The Practice of Mindful Eating
I have a small red velvet cupcake in my hand. I’ve put my phone down, turned off the TV, and all music. This cupcake has my entire attention.
I set it down on the plate. I look. I pick it up, smell it, and place it back down.
I pick it up again and take a small first bite.
I chew and chew and taste every delicious bit of the cream cheese icing and moist cake.
I close my eyes and focus only on what I’m eating.
I make this bite last as long as possible.
I practice mindful eating.
The practice of mindful eating has always held my interest. This isn’t a diet. It’s really the anti-diet. It’s a practice that enables you to be aware of your food and enjoy it more. You don’t have to change your eating patterns at all. In fact, you may find after a few days of mindful eating, you’ll actually want to eat less. You may even lose weight (!) without drugs or exercise!
Intrigued yet? This isn’t a spam email, I promise, it’s the truth.
Eating Disorder Statistics
Our country is obsessed with weight and dieting. It’s the sad truth. More and more men and women are being diagnosed with eating disorders like Anorexia Nervosa each year. According to The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, up to 24 million people in the U.S. suffer from an eating disorder (anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating being the most common). This doesn’t include those who suffer from distorted eating, body dimorphic disorder, or an undiagnosed eating disorder.
Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
Only 10% of individuals with eating disorders receive treatment. Only 35% of people receiving treatment do so at a specialized eating disorder facility. That’s a tiny number. Treatment is instrumental in the recovery process. Gender specific, and disorder specific, treatment centers are even better.
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How Do Eating Disorders and Mindful Eating Relate?
Mindful eating is often practiced as an exercise in women’s eating disorder treatment to give patients a greater awareness of what they experience while eating.
When practicing mindful eating, people can identify what emotions eating brings up. They can also learn how to walk though these emotions and, very often, these fears.
So, What is Mindful Eating?
First, let’s define mindfulness.
The Center for Mindful Eating defines mindfulness as “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.”
They then go on to define mindful eating as “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.”
It’s a lot harder than it sounds. At first, it may be tough, but try mindful eating a few times. You may just like what you find.
Really Tasting What You Eat
When was the last time you ate something and really tasted it? Our lives are incredibly busy and overstimulated. Many people end up eating at their desks, in their cars, while checking their phones, or just while generally exhausted.
Try this – set aside one meal, or even a snack, in the next week to practice mindful eating. Put a piece of food in your mouth. Try chewing it thirty times before swallowing. Taste it on your tongue, its texture. You might be surprised how sweet ricotta cheese is, or how filling your morning oatmeal is, or how spicy arugula is.
Many people find themselves in an adversarial relationship with food, which is a tragedy because eating should be a pleasure! Now put down your phone, close your eyes, and just eat.
Would I have noticed how delicious that cupcake was if I ate four in a row?