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