Today's post is brought to you by the lovely Ceri Jones of Natural Kitchen Adventures. I met Ceri a couple of years ago at a food blog conference and we've stayed in touch via our blogs and social media. A total inspiration, Ceri quit her job and crossed the Atlantic to follow her dreams and become a natural chef, studying at Bauman Collage. She's now back in London splitting her time between freelancing, working as a natural chef, and teaching healthy cooking classes. I love her level-headed and fad free approach to healthy eating, so I was thrilled when she agreed to share her thoughts on mindful eating here on The Muffin Myth.
Mindful, or mind full?
I have a question for you. Which do you think is the healthiest way to eat? Paleo, gluten Free, lactose-free, vegan, plant-based, vegetarian, raw, high fat, low fat, dukan, atkins, weight watchers, slimming world, yadda yadda…
Would you believe me if I said the healthiest way to eat is mindfully?
The English dictionary states;
“If you are mindful of something, you think about it and consider it when taking action”
The action in this case is of course eating, but mindfulness extends to any adjective.
If you wolf down your breakfast whilst getting dressed and running out the door, eat draped over a laptop / checking instagram / watching TV, or even chatting to friends without stopping to breathe then its unlikely - unless your brain works on multitasking superhuman levels - that you’re not thinking about and considering your food whilst eating.
So that defines mindful eating. And I’m the first to admit I’m not very good at it.
I only became aware of the idea of mindful eating a short while ago, though my interest in health and nutrition spans nearly a decade. In that time I have followed weight watchers, a chronic low fat diet, strict Paleo, and plenty of other nutritional protocol paths that don’t have a simple definition. I don’t believe I did any of that mindfully. I spent years researching and playing around with what I was eating, but at no point did it occur to me, that how I was eating was just as influential in determining my health and my comfort eating demons.
My chef tutor at Bauman College - Chef Lizette Marx - was a huge advocate for mindful eating. Each lunchtime at college we’d sit down to eat the fruits of our morning labour, and Lizette always insisted we laid the table, and sat down together to eat as a family, rather than shoveling in food on foot via multiple tasting spoons. Chefs are notorious for not eating proper meals, and this principle was a great foundation for us to build on. One day, we even tried eating in silence. Everyone commented they were noticing each flavour with intricate detail on their tongue, they ate slowly, and chewed thoroughly. I, on the other hand, felt the whole exercise completely painful. To me it felt like we weren’t talking to each other because we’d had an argument, and I hate silence. Whilst my mind was full of these thoughts, I believe I’d actually missed the point of the exercise – I wasn’t eating mindfully I was just eating – with a mind full!
Eating mindfully is still something I continue to battle with on a daily basis. As a freelancer I’m a busy person and my day doesn’t have a set structure. I often eat my breakfast checking my morning emails, I snack on morsels of food throughout the day whilst working as a chef (sometimes I don’t even realise I’m doing it), and then if I’m flying solo at home after a long day it is highly likely I’m slumped in front of the telly.
But, I am committed to change. Buying a dining table was a huge part of this commitment at home, as was ensuring I sit down to lunch and a proper break on a chef day.
So why is it so important? For me, I think it stems down to a feeling of satiation, and contentment after eating. If you’re not paying attention to what your eating and taking time to savour each mouthful, how do you know when to stop? If you don’t remember eating, you might just go back for seconds. Eating is such a pleasure - full of flavours, textures and joy. Do you really want to miss out on all of that?
A while back I was out with a friend who wanted to eat a dirty burger and chips, whilst I true to form opted for a salad. She assumed I’d be entirely disproving, and would spend the rest of the day making her feel guilty about it. Nutritionally speaking of course I wouldn’t promote burger and chips as a healthful choice, but as a treat, and to satisfy an occasional desire for the craving soul? A resounding yes. I insisted that if she was going to eat this meal (a very rare treat for her) then she better well enjoy every single mouthful. Slowly. Treasured. Mindfully.
Feel overwhelmed by the idea of mindful eating? Try one meal a day. Try eating breakfast mindfully for a week or sitting down to lunch away from your computer. Try setting the table for an evening meal, lighting some candles and turning off the television. Try eating the most sinful slice of cake you could ever possibly imagine, and do it mindfully. I bet it tastes a whole lot better, and won’t leave you craving for a second piece.
I’ll be trying along with you.
Ceri Jones is a 30-something Londoner and was recently lucky enough to make her passion for wholesome food her living by training as a Natural Chef at Bauman Collge of Holistic Nutrition and Culinary Arts in California. Ceri now works as a natural chef, food writer and healthy cooking instructor. Ceri has written her blog Natural Kitchen Adventures which focuses on whole foods, paleo and gluten-free recipes, since 2011. Through her blog she explores new ingredients, cuisines and recipes, one kitchen adventure at a time. You also find her on Facebook , twitter and instagram.
Eating mindfully is something I really need to try to do on a regular basis. I was at health and wellbeing workshop recently and they touched on mindfulness, they asked us to mindfully eat a Quality Street. Now I could easily polish off several quality streets in about 3 seconds, but when I ate one mindfully it was vile! I found it so sweet and sickly, and I have such a sweet tooth too! I'll remember that next time I reach for a box of chocolates! haha xx
Great exercise, and something we should all think about at this time of year when those big boxes of questionable chocolate are open pretty much everywhere!
A lovely read Ceri and a resounding "hear, hear" from me on all of the points you raise. I now start work at 8am three days a week and as an office manager the start of the day is always pretty frenetic. I don't get up early enough to eat before I leave but my breakfasts in the office have been getting later and later simply because I can't bear to have my eggs interrupted. Eating at the office definitely isn't ideal but pushing out the meal, sometimes to even as late as midday (!!) has allowed me to appreciate it far more. One of the areas I don't think this post addresses enough is the insane amount of emotion attached to food. As nutritionally knowledgable folk it becomes increasingly difficult to make choices without being faced by an inner quandary of exactly what that food may or may not be doing to our bodies. And whilst mindfulness is all about bringing yourself back to that moment, when it comes to making a choice I'm all for going with my gut and not dwelling on it for too long. I love bananas yet worry about their high fructose content, especially first thing when I love to eat them most. I went to a street food pop up and chose fried chicken even after an entire lecture dedicated to oxidation of trans fats! But for me, my mindfulness journey has been about looking at the far bigger picture and ironically not spending too long in that particular moment, especially when it comes to making a choice. Having my cake and eating it if you will. I basically now allow myself to eat or drink anything on the proviso I do so mindfully and don't beat myself up about it afterwards. I'll never know if peanut butter smothered bananas or fried chicken will send me to an early grave but what I do know is I enjoyed every single bite of each!
Great points, Ruth! I also eat breakfast at work, and lunch, and I've actually chosen to not eat my lunch mindfully. I use my lunch hour to get away from my desk and go for a swim, and always come back feeling fresh and thankful that I've moved my body. This means eating lunch at my computer, but I'm okay with it for the exercise tradeoff. You raise good points about emotional eating - a topic for another post. I've got an 'emotional' nutrition topic scheduled once a month or so, last month was food guilt, emotional eating and more will be discussed for sure! I agree that mindfulness is definitely about looking at a bigger picture, and I have a similar philosophy to you in that department.
Hello Ruth, thank you for following me over here, reading the article and commenting with some very considered points. Glad you approve! I do agree that food emotions are hugely important and connected, but it wasn't something I felt I wanted to write about as part of this post. I am looking forward to reading Katie's future posts on this very subject. It is one huge area.
As for eating fried chicken at a food pop up…. I guess it makes you human after all (!) and having the confidence as nutritionist to speak up on this area in a world of nutritional perfectionism is just brilliant. Moderation and mindfulness. Its all about the M's
Mmmmmmm, the Ms... Like M&M's? 😉 Thank goodness all the Es in them means I am too scared to go near them these days!
It is nice to 'see' Ceri here. I have only met her briefly but knew instantly that I liked her. Through her blog I have seen her food philosophy blossom and grow over the past year, reaching beyond the rules of certain diets and embracing well, mindfulness. I teach, or rather encourage, a mindful approach in both my cancer nutrition classes and in my post-treatment weight management session I am not always so brilliant at it myself, but when I do practise it I find I naturally am eating in a way that feels right for me, Instinct, listening to your body, gratitude and mindfulness.
It's good to hear that mindfulness is a struggle even for someone like you, Kellie! I think many people wonder why they're not better at it, but there are so many factors working against the path to mindfulness - a hectic schedule, out of control hunger, deep rooted instincts to grab certain kinds of foods. These little reminders to slow down and eat mindfully are precious, and take practice. Lovely words from Ceri indeed.
Thank you Kellie, the feeling is mutual! Happy to see you over hear, and glad you enjoyed the post. I'm grateful for Katie's invitation and have noticed I've been far more mindful this week as a result.
Linda @ Veganosity
Yes to this!!! My kids can attest to my obsession about eating at the table as a family. Eating isn't just about the food, there are so many emotions that are involved as well. Alex is getting her Masters' degree in clinical psychology and then on to a PHD in health psychology. She would be the first to say that eating disorders are not about hunger or a problem with food, they are about how they have been taught use food to mask their feelings. Having healthy, stress free meals with people from the moment we're old enough to sit at the table will help people avoid mind full eating habits. Great post!
Those family dinners sounds lovely! Our kitchen table currently doubles as our office, and is often piled with computers and other junk. I try hard to shut the technology down and eat mindfully as often as possible, though yearn for the day we have a separate office. And I totally agree that disordered eating is rarely about food. Healthy stress free meals are certainly a step in the right direction for us all!
I had family dinners like that growing up too, I'm sure its where my passion for mindful table eating comes from. Good on you for installing this tradition with your family! Glad you enjoyed the post
Actually sitting down and devoting your mental energy to enjoying your food is so much more rewarding than just scarfing something down! Totally agreed.
It is! And we need to constantly remind ourselves of that and make time for it more often.
Absolutely agreed! But so hard to do!
This is excellent. Thank you both for your commitment to a healthful path through life.
Glad you enjoyed the post!
Thank you also!