FIONA SUTHERLAND FROM BODY POSITIVE AUSTRALIA EXPLORES HOW FOR SOME ATHLETES, MINDFUL EATING COULD BE THE MISSING INGREDIENT TO OPTIMAL PERFORMANCE.
These days, Mindfulness training and practice is commonly integrated into elite training programs, often through the psychology or counselling services. The positive and beneficial effects of mindfulness practice are very well researched, with fascinating recent research by the neuroscience team at the University of Massachusetts.*
The great news about mindfulness is that there are many possible applications of these practices to eating and the ways we interact with food. For athletes specifically, mindfulness is an approach which invites and guides athletes to approach fuelling a little differently. It does not ignore nutritional needs that are demanded by training and competition, but rather encourages athletes to use awareness and curiosity so that they learn to experiment, test their body’s responses and determine what works best for them whilst working alongside nutrition knowledge.
In other words, mindful eating is about bringing together the ideas of outer wisdom (nutrition knowledge) & inner wisdom (what we know & understand about ourselves and our bodies).
It’s common that athletes might struggle with either having not enough, or too much nutrition information available to them. This can lead to athletes being more susceptible to taking on messages that are unhelpful at best, unsafe at worst. We also know that, for a variety of reasons, athletes are also more at risk of disordered eating behaviours, and the mindfulness approaches can be a wonderful preventative or early intervention strategy to help athletes pay enough attention to their eating behaviours, without becoming over-focussed or fixated on food and eating.
Mindful Eating Can Help Athletes to:
~ Understand the body’s natural signals (hunger, fullness) and how/when to respond;
~ Determine when it’s most appropriate to over-ride these signals when fuelling is a priority.
~ Recognise their own cues or reasons for over-eating and/or under-fuelling.
~ Understand how to apply sports nutrition guidelines to their unique needs.
~ Learn how to eat for pleasure and nourishment whilst paying attention to overall nutritional needs for performance.
~ Develop a reflective and curious attitude to eating and fuelling, which reflects respect, care and consideration.
~ Balance training, recovery and rest.
~ Develop individualised strategies to support a long-term positive and healthy relationship with food and eating.
For some great tips on how to develop mindful eating techniques, check out Fiona’s video, One Mindful Bite at: