How Meditation, Marriage and a Cancer Diagnosis Changed the Way This Tech Entrepreneur Eats
Headspace co-founder Andy Puddicombe on mindful eating, going vegan and his love of artisanal chocolate.
Most of us wish that we ate a little healthier, but according to meditation app Headspace co-founder Andy Puddicombe, there’s a different approach we should be taking when it comes to looking at the connection between ourselves and our food. “Mindfulness has less to do with what we eat and more to do with how we eat,” Puddicombe says. “Somewhat inevitably though, as we slow down and become more aware of what we are eating, we often end up making some changes to our diet.”
Years before co-founding Headspace, Puddicombe, now 44, spent a decade training as a Buddhist monk, studying in Nepal, India, Myanmar, Thailand, Australia and Russia, before setting up his own meditation consultancy in 2006 back in the U.K. In 2013, three years after launching Headspace, which has since gone on to become one of the most successful apps in its category, he wrote The Headspace Guide To... Mindful Eating, a book designed to help you better understand your relationship with food. However, Puddicombe's strong connection to food dates even further back into his childhood when he worked in a restaurant kitchen in his native Bristol from the ages of 11 to 17.
We spoke to him about mindful eating and how his diet has changed since moving to southern California, getting married, having kids and battling testicular cancer, all in the past 10 years.
How do you define the connection between diet and mindfulness?
For anyone not familiar with mindful eating, it’s really the practice of eating without distraction. Obviously, this is easier to do when we are alone, but, with practice, it’s quite possible to do this when enjoying and sharing food with others, too. The result is that we feel more in tune with our senses, we begin to appreciate and enjoy our food that little bit more and we begin to develop a healthy relationship with our diet.
How have your eating habits changed since becoming a father?
Both my wife and myself have always been passionate about food and nutrition, and parenthood has not changed that. The biggest change to our diet was just before our first child arrived. I got testicular cancer and, post-op, we decided to not only go vegan, but to also go exclusively raw, for a year. There were many aspects to my recovery, but this was a key part of a holistic approach. It really set the tone for how we have chosen to eat in the years since and whilst it is considerably more relaxed now, that way of eating is still very much part of our and our children’s lives.
What are some of your family’s favorite meals to share together?
While we experiment with new things once in awhile, we definitely have a few staples that we enjoy together. Tofu Thai curry is usually atop the list and jackfruit curry comes up pretty often too, usually with Indian spices, though. We all have a sweet tooth, so my wife’s homemade chocolate-orange vegan ice cream usually goes down well. However, our collective favorite is probably a weekend breakfast, whether it’s homemade granola with coconut yogurt or avocado and chili flakes on toast, it’s the one time in the week we all get to share food free from any time constraints.
How often do you cook at home?
Headspace keeps me pretty busy, so I’m very fortunate to be married to someone who likes to cook. It’s something I look forward to doing more of in the future, though, as it’s something I love to do. I studied cooking and nutrition growing up and worked in a restaurant kitchen on nights and weekends from the age of 11 to 17. It was so rewarding and gave me a lifelong appreciation of food, and wine for that matter.
What are your guilty pleasure foods that you still enjoy from time to time?
Well, the foods that I enjoy that some might consider guilty pleasures are probably of the sweet variety, namely chocolate and ice cream. About 10 years ago, a friend in London introduced me to the world of artisan chocolate. It quickly became a passion and I continue to hunt down strange, unusual or exceptional chocolate bars from around the world. I have one mindful square following dinner each night—unless there’s a truly amazing bar lying around, and then I might have a square upon waking, too.