Guest post: a response to ‘mindlessness’


Written by Charlotte Birkett, Dietitian London

This is a response to Anna’s recent article mindlessness’, I suggest you read it first.

I remember the day Anna and I went for coffee and cake with a friend, and had a full-blown debate about mindful eating – have you read Anna’s winning explosive arguments’ piece yet?! Anyway, I had just been on a mindful eating course in London and we talked about why some people are already in tune with their bodies and others aren’t.

Being in tune = being mindful

For instance, I know that without water I don’t concentrate on my tasks at work, and without fruit and vegetables I feel sluggish and uncomfortable. You could definitely argue that I’ve had nutritional training, so ‘of course!’ I know the positives and negatives of a balanced diet, but others (who are in tune), haven’t – this is what Anna coined ‘mindlessness’, and there’s nothing wrong with that! But, if some people are out of tune with their bodies and don’t feel satisfaction after a meal, they might need to reconnect, using mindful eating tips.

Why we choose food

There is definitely a place for mindfulness but we mustn’t forget the other factors as to why we eat what we eat.  It is not limited to one or two reasons, yes the media craze – as Anna puts it – is a major influencer, but there are other factors too:

  • Cultural
  • Psychological
  • Mood
  • Environmental
  • Biological
  • Survival
  • Genetic
  • Regulatory

Regulatory system

Let us take a magnifying glass to the regulatory system for a moment. It consists of a multitude of signalling systems telling the brain and gut: how much has been eaten, what needs to be processed and how much of it needs to be stored.

Brain data log

This information is processed by the brain along with the social, survival and biological factors, so – in truth – the brain has to deal with a magnitude of inputted data. It is daft – yes, how British, daft! – to assume that our brain uses this data to set everyone at a ‘healthy level’.

Last piece of the jigsaw

We also know the brain can be overridden (computer says no) and we can choose what we eat.  So, here’s my question: are the other factors completely void then? If I ask myself that question, the answer is simply ‘no’. We just don’t know enough about how the complex jigsaw of factors slots together and why it works for some but not others. Segway ‘mindfulness’.  Maybe, if ‘mindlessness’ works for some (like Anna) and ‘mindfulness’ works for others, it’s just one small piece in the big jigsaw and only a tiny glimpse into why we eat what we eat.

Edited by Anna Johnston

Picture citation: Jeanette Goodrich Scale-Apple-Measuring-Tape-Diet CC BY-NC 2.0


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