eating mindfully

Mindful Eating and Seasonal Eating: How to get out of seasonal autopilot

tomatoes from my garden last year

The peak of a season is a great time to take notice of the thoughts that pass through our minds relating to the time of year and how we should eat.  We're having a mini heatwave here in England (OK, a few days of unbroken sunshine anyway), and it reminded me of all of the seasonal food rules, beliefs and barriers that people carry with them.  They tend to go something like his - "I won't be able to keep losing weight come the Winter because I won't be able to keep having all of these salads", or "how will I be able to keep eating those cholesterol-busting oats regularly when it's just not porridge weather?"

No need to be critical of yourself for having these thoughts - most of us have them.  All the same it's good to notice them, and pause lightly with the possibility that they might not be entirely true.  Warm salads, gazpacho and bircher muesli all say it ain't so.

A few suggestions for getting out of seasonal autopilot:

  • Eat outside whenever you get the chance.  Yes, it is lovely, but also it gets us away from all of the distractions inside our house (gadgets, TVs, the untidy mess).  And sitting in a different seat with a different perspective is a great way to get out of autopilot and bring us into the present.
  • Notice what your personal seasonal food "dos and don'ts" are. Can you be curious about what alternative theories there might be?  Maybe cold soup really is an awesome idea
  • Spend some time noticing how your body feels at this time of year. Perhaps this has an influence on how or what you want to eat?  My long-standing back problem is definitely more niggly in the Winter, which can make me cranky, which can make me more likely to eat food "as a treat", because I deserve cheering up.
  • How do you spend your leisure time in this season? Is your routine different?  Summer can see long days out and about or in the garden which might be enjoyable and helpfully non-food focused, but might leave little time for food preparation and shopping, or unusually long gaps between eating.
  • If you can afford to and have the time, get out there and buy your food where it has just been pulled from the ground / plucked from the tree / cut from the plant

That January feeling - meeting it mindfully

However you are feeling today, be it full, tired, bloated, guilty, rested, unhealthy, reticent or raring to go, just know that this feeling with pass in its own time and be replaced by some another feeling.  One of the wonders of being human.

Maybe you’re not feeling great about how you’ve looked after yourself over last few weeks.  Maybe you’re full of vim and vigour to eat healthily and exercise in 2014.  Whichever it is, this is just how you’re feeling now.  So no need to be critical or embark on a strict regime of cabbages or lemons.  Come next week, all will feel different again.

winter berries

Another way to choose your comfort food

Some come to mindfulness and mindful eating with a goal of eliminating comfort eating from their lives.  It doesn't take a big leap to see how making a really rigid goal out of this intention can become another form of punishment and a target for rumination and regret.  It’s completely normal human behaviour to sometimes turn to food to see if it will lighten an unpleasant mood. What can be a problem is when eating is our only and overused strategy for making ourself feel better .

What our alternative strategies might be is a whole topic for another day, but there is another factor that we can bring into play. We can experiment with, and really pay attention to how the foods we choose for comfort make us feel. 

We might habitually turn to something sweet, crunchy or creamy to do the job, but one some days might we be better served by something warm and brothy, or bland and chewy? 

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