Mindful Eating

by Kristen McClure Therapist
(Charlotte NC)

Mindful Eating

Recently much has been written on the benefits of mindfulness in every day life. Specifically mindfulness and meditation ( a vehicle to mindfulness) have been shown to reduce anxiety and depression and to help with physical manifestations of stress and illness.

I am reading several books on mindful eating which I find fascinating. Many of the adult women I work with have self esteem issues that are tied to their weight. Their relationship with food is a source of great distress for them. There is a constant struggling with this issue and in the process their minds, thoughts and behaviors get out of sync with their physical body. Mindful eating teaches us how to pay attention to whats really going on before we eat, and while we eat. It really requires that we give up dieting all together, and have faith that we can reconnect with our body's natural rhythm. It teaches us how to feed our bodies healthily. It teaches us how to feed our bodies with wisdom. This helps us to ease our unhappiness and dissatisfaction.

One of the concepts that I find most helpful is the idea that mindless eating is not just mindlessly munching. Dieting, is in fact mindless eating. Dieting is considered mentally and physically unhealthy and reinforcing of all the states of mind that cause us distress. Overeating is also considered mindless. I grew up thinking food restriction, discipline, and a rigid exercise regimen were the marks of a successful women. Until I started learning about mindful eating, I was never able to challenge the validity of these ideas.

One of my favorite concepts in mindful eating is that there are seven kinds hunger. Eye hunger, mouth hunger ,nose hunger, stomach hunger, cellular hunger, mind hunger and heart hunger. When you learn an understand the different kinds of hunger, you can choose a different path to fulfill your need, or more mindfully make a choice about what kind of food to eat.

Eye hunger is when we are tricked by our vision into thinking we are hungry. When we

are full at a restaurant, see that tray of beautiful desserts and order one, that's eye hunger. Mindful eating teaches us to recognize that and then make a decision what to do.
Nose hunger is when you smell an incredible aroma such as popcorn or pizza. Often we respond to this by eating, but when pay attention to what is really going on we don't have to eat.

Cellular hunger is something that happens when we respond to our bodies cravings for a certain nutrient that we are deficient in, or when our appetite responds seasonally.

Most of us are not aware of our eating patterns in the moment in this way. Mindful eating teaches us how to be in tune with what is happening with our senses, our mind and our body.

It teaches us to recognize shame, the cycles of our thoughts and how they trigger us and trap us in destructive eating patterns. It shows us how to be compassionate to ourselves.When we start to pay attention to our thoughts around eating it's amazing what insight surfaces.

In the past week while beginning the practice of mindful eating I've felt compelled to eat organic food, investigated CSA's and pondered being a vegetarian again.

I've started using real butter on my bread, instead of butter spray, which I suddenly started to feel was bad for my body ( even though its calorie free). A little bit of research has proven my instinct correct! I make choices about the food I will eat based on what my body is telling me I want. Yesterday, for breakfast, I had a spinach salad with feta cheese. I exercise daily because I feel its good for my body, not because I feel I have to punish myself for something I ate, or because I'm fat!

I'm sleeping through the night and worrying much less about meals. Oh, and I lost two pounds. Not that I was trying!

Bays, Jan Chozen, MD(2009). Mindful Eating :A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food. Boston MA: Shambhala Publications,Inc .

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