Mindful Eating-The Why?

Mindful Eating Cycle

Mindful Eating Cycle (image here)

Over the course of the last several years working as a bariatric dietitian at St. Luke’s hospital in Boise, I’ve come to identify many negative cultural eating and lifestyle patterns which keep us from achieving our best selves.  I’ll write about them periodically and would appreciate any feedback you want to share.  Today I’d like to talk about mindfulness…an ancient practice with modern application to various aspects of our lives, including our troubled eating patterns.  Dr Michelle May, an expert in Mindful Eating states that “Mindful eating is eating with intention and attention.”  Moreover, she defines normal eating as “a natural, healthy and pleasurable activity for satisfying hunger.”   That seems simple enough, but unfortunately we live in a food and body obsessed culture that is associated with guilt and mindless overeating.

Dr. May created a very effective tool I’ve used often with bariatric patients.  It is the Mindful Eating Cycle and can be found on her website here.  The first step in the cycle is understanding WHY we eat.  She claims that the WHY for the most part determines the WHAT.  If we’re not fully aware of our emotional or physical cues for eating we may not choose foods that nourish us.  What are my triggers to eat?  Do I eat to fuel myself, for good nutrition, for pleasure, or do I eat out of boredom or frustration?  Do I eat when I’m tired, angry, or when I feel helpless?  Do I eat when I’ve had a particularly stressful day?  Am I nurturing or self-defeating?  Increasing our awareness of WHY we eat will go a long way to overcoming overeating and its subsequent negative effects on our well being.

Next week I’ll cover WHEN to eat focusing on changing our response to our food triggers and learning to listen to our natural signals of hunger and fullness .