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Mindful eating

Are you reading this as you eat?  If so, how much are you enjoying your food?

I’m returning home from the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT) convention and one of the talks, by Colorado’s Joanna Arch, was on mindfulness and eating.  She has had people eat just one of something (in two studies a raisin, in the third a chocolate chip), five times, with two or three minute breaks in between.  During the breaks subjects search for words in a jumble. Some are given mindfulness instructions (like the raisin exercise for those who know it). Others are given no instructions or instructions to keep working in the word search as they eat.  The mindfulness exercise leads to more enjoyment of the food.  In the third study subjects could then eat as much as they wanted of six foods (pretzels, M & M’s, potato chips, carrot sticks..I’ve forgotten the others), as a “thanks” since they had fasted for three hours.  Those who had eaten mindfully now ate less of the salty, sugary, and high-fat foods, but just as much of the “healthy” (e.g., carrot sticks) food.  So mindfulness both increased enjoyment of tasty food and reduced the amount of eating.

Perhaps slowing down as we eat will help us to enjoy the food before us and, despite this increased enjoyment, eat less of it.

I imagine the “eating less” could happen in various ways….perhaps there’s less of a need after mindfulness. Perhaps there is more intentionality. Perhaps some of the not eating is aversive. (“I love this food, but it’s scary, and I’m paying attention now, so I realize it’s scary.”) So there’s more more work to be done.  But the increased enjoyment seems consistent and reasonable.  And I very much like the idea that attention to that which we have before us will help us feel sated and content, and lead us to chase most after that which we really need in the moment rather than consuming without even knowing it.

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2 Comments

  1. Jacqueline Lantsman says:

    I came about the same assertion upon observing my own reaction to watching “Chefs Table” (Can be found on Netflix.) In the documentary the well-praised chefs explain the care for developing taste and how due to fast-food culture such an understanding has dwindled and become obsolete in the eye of the consumer.

    In response I found myself paying more attention to my senses during the process of eating, which naturally slowed my pace. I grew fond of certain texture, etc: “mindfully” consuming my food.

    • ahrens317a says:

      Thanks for the comment! I do not know the show, but I do wonder about the consequences of the fast-food culture for mindful eating. That said, teasing apart cultural effects is challenging. Does our culture cause both fast food consumption and less mindfulness through separate means?

      But any moment affords the opportunity for mindfulness, and I like this example of eating!

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