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Mindful Eating

Posted Mar 01 2011 9:59am

As I’ve said numerous times before , I’ve tried every diet out there. You name it, I’ve tried it. As a result I currently weigh more than I ever have.  What gives?

Some people are very successful counting calories or points or cutting back sugars, etc. For reasons I still don’t understand fully, this approach launched me into more than a decade of disordered eating.  It starting with restricting food and was soon followed by binging and purging.  I completely lost touch with my body’s needs and signals. I became a slave to the nutrition label.

The question I often ask myself now is, “What is normal eating? What is it like to eat when you are hungry, stop when you are full and let go of the guilt associated with food?” 

My first glimpse at the answer to these questions came at my recent retreat to Green Mountain at Fox Run .

One of the first things we were told was that we were to eat only in the dining room. No food was allowed in our individual rooms, the tv room or any other part of the Green Mountain facility. This served several purposes that I would soon find to be very useful.

 We weren’t bombarded with food everywhere we went. We didn’t watch someone munch on a snack while sitting in a session or talking with friends and  get triggered think, “That looks good, I think I’m hungry, too.” Food was available, but we had to think about whether or not we were hungry enough to go to the dining room and get a snack. That usually meant we would have to stop what we were doing, and more often than not….we found we weren’t that hungry after all.

That was the first lesson in mindful eating. There are many reasons we eat that have nothing to do with hunger. It is a social activity, a reward, a boredom buster, an emotion regulator. Sometimes we even eat without being aware of it at all, and often we continue eating after our bodies have had enough.

The next step of mindful eating is limiting distractions. Watching TV, driving, doing work, email, internet, etc interrupts your body’s ability to receive signals of satiety. Use meal times to focus on your food and your body’s response to the food.

This reminder was on every table at Green Mountain. I now have a copy on my refrigerator.

Eating Mindfully

Are you…

  • Hungry?
  • Tuned in to your hunger and appetite?
  • Focused on the food and how you feel as you eat?
  • Aware of the aroma and appearance of the food?
  • Eating slowly and savoring each bite?
  • Chewing thoroughly and concentrating on the taste, texture and temperature?
  • Checking your level of fullness and degree of satiety?
  • Relaxed and comfortable as you enjoy the eating experience?

For some of you, this level of awareness may come naturally. After years of dieting and not listening to my body, I need reminders to help me tune back in.

Eating mindfully is not a diet. There are no foods that are off limits and there is no counting. Eating mindfully is about eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are satisfied. It is about enjoying food but not using it to regulate emotions, reward or punish. Finally, it is about eating foods that you enjoy but that also make your body feel good.

Are you a mindful eater?

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