Mindful Eating is NOT a diet plan....and stop trying to make it one!

Recently I was shopping in a big box store looking for a birthday card.  For whatever reason at this store the magazine racks are right beside the birthday cards.  While there I noticed a magazine that was promoting itself as a mindfulness magazine and right on the cover I saw "The benefits of Intuitive Eating" as a title.  Excited I picked it up and flipped to the article on Intuitive Eating.   But there wasn't any article with that title- there was an article about mindful eating and the by-line even included it as a step to losing weight.   This bugged me because Intuitive Eating and Mindful Eating are actually 2 separate things (neither is a weight loss plan!) and neither one should ever be promoted as a weight loss plan.  Although similar, Intuitive Eating is an evidence based approach that follows 10 principles around eating (this is a very simplistic overview and not a thorough comparison of the two approaches).  It was created by the amazing (my words for them!) Elyse Resch RD and Evelyn Tribole RD in the 1990's and was revised more recently.  This approach to eating is a non diet approach that allows the person to follow their internal cues with regards to eating and movement.  Mindful Eating is different in the sense that it is used to bring awareness to the present moment.  How the body is feeling, what the mind is saying and how are you reacting.  This as well should follow a non diet approach as one of the tenets of mindfulness is non judgement.  Diets are full of rules and judgments so many rules and judgements.  So back to the article.

(The first draft of this blog had all the points in the article that I thought were diet-y, then I realized that I do not want to promote any diet-y rules as it might be triggering to some so I have removed them.) The article listed all kinds of "often-used-as-a-diet-rule-repackaged-as-a-mindfulness-thought" points.   These points make me angry.  Mindfulness is about being present.  Acknowledging how you are feeling whether that is positive or negative or even neutral.  Yes mindfulness is listening to your hunger and fullness cues but also being aware when you choose to eat more or less and not being judgmental of that.  It is allowing yourself to eat based on your emotions as you are aware of your emotions.  We all eat emotionally.  We have emotions everyday and we eat multiple times therefore we have emotions when we eat.  Mindfulness allows us to tune into ourselves.  Are we eating something that is comforting because we are upset?  Mindfulness allows us to be aware of the fact we are upset and can allow us to address those thoughts.  Mindfulness allows us to eat the ice cream (I know that ice cream is a stereotypical example here but there is a heat wave going on and I am planning on mindfully enjoying a bowl of vanilla ice cream with strawberry jam after I post this) and acknowledge that eating it is a coping mechanism not something that we should feel guilt about.  

Mindfulness allows us to check in and see what it is that will satisfy us.  Do we want something warm or salty, crunchy or smooth?  Do we want to have a variety of flavours or just a few?  Mindfulness is not premeasuring your food to what someone else has determined is an appropriate serving or choice for you.  Mindfulness allows you to be present with yourself and your food.  It is amazing how much more you taste your food when you are not watching a movie, scrolling through twitter and eating all at the same time.  It is not the new "weight loss" plan.  It is not the new plan that will change your life...oh...wait...it will change your life.  But not in the way diet culture tells you it will.  It will change your life by making you more aware of you.  Of your preferences, what makes you feel good and what makes you not feel good.  It will change your life by making you more present in all that you do, with your relationships with your self and others.  And ultimately it can change your life by helping you lose the judgement.  Lose the judgement you have around food, your body and your choices.  Now that is something I can get behind.

As a side note if you are wanting to learn more about Mindfulness and Mindful Eating I have found Fiona Sutherland APD at the Mindful Dietitian http://www.themindfuldietitian.com.au/ and Kori Kostka RD at Mindful Eating with Kori  http://www.mindfuleatingwithkori.com/ have both greatly helped me learn and grow in this area.  

Until next time be Unapologetically you while I be (mindfully) Unapologetically me

PS....any RDs in the GTA interested in attending a day long retreat on Body Image and Mindfulness check out the tab at the top of the page..Nourished Circle Retreat