Mindful Eating

mindfuleatingA friend of mine had the above picture in her facebook feed this morning and it got me thinking about mindful eating.  I gave it some thought, and I guess I’m of two minds when it comes to mindful eating.  There are many different definitions of eating mindfully.  From making sure that what you put on your plate is exactly what you crave, to setting the table with candles and linens and enjoying every bite, to eating alone and in silence to tune in to every morsel to putting your fork down between every bite to slow down the eating process.

On the one hand, I think there are some good ideas here.  I think it’s important to eat food that tastes delicious to you.  I think it’s a great idea to focus on enjoyment when you are eating and allow your body to extract pleasure from your food as well as nutrients.  I think I enjoy my food more when I am not eating in front of the television.  And I think I deserve wonderful meals with candlelight and tablecloths and even fresh flowers. In general, I think food tastes better when I am hungry and less wonderful when I am already full.

But I think mindful eating can taste a little bit like dieting when the rules become too rigid.  I think food tastes better when every bite is savored, but putting the fork down between each bite or chewing a prescribed number of times feels like restriction to me.  And sometimes I want to get together with my husband or my extended family or a group of friends and enjoy a meal together.  I think it’s important to enjoy not only the food I’m eating, but also the company I’m with.  And sometimes, I just want to eat a hotdog at a ball game or eat pizza in front of the TV.  And I think in a healthy food life, all of these things should be allowed and savored.

I think I am most in tune with those mindful eating experts who recommend spending some time learning to get in touch with your body if your relationship with food and eating has gotten really out of whack.  If you’ve never really learned to distinguish between when you are starving and stuffed, it makes sense to take some quiet time eating alone to sort that stuff out.  And there’s been a fair amount of work done that points out that distracted eating can often mean that you don’t get as much enjoyment out of food and feel less satisfied.  I believe this is true.  But I also believe that hot dogs taste better at the ball park and chips and salsa taste best at a restaurant with a few great friends and a lot of laughter.

In other words, I think mindful eating is wonderful, helpful and beautiful–in moderation.

I’d love to hear what you think!  Just drop me a note in the comments box.

Love,

The Fat Chick

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3 thoughts on “Mindful Eating

  1. wickedbelle

    I’ve been studying mindful/intuitive eating over the last six months or so and I notice a few things:

    1. Like you, I tend to chafe at anything that smacks of restriction. And my relationship with food has been so weird over the last 20 years that I was one of those people that needed to slow down and have a come-to-Jesus with it, and that meant really, really freeing myself of any restrictions around food. (For a while, I referred to this process as “eating without a net.”) At the same time, I’ll try anything once — for instance, there are times when I try to eat with all five of my senses engaged. Noticing how the food smells, tastes, feels, looks, and sounds is kind of cool. Especially when the food in question is an Egg McMuffin. Man, those things are such an interesting tapestry of textures and flavor combinations when you really slow down and pay attention to ’em. 🙂

    2. Mindfulness has helped me break myself of some of the old, toxic “diet rules” that used to govern my eating and cause me to swing wildly from deprivation to over-indulgence and back again. I pay so much more attention now to what I REALLY want to eat. Sometimes it’s pizza and beer, sometimes it’s kale and whole wheat pasta. Whatever it is I want, I go with it — and I can say with certainty that I never used to give this much thought to the food I want. (It was always more a question of, “what *should* I eat?” or “what am I *allowed* to eat?)

    3. Ancillary to #2 is noticing how I feel — physically more than mentally — when I eat X vs. when I eat Y. I try to do it without judging my food choices and I’m getting better at that. (I have screwy metabolism and other not-fun symptoms thanks to an underactive thyroid, and over the past year I’ve been trying to find the right balance of medication, food, and activity to optimize my energy and overall feeling of wellness.) So paying attention to how I feel after eating this vs. that is helpful, too.

    Reply

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