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Why Mindful Eating Helps Address Eating Disorder Symptoms


All human beings have the ability to be mindful.

If you are alive you have awareness, and mindfulness is being aware of (observing) life instead of thinking about it. It is noticing without having an opinion about what you are noticing. We can think about what we feel and see, or we can simply observe.

Thinking and Awareness

Thinking (assessing, comparing, judging) is not bad, but it can dominate our mind. If we spend our days in a world of thoughts that express anger, fear, self-doubt, guilt, shame, or self-loathing we will live our lives in reaction to those thoughts—and the feelings associated with them. By stopping these thoughts, observing our environment and the sensations of our senses, we can respond to what is actually taking place each moment.

When we are paying attention to what is going on around and within us, and our mind is quiet (not thinking), we see things more objectively. This creates space, a gap, between our thoughts and feelings, and our decision-making self. In this space, we have an opportunity to choose our behavior instead of reacting out of habit. With patience and practice, we may use this opportunity to make healthier choices.

What Mindful Eating Is Not, and Is

Practicing mindful eating is not about keeping score. Anytime you mindfully consume a bite of food you give yourself a chance to engage with life as it is occurring, to learn, and maybe to experiment with choice. When you do not eat mindfully there is no backsliding, no falling "off a wagon." We might forget to eat mindfully, choose not to, and there are times, such as busy days at work, when it is necessary to eat quickly. You cannot mess up the practice of mindful eating.

There are also no rules about which foods to eat. Mindfulness is about noticing. No rules govern noticing our experience. It is not a game of "shoulds." Initially, present moment awareness may seem difficult or scary. It does requires courage, not continuous courage, but enough to sometimes choose to chew mindful mouthfuls of food.

Mindful eating is about enjoying the food we eat. By placing our attention on its textures, flavors and sensations, we learn to savor every bite and delight in our meals more often. We become increasingly sensitive to the type and amount of food our body needs.