By Katie Sheen FdSc, DipION, PGCE, MA.Education
Mindfulness & Mindful Eating Practitioner, Educator & Speaker
Identifying foods that cause skin reactions is notoriously difficult. So how can mindfulness help?
A foundation of mindfulness is to bring your attention to your breath, and hence to how your body feels as it is breathing. This enables you to get to know your body better, so that if it does react to a food, even in a delayed way, you are much more likely to read the signals clearly.
If you do suspect that a certain food is causing you problems, start recording what you eat and drink for a week without changing anything. Every day, spend time getting to know your body and breath, also without changing anything. That means sitting quietly with both feet flat on the floor, your spine straight and your hands in your lap. If you’re in a public place, leave your eyes open and soften your gaze as if daydreaming, but if you can, close your eyes to help you focus more clearly: notice the rise and fall of your rib cage and chest.
- What does your breathing feel like?
Then become curious about your body:
- Where is it tense or relaxed?
- Is there any pain, discomfort, tingling, itchiness?
- Where feels healthy and strong?
After a few minutes, open your eyes and write down what you have noticed. Play with this at different times of day. Do you feel different in the morning compared to just after breakfast, lunch or supper?
Ensure you use a “compassionate curiosity:” be a kindly detective trying to see patterns. Don’t judge what you find, or believe it should be different. Simply notice how your body is feeling, smile to it, and be gentle in your investigation. Imagine your body is a new friend who is just starting to trust you enough to tell you their deepest secrets.
After a week, see if your body has given you any clues to add to the information in your food diary. Look at which foods stand out as being high in your diet:
Which one do you want to eliminate for two weeks? If you choose gluten, please ask your doctor for a Coeliac test first, because if you do have an issue with gluten but then eliminate it, this may give false results if you are then tested.
Then commit to eliminating this one food whole heartedly: so if you eliminate dairy, don’t sneak yourself even one square of milk chocolate! It is really important that you do the experiment carefully. Keep checking in with your body a few times each day, just for a few minutes: by this time, hopefully you are getting to know each other better and would miss this “me time” if you forgot to do it.
After a fortnight, go wild! If you’ve been eliminating dairy, have a yoghurt or a glass of milk. If you eliminated gluten, have a sandwich: but afterwards, check in with your body immediately and again 30 minutes, an hour and two hours after you have eaten the previously eliminated food. Keep listening to your body for a couple of days. If the food is a trigger for your skin issues, the response may well be obvious now that you know your body so much better. If there is no response, reintroduce the food that you have been avoiding, and eliminate something else for a fortnight: but by focusing on one food at a time, the picture should become clearer.
A pleasant side effect of this is that you’ll have got to know your body better, and together you can work as a more effective, caring partnership in all aspects of life.
To keep track of your foods and feelings, you can use the free Mindful Eating Food Diary ‘Nourish’ on your mobile by logging into the Soul Nutrition website @ www.soulnutrition.org. Have fun uploading selfies of facial expressions instead of photos of food to record how you’re feeling: and the best way to see patterns is to check in once a week on a large laptop screen.
If you start to think too much about your food and body, let your mind have fun with the free ‘Appreciating Windowsills’ app, available to download free from www.soulnutrition.org - it’s designed to help you find happiness in the present moment, whatever you may or may not be eating…. and the happier you feel, the easier it is to make supportive food choices.
Enjoy your journey of discovery!