Misunderstanding mindful eating

by Dr. Ellen Cullman, FLT Columnist

Many people develop an impression of what mindful eating is from conversations either with friends or through media outlets. Unfortunately, some of these impressions are inaccurate or not wholly true and lead to misunderstanding a long-lost intuitive, wholesome and sustainable way of eating. In this column, I discuss two misunderstood viewpoints.

Viewpoint One: Mindful eating is the discipline of eating only healthy foods.

It is understandable why people assume that mindful eating involves only eating healthy foods. Perhaps the myth stems from the word “mindful.” It has a wholesome, holistic ring, thus the viewpoint that mindful-eating is restricted to only eating healthy, “good” foods. However, nothing could be further from the truth. In mindful eating all foods are acceptable, although some in moderation.

Mindful eating is about the dynamic exchange between mind and body. It starts with a meaningful pause before commencing to eat — whether it is an apple or a gooey piece of fudge. This pause also commences your continued focus on your thoughts and feelings about the food you eat and your body’s natural signals of hunger, fullness, satisfaction and dissatisfaction while eating. All of this requires attention. Instead of the limitation of only healthy foods, mindful eating is the discipline of your awareness on your mind-body while eating.

Viewpoint Two: Mindful eating is simply eating slowly.

The second viewpoint of eating slowly can quickly become quite mind numbing. Truth is mindful eating is eating slowly and so much more because of what you do while you eat slowly.

Mindful eating teaches you how to observe your internal experience. This places your thinking in the present moment of eating, whether it is a hot fudge sundae or strawberries. Does it taste like you expected? Are you disappointed or does it taste good — even delicious? Does it have “bang for the bite”? Doing this naturally slows your eating pace so you can discern your likes and dislikes. You may think you already know what you like or dislike but there are surprises waiting for you.

Another present moment observation is observing your body’s physical sensations to the food. Now you are intuitively asking your body what it feels. Does the food travel easily down your esophagus without painful sensations? Does the food feel good in your stomach as if it is meeting your needs? On the other hand, is your stomach beginning to bloat? You love the food and want more, but what does your body “say” about you feeding it more?

In sum, eating a variety of foods, some in moderation, and slowing down are important aspects of mindful eating, but only as they are intertwined into your mindful eating awareness process.

Call Dr. Cullman at 419-494-7699 or email at mindfuleatingcoach@gmail.comwith questions about this column, or for information about mindful eating and mindful eating sessions.