Mindful Eating

  • Weaving Mindfulness Into Your Day

    Cup of Tea

     

    People often complain that they don’t have the time to practise mindfulness. To find that dedicated slot in the day to set aside. But there's an easy way to practice more reguarly.

     

    Think about three things you do each day. Like brushing your teeth, being in nature and having lunch. Then, all you need to do is link each activity to a mindfulness practice.

    We've added a few examples below to get you started.

     

    What other combinations can you weave into your day?

     

    Nature + Mindfulness

    Every time you go for a walk become fully present for a couple of moments. Connect with all your senses: smell the air, feel the wind on your skin and just walk.

    When you notice your mind going into thinking, just gently return to the present moment experience of simply being in nature.

     

    Mindful Lunch

     

    Lunch + Gratitude

    Before or during each meal spend 20 seconds consciously feeling grateful for having food on your plate.

    Bring to mind where the food comes from and how lucky you are to live in a country where there is enough food. Stay with the feeling of gratitude and notice how it makes you feel.

     

     

    Brushing Your Teeth + Something Good

    In the evening when you brush your teeth, make a habit of bringing to mind one good think that happened on that day.

    Maybe you had a wonderful conversation with a friend or someone gave you a gift.

    Whatever it is, close your eyes, bring the situation to mind and stay with that mental image for some time.

     

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  • Exploring Fear with Compassion

    Compassion

    This blog post is based on a talk by Tara Brach, titled ‘Transforming Two Fears: FOF and FOMO’. Click here for the full audio.

    When we experience fear, sometimes the last thing we feel we want to do is meet it head on. Our habitual response may be to distract ourselves, or try to ignore it. However, by doing this, we miss out on the opportunities for freedom and growth that fear offers.

    If we can investigate our fear with compassion and openness, we can move through it and beyond, to a more spacious place – not a place where the fear ceases to exist, but where it can safely co-exist with other aspects of our humanity.

    In her talk ‘Transforming Two Fears: FOF and FOMO’, Tara Brach explains two common types of fear: fear of failure (FOF) and fear of missing out (FOMO), and what we can do to meet these fears with kind awareness, curiosity and acceptance.

    Fear of Failure

    This can encompass many different fears, not just the obvious ones that may come to mind. Fear of failing in our career, education or relationships is common, and something we all share. So is the fear of not being able to cope with certain situations, for example ‘How would I cope if I became unwell?’

    There are probably countless other situations that we may have imagined, and consequently worried about, namely about our ability to successfully meet those challenges. Fear of rejection, or of not being good enough also fit this category. Tara describes it as ‘fear of deficiency’; a feeling that we’re simply not prepared or equipped for what the future may bring.

    These fears keep us alert to everything that might go wrong, in either our immediate or distant futures. They come from the primal part of our brain, which simply wants to avoid harm. It’s tempting to believe that by analysing everything that could go wrong, we will be more prepared.

    And sometimes this may be true. But usually what happens is that we become disconnected from the present moment, which is where our resiliency and strength truly exists.

    Fear of Missing Out

    Fear of missing out is somewhat different. It’s that nagging fear that we’re missing out on pleasure or gratification of some kind, that our lives could or should be different somehow, that we could have more, that things could be better.

    This fear creates a feeling of dissatisfaction with our lives. Or it can create a fearful sense of urgency, that we ‘must’ take this particular action now, otherwise we might miss out on an opportunity forever.

    Advertisers regularly take advantage of this shared fear of ours, promoting limited time offers, and encouraging material competitiveness with our peers, for example. But we may also experience this fear in relation to things such as finding love, having children, or losing our youth.

    Investigating Fear Through Meditation

    Tara Brach offers two reflective meditations to help us meet these two distinct fears, with honesty, acceptance and kindness. After all, these are fears that we all experience. Although we often believe they are a personal failing on our part, they are in fact a shared experience across all of humanity, and even other species too!

    Reflecting on the Fear of Failure 

    The first step of widening your identity – not being caught in the cocoon of fear – is to just investigate. Just to notice it, witness it,” says Tara. “So you might bear witness, without judgement, and just ask yourself, ‘So where do I become afraid of falling short?’

    With a sense of openness and curiosity, we can explore the kinds of thoughts and memories that come to mind when we reflect on our fears of failure, rejection or not being enough. Can we think of one particular habitual fear that comes to us time and time again?

    Rather than trying to dance around it and avoid it, take some time to really meet it within yourself. Notice the reactions it triggers, the typical line of defence you take against it. And rather than seeing it as your personal fear, Tara suggests viewing it as ‘the’ fear – one of the archetypal fears that all humans experience. How does doing this with a sense of kindness affect that fear?

    Reflecting on the Fear of Missing Out

    Now with the same openness, we can feel into the distinctly different fear of missing out; the stress or anxiety we experience from feeling there is something pleasurable or gratifying to be had that we don’t yet have. What feels particularly important to us to have right now? The range of experiences this could include is vast, from not wanting to miss out on the latest piece of technology, to not wanting to miss out on achieving an enlightening insight. It could be that we’re frightened of never achieving the level of wealth or success that we crave, or of not finding ‘the one’.

    The less we feel that our needs are being met in that area of life, the more intense our fear of missing out on that thing will be. Our desire or fixation on what we don’t yet have can cut us off from the present moment. By exploring our FOMO, we may notice that shift, from a mindful state to a more narrowed, restricted view. But again, this is not a personal fear of our own creation, it is ‘the’ fear of missing out, arising in us as it arises in all of us.

    How does it feel in the mind, heart and body? Tara reminds us that, “You’re bearing witness to how this human self is when caught in this conditioning. So bring some kindness to it.

    Using Fear as a Portal

    “If we deepen our attention when we’re caught in the fear of failure, when we’re caught in that fear of rejection… the more we discover a kind of timeless belonging that takes us beyond that fear. And with FOMO, the more we get in touch with that fear of missing out and that wanting for gratification, the more we discover that what we wanted was always here. And we tap into an absolute infinite flow of creativity, of dynamism.”

    So by meeting these fears with attention and compassion, we can use them as portals to move beyond, into greater spaciousness. Our fears will still be there, and will still catch us. Yet by mindfully greeting them each time we notice them arise, we can become less and less contained by them. We can stop basing so much of our identity around constantly trying to subdue these fears by using outside sources, such as money or achievements, and instead tap into something deeper within.

     

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  • Mindfully Coping with Desire

    Bee

    Desire or wanting comes as naturally to us as breathing. We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t want to survive, if we didn’t crave things like food, community and rest. Our desires and wants drive much, or maybe even all, of our existence in one way or another. And yet so much of our suffering is put down to desire – a wanting of something we currently don’t have.

    So if we want to be free of suffering, does that mean we must free ourselves from wanting? Or is there another way, one in which we can still enjoy the pull of our hearts (and the adventures and experiences that brings), without being pulled away from the moment?

    Why Desire Causes Suffering

    If we’re not mindful, we may find that our desires end up constantly pulling us this way and that. A good example of how this can happen is when we’re shopping. We might have started out by looking for one thing that we wanted or needed, but when faced with so many other products we soon find ourselves wanting stuff that we might never have even heard of before! Or perhaps we’re watching a movie, see someone eating a burger and suddenly we’re overwhelmed with a craving to eat the same.

    There are other forms of desire too. We can desire to be right, and to have a solid sense of who we are. These desires can make us inflexible and cut us off from being present. For example, when we’re arguing with someone, our internal dialogue is likely to be full of justifications, stories about how we’re right and the other person is wrong.

    Our desire to be right often gets in the way of hearing the other person, as well as truly listening to ourselves, so that we remain in conflict much longer than we might really want to.

    Instead of desire resulting in us following our hearts true calling, we find ourselves trapped in a perpetual state of never being quite satisfied enough, always wanting something more or different than what is, forgetting perhaps the simple things we set out wanting to achieve.

    Desire causes suffering not because of its existence, but because it so often disconnects us from ourselves. When our sense of wanting takes us away from the present moment, that’s when it becomes painful.

    Exploring Desire

    Through practicing mindfulness we can learn how to dance gently with our desires, learning to recognise when they become restrictive (cutting us off from our presence of being) and also enabling us to enjoy them when they are enriching.

    One way that we can become more mindful of desire is to consciously look into it, so that we can notice how it arises, expresses itself and feels in our bodies. We can take a few moments to close our eyes and really focus on something for which we are feeling a particularly strong desire.

    How does that desire feel in our bodies? What emotions does it bring up for us? Then we can go even deeper, fully allowing our bodies to express that sense of wanting. If we curl our hand into a fist, what does that fist do as we go deeper and deeper into our desire? Does it soften, or does it tighten?

    What happens to our posture – do we relax, or do we sit forward and tense up in our seat? In the midst of our focused desire, do we feel comfortable, or not? As we look at it closely, is this even what we truly desire, or is it a substitute for something else, some feeling or way of being that is currently lacking in our lives?

    By spending some time exploring in this way, we’ll be able to see whether we are binding ourselves to the object of our desire and losing touch with the present. We’ll be able to tell whether our desire brings us joy or whether it is actually causing us to suffer. If we do discover suffering, we can then practice letting go, even if it’s only slightly, coming back to this moment now and trying to tap into what it is that our hearts really want.

    We may discover that by simply becoming more grounded in our presence, we naturally meet some of the needs we are seeking to fulfil from outside of ourselves, whether it be through food, entertainment, a person, a career or a material thing.

    Forgiving Our Wanting

    Another trap that is easy to slip into is wanting to be free of desire. Because desire can make us tense and grasping, that may sometimes mean we don’t like how we become when we want something. However, by resisting desire, we are setting ourselves against something which is a natural part of being alive.

    Therefore it’s important to cultivate an accepting attitude towards this tendency that we all experience. If we can practice recognising and allowing desire to be, with a gentle compassion, we will not only be free of the more destructive sides of desire, but we can also enjoy a quieter mind – one that is not so full of struggle against what is and how we are in a given moment.

     

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  • Mindful Eating: The End of Dieting

     

    Strawberry Heart Square_3

    Few of us exclusively eat when we are actually physically hungry, when our body sends us hunger signals such as a grumbling stomach, slight dizziness or an empty stomach feeling, which let us know that we need fuel up our bodies.

    Most of us will eat at other times too - when it’s the “right” time on the clock, when we feel stressed out, upset, bored or when we have a craving for a particular food. If we are offered food we will often take it, no matter how hungry we feel, and we will eat just because we are in the company of other people who are eating.

    Sometimes we know that there won’t be any food available or that there’ll be no time to eat later on, and so we eat more than we need so we have enough food in our bellies until there is food again.

    As a consequence of this, it is easy for our calorie intake to exceed the amount we actually need and so inevitably we gain weight. Our society’s prescription for having too much weight is an often extreme, short term diet in order too lose a few pounds and then eat less and more healthily for the rest of our lives.

    Why Diets Don’t Work

    Usually when we start a diet we are very disciplined. We have a dream target weight, a food plan, freshly stocked kitchens and so we enthusiastically commence our diet. As soon as the first few pounds are off the scale, for many of us, something almost miraculous happens: super-hero motivation fills us and we burst with willpower.

    At this stage, we might not even be able to understand anymore why we were eating too much, let alone ever touched chocolate cookies or crisps! We feel like a new person who has finally got their weight and eating habits under control.

    Unfortunately, this first phase doesn’t last forever. I believe this may be because human beings are evolutionarily programmed to seek pleasure and avoid pain. In phase one, the pleasure of losing our first pounds is so exciting that it unquestionably exceeds the pain or discomfort of not eating that second portion or bar of chocolate in front of the television after an exhausting work day. We’ve got endless willpower!

    After a while, however, something shifts and our willpower decreases. We realise that in order to keep those pounds off permanently we will have to always maintain that same level of discipline. In addition to that realisation, we might go through a stressful period at work or a difficult period with our family - or simply feel a bit low, as life can be.

    This is often when we discover that we can’t maintain our willpower anymore and we slip. “After all, what’s the problem with a little piece of chocolate here and there anyway?” we might think. But it never ends with that small piece of chocolate, which soon becomes a bar and we end up back in our familiar and comfortable eating habits. This is shown by the fact that about 95% of people who lose weight by dieting regaining it in 1-5 years. Not only that, our dieting can promote an unhealthy relationship to food.

    I believe this is because diets don’t help us change our eating patterns in a sustainable way. They change – for a certain time – the food we put on our plates and into our mouths, but they do not change our relationship with food. In order to change our eating patterns in a sustainable way, willpower is simply not enough.

     

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    Mindful Eating - Tapping Into Our Innate Abilities

    Unlike diets, Mindful Eating teaches us to change our eating patterns step by step. It teaches us mindfulness skill-power! However we cannot develop this overnight. It takes time. Because just as eating patterns take years or decades to evolve, they take a lot of training to sustainably change.

    Mindful-Based Eating Awareness Training doesn’t tell us what to eat or what not to eat. It doesn’t provide us with any rules or orders. Instead it trains our innate ability to tune into our bodies cues and learn to read these signals telling us when it’s time to eat, how much to eat and when to stop eating. It teaches us the skills to tap into our hunger and fullness awareness, to better develop our taste satiety and trains our ability to slow down while eating, thus tasting our food mindfully.

    Hunger and Fullness Awareness

    Training our hunger and fullness awareness lets us reconnect with our ability to check in with physical hunger and fullness symptoms. For example, instead of listening to our mind when it says it’s time to eat, we start listening more to our belly and whole body’s signals of when it’s time to eat. We also learn that hunger and fullness are intimately linked but don’t completely ;it is possible for us to feel full and still physically hungry.

    In the water bottle meditation during the course, participants are asked to come to a session hungry and then drink half liter of water (or 1 small bottle of water) while mindfully observing how they feel fuller and fuller in their stomach, yet still they may have a feeling of physical hunger.

    Taste Satiety

    Food tastes a lot better when we start eating and this satisfaction starts to decrease when we go into the phase of overeating. This satisfaction decrease is because our tongue sends feedback signals to our brain to tell us to stop eating. But many of us don’t tune into these taste satiety signals. The more we can train our taste satiety ability, the more we will be able to tell when food doesn’t taste as good and will then naturally stop eating because we do not get as much satisfaction.

    Slowing Down

    Mindful Eating also teaches us how to slow down. Through training, we can learn that by taking time to eat we to savour every bite. If we gulp down our food or watch television while eating (or both), our tongues and brains hardly register that we’ve eaten a whole meal. No wonder our mind and body will then not be satisfied after a meal and will request more food. Many of us, when we start to practice mindful eating, will become real food gourmets, because mindful eating not only trains us to savour every bite mindfully, it also teaches us to look at our food, smell it, feel it and sometimes even mindfully listen to it.

    As trained mindful eaters we don’t want to gulp down a whole chocolate bar anymore, but will now go for smaller sized deliciously prepared desserts that not only satisfy our tongues, but also our other senses.

    Emotional Eating, Urge Surfing & Self-Compassion

    Every time we eat when we are bored, anxious or even happy, we are eating for emotional reasons. We’re not eating because we are physically hungry and therefore our body doesn’t need to be given food. In such moments, we not only need to tap into our hunger awareness, taste satiety and mindful eating skills, we also need something else to cope with our emotional discomfort or pain. This is where basic mindfulness skills come in.

    One of the many things mindfulness teaches us is to learn to accept and sit with uncomfortable states of mind, heart and body; to accept this very moment as it is – pleasurable, neutral or uncomfortable, and observe it with curiosity and with a non-judgemental awareness.

    When we feel upset or bored, we often don’t stay with those feelings but immediately feel the urge to push them away. In those moments, a piece of chocolate comes in handy because it momentarily takes our mind off of an uncomfortable state.

    A technique called Urge Surfing helps us with such emotional urges. Urge Surfing helps us to accept and observe emotional urges with kindness and curiosity so that we will become stronger and stronger in surfing them. This is important because no urge lasts forever (mostly only a few seconds or minutes). Thus, the more professional we become in surfing the urges, the less we will give in to them.

    Self-compassion is a vital part of Mindful Eating. Often when we have overeaten we end up berating ourselves, which usually makes us more upset, and in many cases makes us want to eat even more. In a Mindful Eating course we instead learn to treat ourselves with kindness, so that we can interrupt the cycle of overeating, beating ourselves up and then eating even more as a result.

    Mindful Eating is not about willpower, restriction or following rules. It’s about reconnecting us with our bellies, taste buds, emotions, treating ourselves with compassion and kindness.

     

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  • Tips for Mindful Baking

    Freshly Baked Bread

     

    Baking is a perfect way to practice mindfulness. To successfully bake a cake, some biscuits or a loaf of bread, we need to pay close attention to the recipe.

     

    If we measure out too much flour or don’t include enough butter, if we don’t mix the ingredients in the correct order or don’t knead the dough for long enough, we’ll end up with poor results. This need for focus can help quieten our internal chatter, and can therefore be very therapeutic.

     

    A Party for the Senses

     

    We can involve all of our senses in the process of baking. Paying close attention to how the ingredients look, smell, taste, feel, and even how they sound, can provide a wonderful self-soothing affect.

    Next time you bake, why not take some time to really look at the ingredients as you measure them out and add them to the mixing bowl.

    Notice the texture of the sugar: is it fine and white, or coarse and golden brown?

    How does it fall as you sprinkle it into the mixture?

    Notice the colour of the butter, and the texture as you cut through it.

    Take time to smell the ingredients.. Notice how they smell when combined.

    If you’re mixing anything by hand, notice how it feels on your skin.

    You can even notice how the mixture sounds as you stir it or whisk it.

    The sounds of cake batter or bread dough as it is kneaded might bring back warm memories and comforting sensations from our childhood.

     

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    Gratitude

    Paying more attention to the process of baking also gives us the opportunity to feel gratitude. When we slow down, and stop doing things on auto-pilot, we become more aware of how special things are.

    We can take a moment to feel grateful for the ingredients we have, for the farmers and workers which have grown and produced them so that we are able to use them in our baking.

    We can feel grateful for our senses, and for our ability to bake.

    If we’re self-taught bakers, we can feel gratitude for the recipe books we have read, or perhaps our school teachers, parents, grandparents, friends or spouses taught us how to bake, and so we can feel grateful for their presence in our lives.

    There’s really no limit to what we can feel grateful for, and appreciating the act of baking can make our final products even tastier than if we take everything for granted.

     

    Mindful Eating

     

    Once we’ve measured, mixed, and baked, we can then finish our mindful baking experience with some mindful eating. After all, if we’ve taken the time to bake with mindfulness, it would be a shame to just wolf down what we have created!

    Just as with baking, we can make use of all of our senses when we eat. Noticing how our food looks, smells, feels and sounds before we take a bite helps our minds focus less on our mental chatter and more on our present experience.

    It can also be useful to notice the type of hunger we are experiencing before we dig in.

    Fully enjoying how our baking tastes can give us an enriching feeling of accomplishment. What might have once just been seen as a simple slice of cake can now provide a full and rich sensory experience, which helps ground us firmly in the sweet present moment.

     

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  • Have Yourself a Mindful & Merry Christmas!

    Mindfulness is all about getting out of our heads and into the present moment and the best way to do that is by connecting with our senses. Why? Because we can't smell tomorrow, or feel yesterday! That's why Christmas is such an amazing opportunity to practice mindfulness.

    Practise Coming to Your Senses this Holiday Season

    Whether you're out shopping for gifts or taking a Sunday stroll, be sure to really tune into the sights, sounds and smells of the season. Feel the winter wind on your cheeks, observe how the Christmas songs can take you back and give you a certain feeling inside, take in the smells of mulled wine and pine needles in the air. Be present for these things -- this is the real essence of the season.

    Wooden reindeer in snow

    Savour the Flavours without Going Overboard

    Mindfulness not only helps with truly savouring all the treats that Christmas brings, it also helps limit the overconsumption that often accompanies holiday parties and family meals. We tend to end up consuming more food and drinks than we'd like, however this holiday party season is the perfect time to practice using mindfulness to help us determine when we've had enough. By really savouring our food and drinks more slowly, we can naturally notice when we've had our fill. We can use mindfulness to check in with our bodies and follow the signals that it sends about fullness. So rather than acting when our mind says: "I want another cookie!" we can listen to what our belly says. If you notice that you are comfortably full or maybe that your belly is already bursting then thank your mind for that thought and try to leave the cookies in the jar -- or simply close your eyes and smell the cookie. Sometimes savouring with the nose is just as amazing as savouring with the tongue. Try it out!

    Don't be too Hard on Yourself

    A big part of mindfulness is not only compassion for others, but also for ourselves. Therefore, have the intention to be kind to yourself! We spend so much time leading up to the holidays thinking about everyone else: shopping for gifts, planning around others' schedules, and trying to create the perfect atmosphere for everyone. It's important that we have a little self-compassion as well. Make a point of just noticing how you might be putting too much pressure on yourself, or beating yourself up when things don't go as planned, or feeling like you ate too much. In those moments just remember to take a few deep breaths. And like you would tell a good friend: don't be so hard on yourself -- that's just part of the holiday experience as well.

    It's Just the End of the Year, Not the End of the World

    In the frantic run up to Christmas, we might see the holidays as like a drop-dead date and we forget that -- as beautiful as Christmas can be -- it's just another day that will come and go. Bring awareness to the expectations you might be holding for the day. Every time you notice your mind racing ahead to any sort of inflated or unrealistic expectations, just take a few breaths and come back to the present moment. The same applies to the good old expectation of a family drama. Ruminating about what could happen over Christmas dinner won't help. It only makes you more and more tense during the lead up to Christmas. Let go of any expectations and greet the day when it's at the door step.

     

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  • 6 Ways To Make Your Day More Mindful

    Think about the last time you had a shower. Did you breathe in and smell the fragrant scent of the soap? Did you enjoy the sparkle of the bubbles, the prisms of light in the foam? Did you luxuriate in the warmth of the water as it enveloped your skin?

    Or did you furiously lather the shampoo into your hair while planning the meeting you had later on that morning?

    We spend so much of our days lost in thought, hurtling around from one activity to another, and often trying to do several different things at the same time. This frantic busyness is the cause of so much of our unhappiness and anxiety, and the common call of the Londoner - “there just aren’t enough hours in the day!”

    With mindfulness, we have the chance to really slow down and appreciate everyday activities with new eyes, new senses. And every time we do this, we’re applying what we learn in our formal meditation practice (the time we take just to sit or lie and practice meditation) to our everyday activities. The formal practice is about learning to pay non-judgemental and kind attention to whatever is going on in our mind, body and the world around us, moment by moment. We can then take this sharpened attention into our everyday lives, bringing a rich awareness to our experience of the world and the ways in which we interact with it.

    Our lives offer countless opportunities for this type of everyday mindfulness practice. Here are six suggestions to get you started:

    1. Waking up

    When you wake up, try keeping your eyes closed for a few minutes and focusing on your breathing and on the sensations around you - the softness of your duvet, the smell of the linen, distant sounds from outside the window. Just make sure to set your alarm to ‘snooze’ in case you fall back to sleep!

    2. Eating and drinking

    Instead of wolfing down your dinner in front of the TV, you could try cutting out all other distractions and really focusing in on the food - looking at the colours and shapes, smelling the aromas, tasting each layer of flavour and savouring every mouthful. You can even do the same with a pint of beer or a lovely cup of tea!

    3. In the queue

    While you’re waiting for something - at the bank, the doctors’, the bus stop - you have the perfect opportunity to practice mindfulness. Take the time to be attentive to your breathing and any emotions or thoughts you may be having - even if they’re ones of frustration. Let it all be. The beauty of this practice is that rather than seeing this as ‘dead’ time, you start to appreciate this time as a little breathing space amidst the busyness of the day.

    4. Answering the phone

    When the phone rings or you get a text message notification, see if you can leave it a few seconds before picking up. Notice the sound and the effect on your body (does your heart rate speed up, any tension?), take a conscious breath and then go get the phone.

    5. In conversation

    When we’re ‘listening’, we’re often not actually listening to the other person at all but to our own internal stream of thought, maybe forming judgements, worrying about how you’re coming across or considering what to say next. Next time you’re in conversation, try being truly attentive to the person who’s speaking and focusing on what they are trying to communicate, both through words and through body language, without judgement and with a willingness to understand their point of view.

    6. At work

    However busy you are at work, you can take the time to take a few conscious breaths throughout the day. You could try setting yourself reminders on your computer, maybe at hourly intervals, to prompt yourself to pause and bring your attention to your breathing. Even just a few seconds can make a huge difference, giving you the chance to slow down and reconnect with the present moment, take in more oxygen and trigger your body’s relaxation response. The rest of your day will be much more productive!

    It can be helpful to introduce these mindful practices gradually into your daily routines. You could start just by trying to have a truly mindful shower each morning; then, when you get used to that, you could add something else until eventually much of your day could be spent in a kind of focused, highly-attentive meditative state!

    As well as bringing some calm to your day, you may well start finding enjoyment and wonder in things you may have taken for granted before. As Jan Chozen-Bays, MD says in her book Mindful Eating:

    “When we use mindful eyes, everything is beautiful and everyone walks in beauty”

     

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  • 3 Principles Of Mindful Emotional Eating

    You have two options in regard to emotional eating: you can try to eliminate it altogether or you can try to make better use of it by making emotional eating more conscious.

    3 Principles of Mindful Emotional Eating

    If becoming a mindful emotional eater is the goal you’d like to pursue, the following three principles will help you transition from mindlessly-reactive emotional eating to mindfully-conscious emotional eating in moderation:

    1) when eating to cope with emotions, accept emotional eating as a legitimate coping choice, not a coping failure;

    2) when eating to cope with emotions, follow a predictable eating ritual, with clear start and end points;

    3) when eating to cope with emotions, remember that emotional eating does not have to mean emotional overeating.

    Following these guidelines will help you approach emotional eating with a sense of control.

     

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    Ritualize Emotional Eating

    Habits, routines and rituals offer a soothing, stabilizing sense of predictability and help us feel in control of the moment. Emotional eating episodes are often haphazard and unstructured. To help you rely less on food and more on the activity of eating during your emotional eating episode, I encourage you to ritualize and structure your emotional eating “protocol.”

    I encourage to always begin by stating to yourself (out loud or internally) that you are making a conscious choice to cope by eating and that in doing so, you are giving yourself a permission to not feel guilty or disgusted with yourself afterwards since emotional eating is, however imperfect, a viable form of self-care. Decide in advance not to judge yourself.

    Following this statement of intent and the permission to cope by eating, identify how you feel and what you are trying to cope with. You might follow this by stating your expectations of how you wish to feel after you eat. Then, consciously consider what you will eat and decide on a “dose.” Then, with mindfulness of the process, eat.

    Take your time to savor and appreciate the flavor of the food as well as the subtle changes in your state of mind and body. Pause to check to if you have attained a desired emotional state; if not, proceed with another serving and check again. When you feel you have attained a desired state (whether you use psychological or somatic/physiological markers for that), allow yourself a realization that you have once again been able to successfully self-soothe with food.

    Congratulate yourself on another coping success!

     

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  • Savour The Season - Guide To Mindful Eating Over The Holidays

    According to the British Dietetic Society, people gain an average of almost half a stone over the festive season, getting in around 6,000 calories on Christmas Day alone!

    Bad habits around food that we may already suffer from - sugar addiction, thoughtless snacking and a tendency to take 2nd or 3rd helpings without even thinking - go into overdrive at this time of year.

    The avalanche of festive treats and naughty nibbles descending on offices, supermarket aisles and parties in December means our powers of self-control are tested to the max. Before we know it, we’re inhaling mince-pies and knocking back the mulled wine as if it was water. We grab a handful of peanuts without even noticing, and are half-way through a box of Cadbury’s Roses before realising we’ve carpeted the room in discarded wrappers.

    So how can we pay more attention to what we’re putting into our bodies, so that we can enjoy the sensory delights of the festive season without thoughtless over-indulgence?

    One approach is through mindfulness. This practice, originally from Buddhism, but which has experienced a secular resurgence in recent years thanks to endorsement from figures such as Oprah Winfrey and Ariana Huffington, promotes a close, attentive awareness to the present moment. Part of its rapid expansion in the last decade has been due to the popularity the MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) course, which has been scientifically proven to have a whole range of health benefits, from beating chronic pain to tackling depression. Using meditation to train the brain over an 8 week course, MBSR has proved so successful, it has been taken up by the NHS and has prompted a number of spin-offs - one of them being the MB-EAT course (Mindfulness Based Eating Awareness Training).

    With MB-EAT (due to launch in London in 2014 as part of the programme by The Mindfulness Project), participants are trained to make conscious food choices, become more aware of their hunger cues and cultivate self-acceptance with a programme of mindfulness meditation, experiential eating exercises, teaching and self-reflection. Through this, they’re able to cultivate mindful awareness and a more balanced and positive relationship to eating and their bodies.

    Here are five simple steps to eating a mindful meal:

    1. Savour in silence

    At meal times, put away your phone, turn off the TV, and ask any family or flatmates to pipe down as you sit down to dinner. Any sensation that you experience outside of taste and smell while you’re eating can distract you from really appreciating what you’re putting in your mouth. While going through an entire meal in pure silence may be a bit much for most of us, just deciding to spend the first 3-5 minutes of a meal in peaceful contemplation of each tasty morsel can be enough.

    2. Come to your senses

    Before you dig into your meal, have a mindful moment with it. Sit down, tune into your stomach and notice how hungry you feel. Then look at the food and really study its colours, the shape and textures. Before you take the first bite, close your eyes, inhale deeply and savor the fragrant aroma. This should really get your mouth watering! When you eat, try to taste and identify all the different ingredients in your meal. This is particularly fun in restaurants, when you didn’t make the food yourself and may help you become more creative in the kitchen.

    3. Switch hands

    If you’re a righty, how about putting your fork or spoon in your left hand for a change? You’ll have to work a little harder on hand-mouth coordination, which will shift you out of autopilot or mindless eating (i.e. wolfing down your lunch in seconds) into mindful eating which involves eating consciously, staying more focused during mealtimes and, ultimately, eating less while still feeling satisfied.

    4. Chew it over

    Putting your fork down between bites of food is a great way of making sure you take the time to chew your food properly, rather than letting yourself mindlessly pick at your plate for your next bite. It also encourages you to slow down and pay attention to the taste of your food, instead of just shoveling it down your throat as quickly as possible.

    5. Know when to stop

    How do you know when it’s the end of meal time? Do you listen to external cues or your own internal ones? External cues are things like your waiter removing your plate, the end of lunch hour, or an empty bag of popcorn. It’s important to listen to internal cues like feeling full, considering the portion size that’s right for you, or feeling thirsty.

     

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