How to relinquish your fork

by Dr. Ellen Cullman, FLT Columnist

indful eating is a collection of tangible and practical skills that when practiced hone your awareness of your experience of eating. Its goal is to help you pay attention to your mind and body sensations while eating so you choose the foods you enjoy the most and stop eating when you notice you are satisfied. The skills, such as savoring the aromas and tastes of food, increase your enjoyment of eating yet paradoxically often result in eating less. A mindful eater finds it easier to relinquish their fork when internal cues register full rather than when their plate is “clean.” Putting one’s fork down when satisfied is often the most difficult mindful eating skill to master.

Besides seeing your “clean” plate in front of you, how else do you know you are done? With practice you learn to interpret your body’s sense of satisfaction that says “done.” It is like a “bliss point,” but not in the decadent sense of “bliss” that food corporations (Michael Moss, 2014) aim for you to experience so you eat even more. Instead, it is a sense of internally feeling as if you ate like Goldilocks – not too much, not too little, but “just right.” It feels wholesome, fulfilling and up-lifting and brings with it energy and confidence as you move on to your next activity

Do you sit down to eat with the best of intentions to not stuff yourself? You might think the positive consequences of “just-right-eating,” — wholesomeness, uplifting mood, “can do” confidence with energy to back it up — would be a strong motivation for you to engage your awareness to eat “just right” and then repeat it over again. Why is it so hard to stop eating?

Actually, it’s not complicated. Think of it as a sport. Take tennis for example. You are taught how to hold and swing your racket, where to place your feet and move around the court and how to return a serve so your opponent has the least chance of returning the ball to you. However, all of that would not help you win even one point unless you doggedly kept your eyes on the ball. I wish I had a dollar for each time my tennis instructor said, “Keep your eyes on the ball,” and I replied, “Oh, I forgot!” What did I forget? I forgot to pay attention, to use my mindful awareness to keep my eyes on the ball.

Yes, mindful eating is like tennis only the ball is different. In mindful eating the “ball” is feeling “just right” at the end of your meal. The “bliss point” is winning the game. It’s all about maintaining awareness throughout the game, whether in tennis or in mindful eating.

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