Monday, June 13, 2011

Eating Mindfully - early in the journey

Mindful Eating. It sounds so simple. I would think we are all born with the ability. Whatever happened to mine, I'm not sure. But somehow, very early on along the way, eating became mechanical, emotional, social, comforting, and generally filled with mindlessness. 

I would like to blame my culture, my environment, my parents, my friends, my pregnancies, my hormones, my religion! - the Jewish tradition of fasting or feasting to death. That would get me nowhere. I've done enough blaming in my life. Not so helpful.

 A mindful eater is one who eats without judgment or guilt. A mindful eater eats when hungry. Mindful eaters do not: graze, multitask (drive, check email, etc), skip meals, ignore body cues, eat when they’re full, eat because it’s soooo good or because it’s left on their child’s plate.  Being mindful means knowing exactly how your body feels at all times.  It’s being in touch with what is going on inside. Mindful eating comes with an awareness of tastes, textures, smells. Mindful eating allows us to appreciate where our food comes from, acknowledge the energy that goes into its creation, show gratitude for the nourishment we are provided.

Eating without guilt & judgment? Is that even possible?

started the Weight Watcher's diet at the age of 11. That's my earliest recollection of dieting. I have spent the last 25 years battling my weight or trying to get 'in control'. I can't honestly say I've tried every diet, but suffice it to say that I've tried many. The Blood Type Diet, Fit for Life, The Carbohydrate Addict's Diet. I went vegetarian, vegan and back to carnivore. I’ve been on and off carbs, on and off proteins. I have gorged on fruits & veggies. I have (a very long time ago) subsisted on diet coke & canned green beans. I've been thinner and fatter. Healthier and less so. I have made many health commitments to myself - most of them related to my diet. I no longer eat wheat, dairy, yeast, corn & sugar. I try and avoid processed foods. This sounds really good, but the reasons behind? Not so good. Not from a source of strength. Probably fear and shame. I've called myself big, fat, pig, glutton, out of control, gi-normous, elephant, etc. Then there's the great combo "you out-of-control big fat pig elephant". 

I denied myself some great food pleasures because of my love/hate relationship with food and the inevitable negative body image that follows. Who goes to Israel and doesn't eat ice cream? Me. That’s who. I’m sure there are some other martyrs out there too. I don’t regret not eating ice cream, I regret the spirit in which I denied myself that pleasure. 

So goes the domino effect. Being discouraged about my weight and body size, to self inflicted mental abuse - the things I think to myself, I wouldn't dare say them out loud. (I'm talking "big fat pig elephant" sounding like a compliment). From the abuse to feeling downtrodden. Feeling downright miserable to reaching for food... It’s good, healthy food! What’s wrong with another bowl of split pea soup? Eating for the wrong reasons never ends well. Of course there are a number of things that could happen along the way. Feeling badly about myself and passing on the pain to the next person I encounter. Feeling guilty for being obnoxious. Bickering about nothing. Feeling some more guilty. None of them pretties up these (actual) case scenarios. I promise.

After decades of trying to ‘control’ it suddenly dawned on me that I need to stop thinking I’m in control. I am not in control. I need to surrender. To listen to my body, to tune in to my feelings. To respect food and to respect my body. This was a week and a half ago (very early in the journey). I’ve been trying… trying to let go of control. Trying to tune in. Trying to eat mindfully.

Some things I'm trying to ask myself as I reach for food:
Am I: Hungry? Sad? Angry? Tired? Lonely? I don't generally find myself looking for food when I'm happy. In fact, when I'm happy, I sometimes forget to eat. (ok, this doesn't happen too frequently.)

When I am eating, I try to:
Focus on the food and how I feel as I eat
Be aware of the aroma, appearance and texture of the food
Eat more slowly and try to savor each bite
Chew thoroughly
Eat while sitting – (why is this so hard?)
To quell the feelings of guilt that (still!) come
Allow myself to not be perfect

In the short time since getting on this mindful program – and it hasn’t been totally consistent – old habits die really hard…  (why am  I making excuses? ) I’ve derived much greater pleasure from the food I eat. I’m satisfied with less – not just food, but in general. I’ve noticed improved digestion. I’ve lost a few pounds (but trying not to focus on that).

Things I still need to work on: Balance, balance and balance. I'm afraid of certain foods. Well, afraid of myself consuming certain foods in an 'out of control' way. I would like to be able to eat a slice of bread instead of 1/2 a loaf, I'd like to eat a cookie and not 12 cookies. I will need to feel much more mindful before I venture that way. In the meantime, I'm taking baby steps.

Would love to hear about your journey with food. Do you have a love/hate relationship with eating? Have you tried eating mindfully? Any tips to share?
To mindful everything,


ps. I started reading this great book called “The Art of Amazement”. There are a number of awareness & mindfulness exercises in there. It’s not a quick read, although it is a short book. Totally recommended for anyone looking for a different perspective.


  1. Really enjoyed this post!
    Love how you laid it all out there.

  2. i really could relate to many of the things you wrote. now to actually implement mindful eating.

  3. I just stumbled on your blog, and LOVE how healthy, and appetizing it all looks... But then I saw this post and I feel like someone just wrote the story of my life!!! good luck eating mindfully, you seem to be well on the right path.

  4. great post, did u ever read women food and g-d?