Mindfulness for trainers: how to become a mindful eater
In part ten of this content series on how to become a mindful trainer, Kay Buckby, facilitator at The Development Company, explains why training professionals neglect their diet at work and how to give yourself more space to enjoy food while working.
This month, I am sharing a technique that has improved my health and that of many trainers I’ve shared it with.
Some years ago, we recruited a trainer on a one-year contract. Over that year, she put on a stone and a half in weight. I remember her saying, “I can’t believe I’ve put on so much weight. I don’t feel that I overeat”.
A trainer’s life can be a hectic one involving:
- Early starts to travel to a client.
- Setting up the room, the environment, and checking equipment – all of which can be time consuming. This usually means having a hurriedly scoffed banana or breakfast bar in the morning.
- Everyone wants to speak to you during breaks, and at lunchtime.
- Training days are treats for attendees, but too many biscuits, cakes, and carbohydrate heavy buffets can take their toll if this is your normal workday. It is easy to overeat when you are eating ‘tasty’ treat food mindlessly.
All of this can add up over time and can start to affect your long-term health.
A focus on others, rather than yourself
Eating mindfully is something I am great at when I eat my dinner at home. I tend to eat slowly, putting my cutlery down between each mouthful, enabling me to savour the taste of my food.
When I am training, however, I become ‘others focused’, and I have found myself scoffing a sandwich down without noticing.
I remember one of my learners saying to me ‘wasn’t that sandwich delicious – I loved the pesto dressing’. I couldn’t have even told them what I’d eaten, let alone whether I’d enjoyed it or not. I could feel the indigestion, however, as my body complained to me.
Connecting with our food not only heightens our enjoyment of eating, it also enables better digestion and health.
Eating is a great pleasure in life. We are often complacent about having lovely food on offer, and so much choice of food.
To eat our food hurriedly is like running through the Tate gallery, where you miss savouring each painting, and each piece of art.
When you eat slowly, you connect with your food – it helps to imagine the sun that shone, the farmer who tended the soil and the rain that fell to grow the carrot that you are now crunching. It enhances your enjoyment.
Shifting your mindset
A lot of us (including myself) have mindsets about foods that we think we like and dislike, which means we stick to a narrow band of food options.
I ran a mindful raisin eating exercise once, and someone said, “I hate raisins! I can’t do this.” (Imagine those words being said in the tone of a four year old.)
One of their colleagues said, “how old are you?”, and the delegate chose to take part and eat one raisin mindfully.
After the exercise, he said, “I actually really enjoyed the taste of that!” Think of the learning for each of us!
Tips to eating mindfully when training
- Firstly, mindful eating is about savouring the moment. Try a piece of hot buttered toast, with nothing on it. Chew for at least ten chews, and savour the flavours of the food. Hold awareness of the temptation to rush to the next bite, by putting the toast back onto the plate, and placing your hands in your lap. Have awareness of the movement of swallowing. Connecting with our food like this not only heightens our enjoyment of eating, it also enables better digestion and health.
- Once you practice mindful eating, you’ll find a bowl of porridge may take 10-20 minutes to eat. You’ll eat less, and you will have more room for digestion as a result.
- When I travel, I plan my breakfast the night before. I usually choose a chia seed pudding, which takes minutes to prepare, and travels well in a small cool box. I build in time for a break, a proper rest, and I sit and eat my food at a service area or picnic area, sometimes closing my eyes as I chew my food.
- I always sit and eat now – eating on the go is not mindful, and it is so easy to get digestion problems if we are walking, thinking, and eating. Plus, we’re multi-tasking, and not living mindfully.
- During lunch and breaks I savour my food. Before, I’d be constantly available for everyone in the room. Now, I’ve realised that I can’t pour from an empty cup. At the start of the day, and I explain to my group that I need my breaks for toilet breaks, a quick walk in the fresh air, and to eat my food mindfully. I’ve found people respond positively to this. I give post-it notes and have a questions flipchart. I ask, ‘who fancies a five-minute walk with me?’, and I connect with people on social media to keep the discussion going. I stay after the course to answer questions, and protect my eating time during the day.
- At lunch, I explain that I will be eating whilst seated. I find participants stand and chat 80% of the time – does anyone else find that? I guess before, I used to stand and join them, too. This enables me to have my space. Ten minutes ‘me’ time to enjoy my food mindfully isn’t asking much, is it?
- I take a prepared salad if the client can’t provide me with a salad.
I have found eating mindfully has positively affected my training. Through awareness, I have the opportunity to nourish myself in body and mind.
You might also be interested in
Kay uses a learner driven, experiential approach in her work. She is always prepared to be challenged with unusual development requests, and often uses actors for drama workshops to embed knowledge, skills and attitudenal change.
Kay has held a variety of roles in her career - sales and marketing, office manager, HR person, Financial...