Mindful eating seems to be the wave of the future, and the most sensible and profound way to nourish and sustain yourself. However, this life philosophy does include a few elements that must be taken into consideration. Therefore, here are three pitfalls you should avoid when eating mindfully.
1. Getting caught in your bubble
When connecting with yourself and taking the time to savour your food, it’s normal to focus inward. You ask yourself questions like “Do I like what I’m eating?”, “Am I still hungry?”, and many others. At first, it’s recommended that you practice this approach on your own, so you can get in touch with your own sensations.
Next, when the time comes to share a meal with others, listening to your inner voice can obviously play against your immediate surroundings. Problems can arise when we get to the point of not wanting to eat with other people because their presence is distracting.
It’s entirely possible to eat mindfully while surrounded by other people and chatting with them on a variety of topics. At that point, your focus engages in a choreography where it alternately shifts inward and outward. There’s nothing wrong with this – in fact, it’s an effective way to loosen up your powers of concentration! Why not encourage your companions to appreciate their meal and become aware of their own sensations too?
2. Becoming too rigid in your choices
The second pitfall to avoid when eating mindfully is to become too strict in the choices you make, i.e. preferring certain foods to the detriment of others. Mindful eating invites us to make careful choices, both in terms of our health as well as the environment. We want food that is fair trade, organic and free of GMOs! We avoid sugar, trans fats, and sometimes even red meat! These choices are carefully considered and may even be emotional.
When eating mindfully, we don’t need to restrict ourselves to awareness of environmental or health consequences. When we speak of mindful eating, often we’re also referring to intuitive eating, a way of feeding ourselves that is centred on listening to our own tastes and needs. Thus, if your body is craving a plate of pasta, it might be telling you it requires more energy or carbs.
The body has its own intelligence. The proof is that sometimes, although you’ve eaten enough calories to meet your body’s needs for the day, you might “still be hungry”. Often, this hunger might be caused by a need for specific nutrients or vitamins, because while your energy needs (calories) can be quickly satisfied by fast food (hamburger, pizza, poutine, etc.), those choices may not be nutritious enough.
In short, listening to your body and its desires is equally integral to mindful eating as making good choices for the environment or your own health.
3. Skipping meals
Oh yes! Not eating is one of the pitfalls of mindful eating. There’s a simple explanation: this type of eating typically requires more time that simply inhaling your meal. There will definitely be occasions where we don’t want to eat, because we know we don’t have much time. The only problem with that attitude is that it goes against the basic principle of mindful eating, which is to respect and listen to your body!
If you’re hungry, it’s your duty to address this need within an adequate time frame. Therefore, the best approach is to eat when you need to eat; and if time is short, focus on the moment as much as possible – that is to say, the action of eating! Even if it all happens quickly, you can still truly taste and enjoy your food. Avoid thinking about earlier events or your later obligations and instead, focus your full attention on your senses.
Finally, eating mindfully is equally applicable when surrounded by other people, with any type of food, and even when time is short. All you need to do is pay attention to your inner voice and your body’s sensations, listen to your cravings, and maybe even share your experience! It’s a wonderful way to practice your focus and discover more about yourself!
Eva Lyne Jalbert is passionate about life, and especially about yoga, nutrition, and the power of the human spirit. Above all else, she advocates for inner peace and self-sufficiency in the face of happiness. Her motto is “We shape our own life.” She studies nutrition at Université de Montréal and is the co-founder of U-love Enterprises.