Mindful eating is a practice that may be of value to those who have an unhealthy relationship with food that involves either overeating or under-eating. This approach is not about dieting, and it is not concerned with what the person does or does not eat. The real goal of this practice is for the person to develop a new relationship with food so that they are able to enjoy eating and consume adequate nutrition to keep healthy. Most important of all, the individual learns to no longer feel guilty around food because this is the source of most eating disorders.
What is Mindful Eating?
Mindful eating is based on a Buddhist practice known as mindfulness. This involves being fully focussed on the present moment in a more objective way than usual. With mindful eating, the individual is fully focused on what is happening while they are eating, including their thoughts, feelings, body sensations, and mood. This is important because it is by observing these factors that the individual can learn to develop a better relationship with food.
The reality is that most people these days eat mindlessly. This means that they stuff things into their mouth without noticing that this is what they are doing. It is common for individuals to eat while they are watching TV or playing computer games. This mindless eating cause people to consume too much and to feel disconnected from their food.
The Dangers of Mindless Eating
Mindless eating is the root cause of many different types of food disorders, and it is the reason so many people are overweight. The reasons why this behaviour is considered dangerous can include:
- people are not aware when their stomach is full so they end up eating well beyond this point
- the person doesn’t feel satisfied when they have finished a meal because their mind was too distracted to even notice the food going down
- people eat out of habit instead of the need to meet their nutritional requirements
- people who eat mindlessly are more likely to turn to junk food and sweet things
- the fact that the individual doesn’t notice how different types of food makes them feel means that he/she is more likely to eat unhealthy things
- the person feels disconnected from their food, and it is this that leads to guilt and dissatisfaction with eating.
How Mindful Eating Helps People Overcome Eating Disorders
When individuals start to pay attention to sensations in their body while they eat, it soon becomes obvious to them about what they should eat and how much of it they should consume. Most people eat until their plate is cleared, but the person who eats mindfully stops as soon as their hunger is satiated. It is not that they are denying themselves anything – it is just what their body wants. The individual also begins to notice how different types of food affect their body, making it easier to eat sensibly.
The fact that the person is aware of their feelings around food means that they can be more objective about these feelings. If people experience a sense of guilt about what they are eating, they can trace this back to its source; maybe it is arising because of criticisms as a child about what they should and should not be eating. Once the individual understands the real source of these feelings, these become easier to deal with.
One of the other things that mindful eating does is that it allows the individual to understand how their mood is affecting their eating behaviour. For example, some people eat when they feel stressed because they believe that this will make them feel better. The individual who is mindful can clearly see that comfort eating does not provide the escape they are looking for.