“People-Watching” Observations

by Dr. Ellen Cullman, FLT Columnist

Mindful eating is intuitively simple: Eat when you are hungry and stop when you are

satisfied. Then when you are hungry again, eat and stop again when you are satisfied. This

requires you to pay attention to your mind and your body as you eat so you’ll physically sense

when you’ve had enough and stop until the next time. Mindful eating seems simple but the

challenge is regular practice to make it a habit.

You can learn a lot about the eating habits, habits that are either conscious or

unconscious, by watching people eat – something I used to do frequently. Without being

noticed, I observed people eating in restaurants to notice different eating patterns, if any,

between those with a healthy weight and those with an apparent unhealthy weight. I would

watch people eating alone, together in families, feeding babies, young children, older children

and adults – people of all ages and in different stages of life. I compared among the people I

observed the speed of their eating, the size of their bites and chewing habits, any tendency to

clean their plate, how they socialized with others at the table, and so on.

Would you like to try this? Below are two lists. They are by Karen Koenig, LICSW,

M.ED. from her book The Rules of Normal Eating: A Commonsense Approach for Dieters,

Overeaters, Undereaters, Emotional Eaters, and Everyone in Between! The first list represents

mindful eating behaviors or what Koenig calls “unconscious behaviors of “normal” people”. The

second list represents mindless eating or what Koenig describes as “how not to stay connected

to your body”. Use these lists to guide your “people-eating” observations.

Mindful Eating

They breath regularly.

They chew their food well before swallowing it.

They look up from their plate.

They pause and enjoy the taste of what they are eating.

They put their fork or spoon down occasionally and don’t think of utensils as extensions of

their arm.

They have a silent, automatic, back-burner dialogue with themselves regularly while eating to

see if they are still hungry or have reached fullness or satisfaction.

They focus on the food in front of them, not what they ate yesterday or what they will be eating


They don’t care what’s on someone else’s plate or imagine that anyone cares what’s on theirs.

Mindless Eating

Shovel or gobble your food.

Guilt trip, shame or hate yourself for what you are eating or what you ate earlier.

Eat as much as the person next to you.

Tell yourself that you don’t deserve to eat.

Eat as little as the person next to you.

Forget to breath or taste the food.

Rush through the meal.

Struggle not to eat anything

Eat when you are too stressed to enjoy food.

Worry while you are eating

Call or email me what you learn from your observations. I would love to know what you see!

See all of Dr. Cullman’s columns at www.firstlocaltoledo.com/columnists/dr-ellen-cullman. Call

(419-494-7699) or email (mindfuleatingcoach@gmail.com.) her for information about coaching

sessions, speaking engagements and education workshops. ©2015, Ellen Cullman, Ph.D