Updated: Sep 10, 2020
The Use of Mindful Eating for Disordered Eating
Disordered eating (not to be confused with eating disorders) is common and refers to an unhealthy relationship with food and body. It is defined as irregular and abnormal eating habits that cause distress. Someone experiencing disordered eating can be trying to cope with stressful events, issues, or pressures by becoming self-conscious about eating, food composition, appearance, and body shape. The person may think about these things to the point where it can interfere with everyday life and with overall happiness.
The following questions can be asked to verify if someone may have developed an unhealthy relationship with food and body:
Have you tried many diets?
Do you often think about losing weight and changing the shape of your body?
Do you have a history of binge eating episodes?
Does your relationship with food and your weight stops you from doing things you want to do?
When eating, do you have feelings of guilt, anxiety, disgust, or shame ?
Do you eat until you feel uncomfortable, are you aware of fullness but keep eating?
Do you eat to meet emotional needs rather than physical needs?
Do you count the fat and calorie content of foods?
Do you do things or eat things that you don't like because you want to achieve a goal with your weight?
Do you look for ways to compensate for overeating (diets, fasting, excessive exercise, use of pills)?
If some of these concerns apply to you, mindful eating could be of help.
What is Mindful Eating?
Mindful eating is an awareness-building and a habit-modifying approach for overcoming disordered eating. It is NOT a diet. Diets rarely work, they are sudden and impulsive; there’s no gradual change! Beside, on an emotional level, dieting often leads to frustration, deprivation, and negative self-awareness.
Mindful eating is not specifically a weight loss program, it transforms how someone views themselves in relation to food, eating, and body image. It can help in letting go of unhealthy and dysfunctional eating patterns and in the establishment of a compassionate attitude toward self and body.
Mindful eating looks at HOW to eat rather than WHAT to eat. There are no rules, menus, or recipes. There is no need to remove entire food groups or count every calorie. It does not consider the problem to be in the food, because food is neither good or bad, but rather views the problem as being in the mind, in the perspective we have on things. The approach invites you to explore your beliefs about food, your current relationship with food, your habits and patterns with food and invites you to become more conscious, thoughtful, and mindful.
You are not alone!
Most people turn to food to help them regulate their emotions and deal with certain stressors. We all have our own ways to cope with life's challenges and with unpleasant feelings and food is one way; it is soothing, calming, and comforting. It's a legitimate coping choice; it increases the serotonin neurotransmitter in our brain, which is responsible for feelings of well-being. Mindful eating helps us to understand that food can be used to satisfy the needs of the mind/heart, and does it in a non-distressing way.
There are a number of benefits to mindful eating which include:
Noticing self criticism
Experiencing pleasure (as opposed to stress) when eating
Cultivating a non judgmental attitude towards self and body
Exploring your beliefs about food and body
Recognizing and trust the body's cues of hunger and fullness