What Is Mindful Eating?
by Arden Greenspan Goldberg
After reading an excellent article, The Truth About Losing Weight, at The Three Tomatoes, I felt that I could expand on the Mindful Intuitive Approach to Eating that I have found very effective for myself personally and for mid-life women, in my private psychotherapy practice, some of which have been yo-yoing on diets for decades. As a body image and eating disorder specialist since 1980, I base my faith on Mindful Intuitive Eating practices on both my clinical practice and current research in the field.
I have seen an increasing number of women in midlife ages 45-65+ that are particularly impacted by their heightened awareness of their aging body. Anyone who knows me knows I am a big advocate for self and body care and looking and being our best selves.
However, us women have a tendency to body check, and compare ourselves to others, unintentionally making ourselves feel less than.
Frankly our youth driven culture is in our face. With menopause, post menopause, hormonal changes, we lose muscle mass along with weight gain around our middles.
That middle, “central adiposity” (belly fat) houses protective estrogen. I think most women are not too pleased about that!
A healthy alternative and solution……
What is Mindfulness?
It’s a non-critical, non-judgemental approach of looking at a situation, a person, including yourself that draws on your being self-kind, self-compassionate, self-empathic, self-loving and radically self-accepting, especially of your body.
Mindfulness is a value and belief system, an attitude, a daily practice that’s a positive approach to life, a beneficial coping system and strategy.
Mindfulness has been shown to reduce anxiety, depression, tension, stress, promotes calm, clarity, peace, a deeper and richer connection to ourselves and our significant others.
It involves pulling back, rising above, seeing the bigger picture while coming from a place of love, thus giving us the biggest perspective.
Mindfulness is learning to pay attention.
Mindful Eating is learning to pay attention to the food you’re eating… noticing thoughts, feelings, and sensations as they relate to your food.
- Learning to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full.
- Learning to really taste food and enjoy it.
- Learning how food affects your mood and energy throughout the day.
- Learning that eating to cope with emotions doesn’t actually work.
- Learning how to slowly eat your food and be sated.
You learn to pay attention to:
- Why you feel like eating, and what emotions or needs might be triggering the eating.
- What you’re eating, whether it’s based on physiological stomach hunger or mouth (taste) hunger.
- The look, smell, taste, feel of the food you’re eating.
- How it makes you feel as your taste it, as you digest it, and throughout the day.
- How full (sated) you are before, during and after eating.
- Your emotions during and after eating.
- Where the food came from, who might have grown it, is it organic, processed etc.
Slowing Down and Satiety:
It takes about 20 minutes for the brain to register satiety(fullness).
I recently gave my workshop to 31 school nurses. They chuckled, and one brave nurse raised her hand and said, Arden, there is no way that I have 20 minutes at work to eat my lunch.
I inquired, “How much time do you have?”
“Well, I’m at my desk, I’d say 10 minutes.
“Do you inhale your food?”
She nodded YES. All of the other nurses agreed. We have no time for ourselves during the work day.
Practicing mindful eating in that environment is a major challenge.
I suggested she walk from her desk to the ladies’ room, just to move a muscle, change a thought, help her food digest. Turns out that’s what she does Monday through Friday. What a great tip for her colleagues.
So practicing Mindful eating can be at another time that you set aside 20 minutes and see what it’s like for you…maybe you can relate to this?
I utilize a graph for my clients and for my workshop participants that’s very helpful to have your finger on the pulse of your hunger and fullness. It goes from 0-10. Zero starving, shaky, headachy, dizzy to a 4(1st sign of fullness) 6 (satisfied) to 9 (thanksgiving full) to 10(binge fullness). I suggest check in with your hunger every 3-4 hours and be able to leave some food on your plate.
Here’s my mindful eating exercise to slow you down.
Be a scientist, a reporter, a journalist This is extremely helpful during the holiday season where we all tend to overeat and are somewhat stressed!
- Choose a piece of food, a nut or a piece of chocolate
- Look at the food: the shape, color, texture
- Smell the food: Take in the aroma, notice how it affects you
- Taste the food: Place it on your tongue. Notice the response of your salivary glands
- Bite the food: Take one bite. Notice the texture on your tongue and mouth.
- Chew the food: Notice the taste, texture. Salty, sweet, tart, nutty?
- Swallow the food: Notice its journey down your esophagus, imagine it going down to your tummy 8. Say the name of the food. Yes, out loud, acknowledge, be grateful.
- Start with Practicing a mindful bite once at every meal. It can be absolutely delightful and a new starting point.
Lovingly honor your hunger and fullness. Eat what you want, guilt free, not depriving yourself.
When you practice this way of Mindful Intuitive Eating you will feel and be so much more satisfied and in charge. As a foodie who loves her food, I still have that little 2-year-old in me who is curious and fun loving. I am willing to try and experiment. I also know that some foods may make my head a little fuzzy, so I try my best, I’m far from perfect, to be mindful of its impact. Respecting appreciating one’s body and genetics, is all about Mindful Self Care which us women need to be particularly keyed into because we are worth it!
An excellent book on the topic is Intuitive Eating: A revolutionary program that works, by Elyse Resch RD CEDRD
Blessed and Happy Holidays to you all.
Arden Greenespan is a Psychotherapist/Psychoanalyst/Wellness life coach in private practice on the westside of Manhattan. She is a body image and eating issues expert and a frequent workshop presenter: “Mindful intuitive living/eating for women at midlife.” She is the author: What do you expect? She’s a teenager! and a frequent guest expert on Radio and TV. www.askardengreenspan.com