Feb 2, 2024

Mindful Eating is a Rebellion Against Resolutions

Ella Parry discusses her switch to mindful eating as a response to January's restrictive food trends, highlighting the importance of paying attention to meals.

Ella ParryFood and Drink Editor
Lucy Sherry for The University Times

The start of a new year is a terrifying time. When January rolls around, gyms fill up and everybody seems to have turned vegan. Not standard vegan – no, that would be too easy. Gluten-free while only eating those vegetables (not fruit, that would be far too much sugar!) that fall onto your plate. If food does not actively pursue you, you are not supposed to eat it. If it wanted to, it would! In all honesty, full gyms are not something I have experienced personally as the glass front of the Trinity Gym terrifies me: I might as well do Yoga on Pearse Street and would probably have both more space and privacy. 

While I can only hypothesise about the state of gyms in January, a yearly renaissance of restrictive food trends is something I can attest to. You only have to open TikTok or Instagram to be bombarded with creators showing you how easy and life-changing it is to heal your gut. No really, you only have to do a liver cleanse, throw away all your frying pans, give up caffeine (fat chance), and break off any contact with people who fail to see the act of eating carbs as high treason. Do not get me wrong, I would love a healed gut. But I also enjoy my life and occasional free time and apparently, they are mutually exclusive. 

I am always fascinated by discoveries concerning health and nutrition and am anxious to learn more in order to make more informed decisions about my eating habits. However, I am not interested at all in being told to heal my gut in a fashion reminiscent of Tumblr diet culture. I know Kate Moss said nothing tastes as good as being skinny feels, but I doubt she has ever had a Spice Bag. Not only are restrictive food trends harmful, but – at least for weak-minded people such as myself – they are not sustainable. In my eyes, banning foods just makes them so much more appealing. For this year, I have decided not to attempt to restrict myself in what to eat but rather to change the manner in which I eat. I have been trying to eat mindfully.


Like many people in my demographic, I am very guilty of distracting myself during meals. What do I mean by this? Watching Netflix and YouTube, checking my phone or even listening to music. Most college students I have talked to view this behaviour as normal unless eating in company. I live on my own, which seems to facilitate meal-time distractions. There is something so cosy about sitting down with your bowl of food and watching your comfort show. I mean, what am I going to do while I eat – blankly stare at my food? Apparently, this is exactly what I should be doing. 

Until recently, I was unaware of the importance of the cephalic – or cerebral – phase of digestion. It is activated by food cues like smelling or even just looking at food. Your senses focus on what you are about to eat and prepare the body for digestion. As so many things our body does on the day-to-day, it is fascinating and makes a lot of sense. However, ignorant people such as myself decide to mess with the body’s complex plans and distract themselves and their senses from their food. If our eyes, our nose, and our touch are focused on other sensations leading up to and during our meals, the cephalic phase fails to be properly triggered. This, much like chronic stress, is linked to low vagal activity which disturbs the body’s gastrointestinal function

Who knew that you can not only eat the wrong things but also eat in the wrong way? I always enjoy discovering new dimensions in which I can fall short! With this specific issue, I decided to take a deep breath and actually change my behaviour. I enjoy keeping people on their toes. What I find appealing about mindful eating is that it creates an antithesis to those restrictive eating trends and resolutions I mentioned earlier. Adding to that, there is no equipment or expertise required. The Golden Rule is made up of one do and one don’t: DO focus on your food with all your senses and DON’T distract yourself. In that sense, it is also an egalitarian resolution as it costs no money because it does not require any additional resources.

Since starting my resolution a few weeks ago, I have realised just how addicted I am to food-time entertainment. It is ridiculous how difficult it was to sit down, put my phone away and not open my laptop. This reaction made me more resolute and determined to break this, honestly embarrassing, habit of mine. What kind of twenty-one-year-old cannot spend a meal alone with her thoughts and her food? 

If you embark on this journey with me, you will be able to improve your eating habits by changing nothing whatsoever about what you eat. As an additional benefit, it would also make me feel less alone in my suffering. I know it is slightly too late to pitch a New Year’s resolution but this could be your February resolution or something to do during Lent to appease your religious grandmother. One warning must be issued: Embarking on this mission will give you a ridiculous god-complex. You will see people eating mindlessly on the go everywhere and think to yourself: tut tut tut… those iPad kids!

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