The fourth element on our pyramid of importance is Mindful Eating. Mindfulness has become a bit of a buzzword in recent years and can be defined as, “the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something”. Therefore, when applied to our eating habits, it tasks us with noticing not only the breakdown of what we’re putting in our bodies (macronutrients and micronutrients) but also our portion sizes. Being aware of our moods and emotions, whilst also using our senses during the eating process can heighten good, mindful eating habits.

When we are not mindful of our eating and drinking habits, this is when things start to become more of a challenge. In the following example, we will see what happens over the course of a day when we consume mindlessly:

Starting the day wrong

Alex has overslept and doesn’t have time for breakfast. So she logs straight on to her computer to start work. After her first meeting is finished at 10:30 am she is starving and heads to the kitchen for a coffee.

Whilst waiting for the coffee to brew, she quickly checks her phone and without thinking grabs a few biscuits from the biscuit tin. As soon as the biscuits hit Alex’s lips, she starts to feel even more hungry. She stuffs a couple more biscuits straight in her mouth.

The coffee and the biscuits appease Alex’s hunger for the time being. Alex goes back to work. Alex starts to feel a bit jittery. The caffeine and sugar surge through her body to heighten both anxiety and energy levels.

Quick comfort food

When Alex’s lunch break comes around her stomach doesn’t feel great. So she grabs some toast and a few packets of crisps (her go-to comfort food). By mid-afternoon Alex is feeling hungry again. But she has a meeting coming up, which she is nervous about. So she grabs another packet of crisps and scoffs them down whilst rooting through the cupboard for some chocolate.

She leaves the chocolate on the desk as the meeting finishes and she starts getting on with some work. Unconsciously, chocolate pieces keep finding their way into Alex’s mouth, even though she is already full.

The momentum of the day

Alex realises the whole bar has been finished by the end of the working day. After a long and difficult day, Alex pours a glass of wine and sticks on some Netflix. The Sex and the City episode is a particularly emotional one. Alex finds that she is drinking along with the ladies. Half the bottle is gone by the end of the episode and Alex realises her stomach is in need of something to absorb the alcohol.

Feeling a bit tipsy and not feeling bothered to think about what to cook, Alex throws some frozen food in the oven and goes back to watch another episode as the food cooks. When the timer goes off, Alex plates up the food and wolfs it down whilst watching the Sex and the City Movie.

Take two: Starting the day right

Alex wakes up and immediately drinks half a pint of water, as she knows this is important. Alex knows it will start her metabolism and replenish the liquids her body has used, for the various cellular processes that occur during sleep. She then sips the rest of the pint as she reads her book.

When Alex feels hungry she goes to the fridge and grabs the overnight oats she prepared the night before. She knows that there is a healthy balance of macronutrients that will help to fill her up and slowly release energy throughout the morning.

After Alex’s first meeting has finished at 10:30am she decides she could do with a boost of energy. However, she has an important meeting later so she opts for a green tea. As she knows the lower caffeine content and antioxidants will reduce the chance of anxiety.

Alex usually has a habit of eating biscuits with her hot drinks. Today though, she opts for a banana instead as she knows that the fibre will aid her digestion.

Midday mindful eating

When Alex’s lunch break comes around she looks at her meal planner. Alex sees that she’s due to have some soup. Unfortunately, Alex didn’t manage to get around to making the soup at the weekend so opts for something quick and easy – finding a frozen pizza and cooking it in the oven.

Alex prepares a yellow pepper, tomatoes, lettuce and cucumber, black olives, celery and hummus into a salad. She fills half of her plate with salad and when the pizza is ready, fills the other half with that. She leaves the rest of pizza to cool and will save it for another day.

Savouring supper

After work Alex decides to get started on preparing her soup. She enjoys the process of seasoning the vegetables to go in the oven for roasting. Alex savours the different smells and looks forward to having a batch of home-cooked food. She knows she can reheat quickly for lunch over the next couple of days. Alex has a portion for dinner, along with some homemade sourdough that her mum kindly baked for her.

Throughout Alex’s day she has attempted to savour each bite. Chewing at least 20 times per mouthful and focusing solely on not multitasking when eating. She tried to detect each ingredient and feel for the different textures of each food.

Mindful eating vs Mindless eating

Conclusion

Becoming aware of your eating habits and trying to rise above the more destructive ones, rather than spiralling out of control because of them is a good step towards more mindful eating.

Just like with all the other elements in this pyramid, find small steps to work mindfulness eating into your daily regime and over time you will notice a better relationship with your food. This comes down to educating yourself about where your food comes from and what it is made up of.