By Cheryl Wasserman, MA, LPC, NCC
Mindful eating is a way of eating that can create a whole new relationship with food. It provides us with an opportunity to pay close attention to the wisdom of our bodies as opposed to the judgmental, harsh and simultaneously demanding, insatiable voice in our head. It grants us space to calm ourselves as we prepare a meal and again before we begin to eat so we can be totally present for the experience. When we are aware of the process of eating, we might notice that we are satisfied with much less food.
Mindfulness is paying attention on purpose to what is happening in the present moment without judgment, or, in other words, being aware of what we’re doing, and letting go of any judgments we might have about it.
When we bring mindfulness to eating we use all of our senses to be totally present in the moment to taste and savor what is before us.
As we become more mindful, we might begin to notice our habitual thoughts, attitudes and moods that stimulate us to turn to food when we’re not really hungry. We might notice that we feel we can never get enough food. With more mindfulness we might begin to explore the issue of whether there is something missing in our lives. What is it that we are truly hungering for?
The void we feel that we’re trying to fill with food might be a need for connection with others, or to find a more meaningful job, or for spirituality, or a need for more fun in our lives. No matter how much food we try to stuff into that void, it will remain empty because food is not the solution to the problem.
We might think, “The problem is that I love food too much.” If we love food so much, why do we eat while driving, reading a book, or while watching TV? The problem is not only that there is no awareness of the food, but also that there is no awareness of the body so that we can follow the cues it gives us about hunger and fullness. We just eat and eat until the food is gone. We relinquish control of our food intake and allow whatever amount is piled on our plate to determine how much we consume.
Through the use of mindful eating, we can slow down, bringing ourselves into the present moment as we begin to eat. We automatically calm ourselves and begin to notice what was there all along but has been out of our awareness. We are able to savor our food so that we can eat like a food connoisseur as opposed to a food glutton, stopping when our bodies are satisfied.
Bringing mindfulness to eating in this way opens the door for us to slow down our hectic pace several times each day as we mindfully are aware of our careful process of preparing food for ourselves and, perhaps, others. We then can sit down to enjoy our meal, experiencing the nurturance that comes from paying attention to what we are doing on purpose.
Published in Food for Thought, Spring 2014 Issue. A publication of The Center for Mindful Eating.