To be mindful is to be attentive, intuitive and conscientious. These adjectives are not typically used to describe the eating patterns of most Americans. We live in a culture where eating is usually an afterthought, something to satisfy hunger, emotions and boredom. For some, it is even an inconvenience.
Three big factors that influence our ability or desire to eat mindfully are food rules, manipulation from the media and a perceived lack of time.
1. Food rules
Breakfast is from 6-10am, lunch at noon and dinner before 7pm. While our bodies like patterns and consistency, these implicit guidelines imply that there is only a small window of opportunity to seek out certain nutrients. We have learned to listen to external cues rather than internal cues for resolution on when, where, what and how much to eat.
2. Media manipulation
Food marketers are experts in knowing what piques consumer’s interest and attention. Visual seductions, fat shaming and playing with the chemicals in our brain have all been successful schemes in putting diners under a spell. When we turn inward for answers, we are able to resist marketing temptations and disarm their tactics.
3. Lack of time
I hear it all the time: I just don’t have the time. Kids, career, finances, fatigue, stress—you name it, all stand in the way of being more thoughtful in how we think about food. I really believe that lack of time translates to lack of priority because when we stop and think about it, we make time for the things that are important to us.
Since we eat 3+ times a day and food is a big indicator of our health and the quality of our lives, my hope is that over time more and more people understand how important what, when, where, why and how we eat really is—with mind intact.