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 which can be found here.
The great news about mindfulness for Dietitians 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 the many & varied nutritional demands of 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
Fiona Sutherland, APD