Linden Skermer (Diploma in Holistic Life Coaching Skills)
For this assignment, I will be exploring and evaluating the use of a mindfulness practice for a period of two weeks. Mindfulness is about us being present; in the moment. There is a belief that thinking about the past can cause us to feel depressed and looking to the future can be a cause of anxiety. As put by Jon Kabat-Zinn in Wherever You Go, There You Are ‘Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment and nonjudgementally.’
I decided to choose eating for my mindfulness practice. So often breakfast is eaten whilst scrolling through my emails or eating lunch at a desk whilst working; constantly distracted. This has caused me over the years to become somewhat of a mindless eater. I eat very quickly, which has caused some embarrassment for me over the years.
It takes twenty minutes for the gut to register satiety, hence the importance of eating slowly to not overeat so I set myself the following parameters to work within to aid with slowing my eating down;
- Setting a timer on my breakfast and lunch to ten minutes
- Setting a timer on my evening meal to twenty minutes
- One mouthful at a time to be chewed fully
- To employ all senses whilst eating
The first morning of my mindfulness practice, I set the timer to ten minutes whilst I ate my bowl of porridge. I started with noticing how the bowl feels warm against my skin, watching the steam rise from the bowl, the smell, how it looks, how hungry I felt. I started to eat, one mindful mouthful at a time and noticed how much I was enjoying it. However, at some point I must have stopped employing mindfulness and went back to my old habits. Once I had finished, I looked at the timer and the time showed four minutes. I felt a little displeased however, this was not about my judgement and it was the first day.
Lunch took a whole fifteen minutes to eat and I felt proud. However that same day, dinner was eaten in ten minutes. I did grab a sugary snack as I did not feel full. Again, no judgement as this practice was about raising my own awareness.
The second day, after doing some reading online about mindfulness when eating, I read online that thinking about all of the people and processes involved in getting the food to your table can really aid in a new level of gratitude and mindfulness. I liked this idea and decided that from now on, I would also think about this in between mouthfuls of food.
By the sixth day of mindfulness practice, I noticed I was checking the timer less and less as I had naturally slowed my eating down. I noticed that I was starting to chew food for longer without really having to think about it. I noticed in between mouthfuls, I felt gratitude for the food on my plate; all of the people that had been involved in getting it there whether it was a factory worker or a farmer, all of the processes involved, how the sun and rain had helped it grow. I started to notice my body was thanking me for eating slowly and more thoughtfully, my digestion improved and I also noticed that I started to feel full whilst eating and therefore there was no need for snacks after dinner. Dinner was taking around seventeen minutes at this stage in the practice and I felt pleased with the progress from where I started from.
On day eight, I noticed I had a new situation to deal with on reception at work which resulted in me feeling anxious and lacking in confidence. When I left work I bought some cake to essentially soothe me and after eating it, I realised that sense of anxiety was still there and that the answer is not at the bottom of a piece of cake.
On day ten, I had a revelation. Whilst eating my evening meal, I gained some insight into why I eat quickly from a childhood memory that came back to me. After dinner, I sat with that memory and allowed all of those associated emotions to come to the surface. This memory bought back an overriding feeling of fear that I would not get fed and I believe this resulted in my eating quickly and eating for comfort. Just knowing this information felt powerful to me and was essential to truly start healing my relationship with food.
Day twelve saw me dealing with yet another situation that triggered off a sense of anxiety within me, except this time I noted to myself that eating a piece of cake will not solve anything and I meditated and exercised instead.
On day thirteen I went to the cinema and chose raspberries over ice cream because I allowed my body to choose what it wanted to eat rather than allowing my mind to take over.
By day fourteen, I was barely looking at the timer now as I instinctively started to know how long it was taking me to eat my meals. I had started to be more grateful in between mouthfuls rather than just engaging in mouthful after mouthful, my meals were smaller as I eating more slowly. I was eating less sugary snacks which I noticed I tend to eat when I feel anxious.
So from this practice, I learned a lot about my eating habits. I noticed a tendency to plan my next mouthful before finishing the one in my mouth, to not taste my food thoroughly, to not chew properly as I eat so quickly, that I used to distract myself.
At the end of the practice, I was feeling more satisfied with my eating habits as I had a new level of thoughtfulness and gratitude whilst eating that I do not believe I have ever had. My food choices were more in line with what my body needs; nourishment and I hope mindfulness will now become my new habit.
- Kabat-Zinn, Jon. Where You Go, There You Are. 1994. Page 4.
- https://www.mindful.org/6-ways-practice-mindful-eating/ January 17 2019