a great way of transforming even a simple dish into something special.
Use food as a form of meditation. I caught up with Lera Zujeva who practices the art of taking tea ceremoniously and when I asked her about taking tea she said, ‘’I love tea, tea can be a totally orgasmic experience’’. There was an overwhelming sense of calm emanating from Lera and as she talked about tea her whole face lit up enthusiastically. ‘It can be hard to fit meditation into our busy lives ‘, she said, ‘but we can usually find time to drink tea and tea gives us the perfect opportunity to calm down and focus and it is such a beautiful and peaceful way to bring meditation back into our daily lives. Many spiritual teachers, such as Osho, Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddha all talked about tea and how drinking it slowly and with awareness can lead you to enlightenment, or at the very least – to seeing who you really are and experiencing harmony in your life.’’
As a busy, working mum, using a tea break as meditation time is most appealing as I can never carve time out of my busy schedule…but I’m British so there’s always time for tea!
Lera offers Bespoke Tea Tours, Tea Workshops, Tea Ceremonies, Private Tea Events and Tea+ Energy Healing Sessions. I have never before encountered anyone as enthusiastic about tea before and I believe she could convert anyone to becoming a tea drinker just through her enthusiasm and passion for the stuff. As she sat with her hands wrapped around a cup of steaming tea, she appeared to shudder excitedly with anticipation, ‘’Tea is orgasmic!’’ she exclaimed, taking a sip. She gave me a satisfied grin and said‘’ Tea Ceremony is all about feeling, seeing, tasting, smelling. If we are in our heads we are not able to experience Tea Ceremony and enjoy Tea in its full potential. Hearing the sound of boiling water in a kettle, Tea leaves falling into the teapot, water pouring into the teapot from the kettle, feeling the clay bowl in our hands, its surface, it’s warmth, sensing aroma of the tea rising above the bowl, taking the first sip, tasting tea, feeling how it flows into us, into our bodies and how the Tea affects us. Tea creates focus, alertness, relaxation, and cultivates awareness’’.
In essence I felt that much of what Lera was talking about was cultivating mindfulness. It seems that mindfulness is an element in many different practices from yoga, to Tao , Buddhism and even Tantra. I interviewed author and Tantra expert, Mal Weeraratne and asked ‘how can we incorporate pure mindfulness in every moment of the day and what will this help us achieve?’ Mal smiled and replied, ‘mindfulness is a huge part of authentic Tantra practices and it can increase your passion for life, aid you in overcoming fear, moving past old mindsets, and discovering happiness in every moment. It is through mindfulness that we can experience beauty in everything and in every moment’’.
It seems that whether you are being mindful when sipping tea, admiring the intricacies of a strawberry or eating your spag bol the benefits of taking time to contemplate are far reaching and certainly the concept of mindful eating has given me food for thought.