Are you a mindful eater?

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

I’m glad that the movie theatre is dark while I’m eating my popcorn.  I say this because I once had a traumatic experience watching the man sitting in front of us gobble down his gigantic tub of popcorn before the house lights were dimmed for the film. He was shovelling in that corn like there was no tomorrow. It was mesmerizing to see. There was a certain hypnotic poetry in the fluid piston-like rise and fall of one arm as he swiftly filled and then emptied each fistful. His mouth never seemed to shut – even as he somehow managed to chew and swallow while escaping kernels flew about his head and shoulders. Now that’s mindless eating for you. And good Lord, is that what I look like, too?!

But psychologists who study such things tell us that mindful eating, on the other hand, can be a useful method for aiding behaviour change to help with healthier eating and weight loss. Even better, focused attentive eating habits are something that we can practice on our own. So says Dr. Andrew Schwartz, writing in Consumer Reports last month. Here’s what else Dr. Schwartz had to say:  

“Mindfulness training is becoming a common part of psychological therapy, although you may still not fully understand it. That’s a shame.

“In a recent Consumer Reports survey, psychologists who provided therapy for weight management reported that “mindfulness training to tolerate, and accept hunger, weight, and exercise-related thoughts and urges” was among the more effective weight loss strategies.

“As a clinical psychologist, I have incorporated mindfulness strategies into my therapeutic practice and found them quite effective.

“At its core, mindfulness involves increasing awareness of four areas:

  • your mind or focus
  • your body or sensations
  • your feelings
  • your thoughts

“As you become better able to observe your own inner workings, it becomes easier to meaningfully apply some self-improving skills.

“It’s important to observe two principles while increasing your awareness.

  • 1.  Maintain a ‘non-judgmental’ view of what you notice. For example, it’s good to be aware that you’re overeating, or sticking to your diet, or feeling sad. But that does not mean leaping to self-accusations or wild praise.
  • 2.  Stay in the present moment. Focus on what you’re eating and feeling now, for example – not how you got into this fix in the first place.

“To understand how this approach could be so helpful in the realm of weight management, here are some examples of how to think about the role of the mind, body, feelings, and thoughts, involved in eating:

  • Mind/Focus: Many of us blindly shovel food in our mouths while reading, watching TV, chatting with family, or all of the above. Instead, attend to what and how you are eating. The goal is to become aware and able to focus on the taste and texture of the food.
  • Body/Sensations: We are programmed from an early age to eat at certain times of the day, rather than when our body truly needs food for energy. Instead, attend to the clues your body provides about hunger throughout the day. Eat slowly to allow yourself to notice when you are no longer feeling hungry, rather than stopping only when you are painfully full.
  • Feelings:  Observe your emotions as you eat, and your general feelings about your weight. Is the delicious food you are eating making you feel happy? Do you feel ‘angry’ or ‘upset’ eating something you know isn’t good for you? Is it a combination of both?
  • Thoughts:   Note the thoughts you have as you eat. Are you being self-critical because you are eating empty calories? Are you thinking positively about yourself for making the right food choice?

“Most people who lose weight using traditional restrictive diets regain it eventually. But becoming an observer of all the moving parts could provide insight into your eating behavior, and lead to some long-standing changes in how you think about your own relationship with food.

“When it comes to weight management, we are often our own harshest critic. Taking a mindful approach frees you from judging your previous and present decisions, and allows you to focus on behaviors that will help you achieve your weight loss goal.”

© 2013 Consumer Report News Jan 2, 2013

Q:  Do you have any tricks to help avoid that mindless eating?

See also:

4 thoughts on “Are you a mindful eater?

  1. Great ideas, Carolyn! I suggest having a rule that you only eat off a plate. So you just put your popcorn or chips or whatever out for yourself, and that’s that.

    Of course, the next step in all this is beyond mindful eating to mindful living!


    1. Love the plate suggestion, Barbara. So simple, yet so effective. And if we could master the mindful living part, it would also help us from going back to the cupboard with our empty plate to refill . . . 😉


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