Mindful eating has the power to transform your relationship with food. I’ve seen first hand how peace and freedom can become available to us when we shift our beliefs and assumptions about food and our bodies and embrace a more compassionate approach to our own health and wellbeing.
But that doesn’t mean that everything out there labeled “mindful eating” is an approach that aligns with my own. In fact, there are many brands of mindful eating that support ideology and methods that I vehemently disagree with, and even more egregious, run contrary to the core of what mindfulness and mindful eating are all about.
I have had many clients who come in and tell me that they’ve tried mindful eating before, and they just don’t think it’s for them. But then I ask what they practiced and it’s clear right away that what they were doing wasn’t mindful eating at all! So how do we weed out real mindfulness from the diet-centric, weight-biased “mindful” approach? It starts with myth-busting! Read ahead to discover my top three mindful-eating myths that I see perpetuated throughout the internet… and why these beliefs aren’t really mindfully-driven at all!
- You have to eat mindfully all the time: All-or-nothing thinking is classic diet-mentality. Believing that you have to eat mindfully at every single meal is setting yourself up for failure. Mindfulness is difficult, and it’s literally impossible for anyone to be mindful all the time! The intention of mindful eating is to make it work with your lifestyle. And for most of us, that does NOT mean eating mindfully 24/7. It’s totally normal to eat while zoning out in front of the TV or take a working lunch where the focus is more on work than your lunch. Try to integrate mindfulness into your daily routine in a way that works for you. Only have 5 minutes a day? Great! Use them to eat mindfully. Only have one snack a day to be mindful about your food? Awesome! Truly be present with that snack and savor it.
- Mindful eating means that you always make the “healthy” choice: A lot of people believe that once you start practicing mindful eating, you’ll always make the “healthier” choice. This mindset divides foods into “good” and “bad” (see: all-or-none diet-mentality above). Mindfulness is about observing with a sense of nonjudgmental awareness; it is not about categorizing foods as “healthy” or “unhealthy.” When we label food choices, we increase shame around eating and eat in response to external food rules, instead of the internal guidance that our body is sending us. We choose food for so many different reasons: flavor, texture, huger level, previous meals, cravings, and more. To suggest that eating mindfully means we always choose an apple over a cheeseburger ignores the fact that sometimes, what our body needs is the cheeseburger. Mindful eating is about choosing your foods with all of our needs in mind, from nutritional needs to emotional needs and more. Often our whole notion of “healthy” starts to shift when we embrace a mindful eating practice.
- Mindful eating means that you need to chew your food a certain number of times or eat very slowly: There are a lot of mindful eating tips out there that focus on chewing your food a certain number of times or somehow forcing you to slow down when eating. While slowing down may be a part of your mindful eating practice, it doesn’t have to be! Sometimes eating slowly helps you to feel your hunger and fullness more easily, or to notice when the flavor of a certain food isn’t satisfying you anymore. But that doesn’t mean that every time you eat mindfully you have to take, for example, 30 minutes to eat a clementine. This will likely feel tedious, and will again lead to the feeling that mindful eating just isn’t “for you.” There is no speed requirement for mindful eating. We can be present with the experience of eating quickly as well as the experience of eating slowly and everything in-between.
My take-home message? Try to find mindful eating techniques that work for you as an individual. Maybe that means engaging all five senses before eating or removing distractions from your eating environment or taking a moment to check in with your hunger throughout the day. We can be mindful of our food in so many ways! There are no rules when it comes to mindful eating. Try experimenting with different ways of integrating mindful eating into your life until you find what works for you.
The Anti-Diet Plan signature mindfulness-based course is going online! We’ll be launching this fall exclusively to my email list subscribers and social media followers. Stay tuned for more exciting news on this new program–and don’t forget to sign-up for The Anti-Diet Plan FREE 30-day introductory course for a taste of program.
Alexis Conason is a clinical psychologist specializing in the treatment of overeating disorders, body image dissatisfaction, psychological issues related to bariatric surgery, and sexual issues. She is the founder of The Anti-Diet Plan (sign up for her free 30 day course). Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.