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Fundamentals Of Good Nutrition: Mindful Eating

In the latest instalment of our performance and nutrition series, Ciaran Ruddock of FFS speaks about mindful eating.

Do you want to learn what really works for you?

Let’s talk to out about an awesome concept called mindful eating, often seen as the missing link for many people in their nutrition. 

So many people make nutrition so complicated. Worrying about the smallest details or beating themselves up for eating 10 grams extra carbohydrate.

Other people have become so confused about how to eat in order to help them look, feel and perform at their best.

I think this can largely be attributed to people eating mindlessly, not being conscious of what they are eating and how it makes them feel.

In our busy modern lives, when it feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day, we are trying to pack it all in. This has led to many people eating their meals while on their phones or on their laptops, working or answering emails. Possibly watching television while eating their dinner. All of these distractions have meant that people now are less mindful than ever of what they are eating and how it makes them feel.

In recent articles you will have noticed me talking about our body’s ability to tell us what we need, we just need to learn how to listen. 

Just as it is nearly impossible to have a proper conversation in a packed nightclub, it is nearly impossible to listen to what our body really needs when we are spending our meals eating mindlessly, being distracted by technology.

 The following are the steps to learning how to eat mindfully:

  • Notice and name how you feel before eating
  • Sit down at a table to eat your meal
  • Put away all technological distractions. Maybe listen to some music or have a conversation with someone
  • Eat slowly, really savour the flavours of the meal
  • Noticing and naming how you feel when you are eating the meal
  • Notice and name how you feel after the meal

If you can follow the six simple steps above and practice mindful eating consistently, you will avail of the following benefits:

  • You will enjoy your meals more
  • Your meal times will be an opportunity to destress and build quality relationships
  • You will begin to notice what foods make you feel good
  • You will notice how your emotions might influence your eating habits
  • You will notice what environments and situations help you make better choices

Simply speaking, when you eat mindfully you will become more aware of what makes you feel good. With this increased awareness you can choose to do more of the stuff that makes you feel good.

For me personally, I notice that when I eat real foods, slowly and with others – I feel a lot better. My digestion is better, I enjoy my food more,  I feel happier in general, make better choices and have better relationships with the people in my life.

This increased awareness might also tell you what does not work for you. Many of the people I help with nutrition have discovered a food intolerance or sensitivity that they never knew existed. 

Food intolerances or sensitivities occur when a person has difficulty digesting a certain food. Food intolerances and sensitivities involve the digestive system and are not to be confused with a food allergy.

Sometimes food intolerances or sensitives can be pretty mild, but when you identify them and remove that trigger food, you will feel a lot better and your digestive health will improve. For example, a few people might have been eating dairy for years and never noticed that it didn’t agree with them, but becoming more mindful when they eat, they began to notice and name that dairy was a trigger food for them. This is very individual and different people might be intolerant or sensitive to different foods.

The list of foods that someone could be intolerant or sensitive to could be anything. I have had some people find that they didn’t feel great when they ate beans and legumes, so we tried not eating them and they felt better.

Some important signs of a food intolerance or sensitivity are:

  • Cravings
  • Poor digestion
  • Gas, bloating and constipation
  • Brain fog
  • Fatigue
  • Poor mood
  • Joint pain
  • Acne or skin irritations

Simply speaking – eat the foods that make you feel good more often and decrease the frequency or eliminate the foods that don’t make you feel good. This is how learning to eat mindfully can make you feel awesome.

The three take home points about mindful eating are: 

  1. It will help you identify what makes you feel good.
  2. It will help you identify what doesn’t make you feel good.
  3. It will improve your relationship with food and your relationships with people around you.