What is Mindful Eating? International Mindful Eating Day – January 28th, 2016

Tomorrow, January 28th is Mindful Eating Day sponsored by The Center for Mindful Eating. It is designed to celebrate the joy of eating, and I fully support that! We find that our guests have had many negative experiences around food, lack trust in their ability to self-regulate their food intake or are concerned with what and how to eat. We feel this is representative of the population at large, and is often fueled by fear-based nutrition information. Tomorrow, and any day you choose to eat mindfully, you have the opportunity to challenge those beliefs and re-create a joyful relationship with food.

For those unfamiliar with the principles of Mindful Eating, below are bullet points describing mindfulness, mindful eating and characteristics of mindful eaters quoted from The Center for Mindful Eating website:

Principles of Mindfulness:

  • Mindfulness is deliberately paying attention, non-judgmentally, in the present moment.
  • Mindfulness encompasses both internal processes and external environments.
  • Mindfulness is being aware of your thoughts, emotions and physical sensations in the present moment.
  • With practice, mindfulness cultivates the possibility of freeing yourself of reactive, habitual patterns of thinking, feeling and acting.
  • Mindfulness promotes balance, choice, wisdom and acceptance of what is.

Mindful Eating is:

  • Allowing yourself to become aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities that are available through food selection and preparation by respecting your own inner wisdom.
  • Using all your senses in choosing to eat food that is both satisfying to you and nourishing to your body.
  • Acknowledging responses to food (likes, dislikes or neutral) without judgment.
  • Becoming aware of physical hunger and satiety cues to guide your decisions to begin and end eating.

Someone Who Eats Mindfully:

  • Acknowledges that there is no right or wrong way to eat but varying degrees of awareness surrounding the experience of food.
  • Accepts that their eating experiences are unique.
  • Is an individual who by choice, directs their attention to eating on a moment-by-moment basis.
  • Gains awareness of how they can make choices that support health and well being.

Becomes aware of the interconnection of earth, living beings, and cultural practices and the impact of their food choices on those systems.

We can see from this that essentially Mindful Eating is the practice of bringing conscious, mindful awareness to your food choices and your body?s intuitive signals while engaging all your senses to make the experience satisfying and nourishing to both your body and your mind. Anecdotally, we see this kind of eating experience being practiced regularly in other countries with noted benefits to their health. In our busy and hectic lifestyle, we rarely make the time to approach food in this way.

Mindful Eating allows you to approach every eating experience as a NEW experience instead of functioning on autopilot and defaulting to past negative experiences, emotions and behaviors. You can start to let go of old beliefs and experiences that don?t serve you. You can create a new relationship with food that is healthy, vibrant, accepting, respectful and loving. Over time, as your mind and body heal from any trauma around food, you will start to see that food respects you when you respect it with your time, attention and positive vibe.

So I encourage you to try it. Some helpful hints:

1.  Let yourself feel satisfaction from your meals. Don?t fight it. Some are scared to feel full and satisfied – but this is the solution to food issues.

2.  Base decisions on what, when and how much to eat on how you feel RIGHT NOW not on what you ate yesterday or what you are eating later. Do the same when later comes.

3.  Being aware of how you are sensing your food (appearance, taste, smell, touch, sound) will be a great replacement for any past judgments you may have about it. If you notice your mind wandering to judgement or anxiety about the food, gently bring your mind back to your senses.

4.  When you are not eating, allow your mind to focus on what you are doing rather than ruminating over what you ate or are going to eat. This is only possible when you leave the table satisfied, otherwise it?s easy to remain preoccupied with food. If you find yourself feeling anxious and guilty or shameful about food choices, gently bring your mind to your current situation.

5.  Aim to eat in a relaxed environment free from distractions.

This level of consciousness could feel hyperaware, and it will if eating has been mindless in the past. But remember – being conscious, mindful and aware has the potential to add richness to your experiences. Being disinterested, apathetic, preoccupied or obsessed will exhaust you.

Will you join me in eating mindfully?

Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD