Mindful eating is a way of eating that connects us with hunger and fullness cues (physical and other types of hunger), allowing us to choose foods for their satisfaction and nutritional value, while cultivating flexibility, curiosity and self-acceptance.
This lifestyle choice is based on living mindfully. One definition of mindfulness is: “a cognitive state, marked by attentional stability [or awareness], that disengages habitual reactions, allowing inner wisdom to emerge” (Kristeller, n.d.). Put more simply, being mindful means being in the present moment, without judgement.
Paying attention to what we are doing while we’re doing it allows us to focus on what’s going on inside of our body (thoughts, emotions, physical hunger, fullness, etc.). This is also known as ‘inner wisdom.’
Knowledge of what foods nourish us best, healthy portion sizes, the benefits of exercise, etc. helps to develop our ‘outer wisdom.’ Practicing mindful eating employs inner and outer wisdom to help us re-discover the healthy and joyful relationship with food and eating we all had as young children.
Research has shown mindful eating can help promote a healthier relationship with food and reduce depressive symptoms in people with binge-eating disorder and type 2 diabetes. Additionally it has been shown to help with weight management in type 2 diabetics.
As part of survival, our natural tendency, as humans, is to prefer high-fat, high-sugar, and high-salt foods. When this is coupled with an instinct to eat beyond physical hunger, ignoring our natural internal hunger cues, we can often find ourselves overeating mindlessly. In coming articles, we will get into the concept of mindless eating and why experts now say we are living in an ‘obeso-genic’ environment (an environment which promotes obesity).
The Centre For Mindful Eating is an excellent resource for mindful eating enthusiasts. They offer free teleconferences, articles, and workshops.
For local, live sessions on mindful eating in the Halifax area, contact dietitian Coleen Nolan at:
Stay tuned for next week’s article “But Does Mindful Eating Really Work? Will it Help Me Lose Weight ?”
Coleen Nolan, MSc, RD, CYI is a Halifax-based registered dietitian and yoga teacher.
Kristeller, J.L. Treating Compulsive Eating through Mindfulness-Based Eating Awareness Training (MB-EAT) [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from http://www.chc.ucsf.edu/coast/pdfs/2010%20Symposium%20Presentations/5_Jean%20Kristeller_COAST%20Symp.pdf