There is an old cliche which suggests that “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” While many unquestioningly believe this to be true, many more do not have the practice of consuming breakfast regularly. Studies have shown that daily breakfast consumption was not a habit for individuals (Vereecken et al., 2009).
Demographically, this was more pronounced among older adolescents, including SOSS students. This is a concern as consuming breakfast has been shown to have multiple benefits for individuals. Similarly, eating mindfully has been suggested to have cognitive and lifestyle benefits for individuals. However, there remains little research that has investigated the concurrent benefits that consuming breakfast mindfully can bring. Thus our group seeks to address this gap by looking into how SOSS students can enhance the positive effects of breakfast by pairing it with mindful eating.
Our group believes that the best way for young adults to begin the day is for them to develop the habit of consuming regular breakfast, combined with a consistent practice of eating mindfully.
Overall, the literature on breakfast is well-established and generally suggests that consuming breakfast is a beneficial practice that is crucial to how individuals start the day. Broadly, the positive effects associated with the regular consumption of breakfast can be categorised into nutritional, physiological and psychological benefits.
First, breakfast consumption was associated with nutritional benefits such as the increased intake of energy, nutrients (such as vitamins A & D, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Zinc) and fibre with a corresponding reduction in fat uptake (Barr, Di Francesvo & Fulgoni, 2011).
Second, breakfast consumption was associated with physiological advantages. For instance, Atsbury, Taylor and Macdonald (2011) found that the consumption of breakfast influenced the metabolic and hormonal response to food consumed by individuals throughout the rest of the day thus having an impact on the maintenance of a healthy body weight.
Third, breakfast was found to have numerous psychological benefits. Cognitively, breakfast has been associated with benefits such as improved academic performance (Lien, 2006; Adolphus, Lawton & Dye, 2013). Conversely, missing breakfast has been shown to have a negative impact on memory (Benton & Parker, 1998). Crucially, studies have found that breakfast consumption had a positive impact on an individual’s mood. Smith, Clark and Gallagher (1999) found that Individuals that consumed breakfast had a more positive mood, performed better on a spatial memory task, and felt calmer. Further, Smith and Wild (2009) discovered that individuals who consumed a cereal breakfast each day were less depressed, less emotionally distressed and had lower levels of perceived stress than those who did not eat breakfast each day.
Our group wanted to know if it was truly worthwhile to incorporate mindful practices in our days as university students and what better way than to do it first thing in the morning during breakfast. Youths in the 21st century face a health epidemic vastly different from our predecessors, living in a hyperconnected and globalised world that experiences rapid technological advancements. Stress, anxiety and depression have become dangerously pervasive. Being bombarded with the daily tasks and pressures, we often eat on auto-pilot. Instead of doing things out of mere habit or reaction, mindfulness encourages us to come back to awareness, to the present, to engage the flow of intention in our actions (Zabat-Zinn, 2013).
How so, exactly? Mindfulness invites us to sit uninterrupted with our food. We actively pause and release our minds from highly conditioned reactivity and gradually improve our emotional self-regulation by committing to be in the present even as we partake our food. Like many other skills, mindfulness requires practice and commitment. Results may not be as direct or expedient as one would like, but when we choose to eat mindfully right at the beginning of the day, we are sending signals to our minds such that it is aware that it no longer wants to react to stress the same way. To examine the positive implication of mindful eating on our mood and distress level, our group conducted a fun and short study involving all five of us.
Method: To gauge the effects of eating breakfast mindfully, all five group members ate breakfast every morning over a span of 10 days. For the first 5 days, some members ate mindfully while the others ate as they would regularly. For the next 5 days, group members had eaten mindfully for the previous 5 days ate breakfast normally and vice versa. Members measured their moods and documented any other sensations they felt after eating mindfully.
Measures: Two variables were measured over the 10-day duration--the first was a measure of positive or negative affect using the PANAS scales (Watson, Clark & Tellegen, 1988), and the second was an open-ended qualitative measure of other emotions or feelings experienced during and after mindfully eating breakfast. At the end of every meal, group members filled out the PANAS questionnaire and reported any other personal observations they made.
Additionally, Framson et al’s Mindful Eating Questionnaire was adapted to measure if group members had indeed eaten breakfast mindfully. The original questionnaire comprises five factors, but for the purpose of this experiment we only measured two--awareness of the various sensory stimulus and distraction experienced while eating. To ensure that the experience of eating mindfully was standardized across all five group members, a mindful eating audio recording was used to guide the process.
At the end of the 10-day period, the group convened to discuss and compare their experiences of eating mindfully versus non-mindfully.
For results, we looked at three aspects. Firstly, the impact of mindful eating on positive affect. We observed that with mindful eating, three out of five of us experienced an increase in positive affect, with the remaining two experiencing a decrease and no changes in positive affect respectively. Secondly, the impact of mindful eating on negative affect. We observed that with mindful eating, the majority of us (four out of five) experienced a decrease in negative affect, with one of us experiencing no change. Lastly, the impact of mindful eating on distress level. We observed that with mindful eating, three out of five of us have experienced a decline in distress level, with the remaining two experiencing an increase in distress level.
Generally, as quoted from all the members, mindful eating has allowed us to “slow down and appreciate our food”, “relax”, “remain calm” and “think through their day”. It seems like mindful eating does have positive benefits and contributes to our reflection and well-being from our experiences during the study.
Our group believes that mindful eating has been positive for us as it helped us improve our mood, especially after we eat breakfast. However, we feel that the effects of mindful eating might be short-lived and has led us to believe that we might have engaged in Mcmindfulness. Some problems are that there might be a possibility of a self-reporting bias. Also, breakfast is only a fraction of the day, hence our results alone might not be enough to be generalised to other activities. For future research, we recommend that activities like yoga and showering to be incorporated at the start of the day.
By Tan Rui Lie Eugene, Koh Rui Lin Nerissa, Jermaine Ng Jia Min, Lim Pei Shan, Akanksha Kumar
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Framson, C., Kristal, A. R., Schenk, J. M., Littman, A. J., Zeliadt, S., & Benitez, D. (2009). Development and validation of the mindful eating questionnaire. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 109(8), 1439-1444.
Kabat-Zinn, Jon. (2013). “Introduction to the Second Edition,” “The Foundations of Mindfulness Practice: Attitudes and Commitment,” and “Responding to Stress Instead of Reacting.” Full Catastrophe Living Revised. Pp 335 - 349.
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