Mindful eating is a popular craze. But I wonder, could mindlessness catch on?

I recently went to an independent pâtisserie in Croydon, (yes, the town has a pâtisserie) with friends after a causal dinner, for coffee and dessert.  Whilst my friends ordered sumptuous pieces of cake, I opted to have a small coffee and two milk truffles.  My friends scoffed at my choice.  But when they asked why I wasn’t trying the delights of the shop in all its glory, I said simply, “I feel full, I just fancy a taste of something”.  My friend, who’s a dietitian, said to me in a knowing voice, “now that’s mindfulness Anna”.

That’s not the first time I have been termed as mindful.  In the new craze of mindfulness I look to uncover where it comes from, what it means for day-to-day life and if you really need to learn about mindfulness.  Or, as I like to believe, can you just be mindful without knowingly trying? A term I call mindlessness.

According to The Center For Mindful Eating mindful eating is about allowing yourself to become aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities that are available through food selection and preparation by respecting your own inner wisdom. Now, I immediately switch off when the phrases, ‘inner wisdom’ and ‘listen to your body’ are thrown around.  But consider this, in the above scenario, did my body tell me I was full? Yes. Did my inner wisdom suggest that I might want something small and sweet? Yes.  So, the Center’s words speak the truth.

They claim that by using all your senses you will choose to eat food that is both satisfying to you and nourishing to your body.  If you become aware of physical hunger and allow satiety cues to guide your decisions to begin and end eating, you can change your relationship to food.

I have a rebellious streak that doesn’t like to be told what to do.  For example, this article is a great article and gives practical tips around mindfulness and food.  Tips to improve your diet include; letting go of shame and guilt, using the 80:20 rule and my favourite; listening to your body.  All great tips.  But the fact they’re written down for me to read and consume, makes me uneasy.

Isn’t the concept of mindfulness, knowing? So if we already know, if we already have a body that we listen to, then are we already mindful?  If you don’t come to your own dietary conclusions, how can you be in control of your own knowledge?  For example, take the first tip, ‘letting go of guilt and shame’, if I did that, I would never feel the shame of having eaten a bag of popcorn, and so I might eat a bag of popcorn and ‘pick n mix’.  Take tip two, the 80:20 rule.  What if I ate so much in the 80 part that the ratio became 100:40 or 120:60, I’m suddenly eating so much in the 80 section that the 20 part needs to catch up in a big way.  Now that’s a lot of cake.  And tip three, ‘listening to my body’ is wholly unreliable.  My body wants coffee at 08.00, cake at 11.00, 15.00 and 18.00, it wants Praline’s Haagan Daz at 21.00 and sometimes, no breakfast.

Without the top tips, and with only my well nurtured knowledge to base decisions on, I’m well-rounded, balanced and mindful.  I keep moving and I eat when I’m hungry.  I eat meat, fish, vegetables, and have the occasional cake or biscuit.  I’m also partial to a can of coke and coffee, but I know it’s not good for me, so I drink lots of water.  Everyone and no one has taught me to do that. It’s the subconscious and environmental learning journey that I have travelled on throughout my life.

Mindfulness is growing in popularity and it’s popping up in lifestyle magazines left right and centre. But I’ll ask again, is mindlessness a craze that could catch on?

Picture citation: Truffles 02 James Yu, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

3 thoughts on “Mindlessness

  1. Rob A.K.A Odie

    Going through what you have written above, and using personal experience and watching how and why others appear to choose certain foods. I think the 2 main reasons people today eat particular foods is firstly, social acceptance, there is so much information in media as to what is acceptable to eat, we appear to be choosing our foods by what we are told is right and wrong. conversations seemingly take place daily amongst friends and family about what is right to eat, what foods can cause particular harm to the body and to the growth of our young. Many people seem to want to conform to what is socially acceptable, and fear judgment for the choices we make, obviously this covers many other aspects in life, but this post is focused on foods.
    The second reason for the choices of food we choose to eat in my opinion is mood, certain foods can trigger certain chemical responses, this will cause us not usually knowingly to opt for certain food types, but more often than not emotional states require certain foods, this is where to term “comfort foods” comes from. I am partial to Pralines n Cream ice cream, and I can polish off a whole tub in one sitting, which I will usually do when I am feeling low, and I will usually follow with the emotional state of regret. There are days when I feel strong, and as a result of that strength I have a fancy to eat healthier foods, with the desire to keep the feeling of good health and strength.
    There are other factors of course, financial implications for example, people then tend to buy only what is affordable, healthy or not is then not usually considered. Laziness causing people to care more to have a food than what the food actually is.

    So are we mindful of what we eat and why? Yes I think we are. Do or can we override that with our emotional states? Yes very much so. Are we mindful because of what we really know about foods and what our body needs? Only if we care to take the time to fully research and understand what our individual bodies need, more likely we actually are mindful of what we have been made to believe what we should want and need through media and social acceptance. There are of course those who do not overly worry about conforming, but actually just look at cake and say “yes I fancy it, but I don’t actually want it”, but you’d be surprised at just how rare that could be.
    Being mindful is us knowing what we should do around others or by what we hear on social media, being mindless with foods is eating by emotion.

    Just my opinion of course.

    As your husband sent me a link to your blog, or given the kisses “x x x” at the end of the link I am actually hoping it was really sent by yourself, I felt compelled to read around and find something I could comment on.

    I must concede, I have a tendency to speed read, also the same way in which I write, which can cause me to overlook, so if I have missed the point and written nonsense, you have my apologies, and you and your husband can have a good laugh at my expense lol.


    • Odie! Firstly, thanks for your comment! It’s a different stance, but definitely worth taking on board! Thanks for taking the time to read it. You might like the post ‘words the (grey) matter’ – hopefully! My husband sends a kiss ha ha!


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