What is Mindful Eating?

Our body is a temple [1], a system for living [2] containing molecular machines that enable all cellular functions [3], whilst at the same time is home to a vast energetic network that makes up our ‘energy anatomy’ [4]. The World Health Organization (WHO) published this year that worldwide in 2016 1.9 billion adults were overweight [5]. Being overweight does not only lead obesity but to serious health complications such as hypertension [6], dyslipidaemia [7], type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, depression and more. Also, chemical messengers such as hormones cortisol, insulin, leptin and ghrelin become dysregulated [8]. The good news is that this is reversible and the one aspect to play a role in its reversal may be as simple as ‘Mindful Eating’.   

“Mindful eating is a way to become reacquainted with the guidance of our internal nutritionist.” Jan Chozen Bays, MD Zen Master

Within each one of us there is an innate and guiding intuition. When the body malfunctions or is under stress we lose connection to the internal cues of our body. Eating mindfully means that we eat in the present moment.  The principles of Eating mindfully is a practice of paying attention to the food we eat and to eat without judgement. [9] It means tuning into to the body’s cues such as hunger, and satiety, listening to external cues when to eat, having more self-compassion reducing guilt and shame around eating food. An influx in information about diet a health can make us become ‘food centric’ and hold us back. Dieting, following fad diets, Health food obsessions, food exclusion, food abstaining, overeating and a multitude more – have some benefits but in the long-term evidence shows that they do not work.

The practice of Mindful eating Is being guided by the senses, trusting your body and its hunger, accepting what arises in you when you eat and letting go of the past experiences that may hold you back [10]. Acknowledging hungers and identifying the hungers you may be actually experiencing  (eye, touch, nose, ear, mouth, cellular, mind or heart) [11]

The mindful eating decision cycle written by Michelle May, M.D. is a practical structure that highlights 6 decision points that can be underlying drivers in problematic eating, these questions are: Why do I eat? When do I eat? What do I eat? How do I eat? How much do I eat? Where do I invest my energy? [12]

“In this food I see clearly the presence of the entire universe supporting my existence” Plum Village (Thich Nhat Hanh), Zen Practice saying before every meal

This is an exploding field of research with randomized controlled trials providing convincing data to support the fact that mindful eating could be an innovative way to body peace and acceptance. It is also a practice that may help to heal unhealthy eating patterns along with resolving a plethora of disorders related to food.

Works Cited

[1] Corinthians, “Holy Bible,” in Holy Bible, pp. 6:19-20.
[2] L. Tolstoy, “Leo Tolstoy Quotes,” BrainyQuote.com., 07 April 2020. [Online]. Available: https://www.brainyquote.com/citation/quotes/leo_tolstoy_138476. [Accessed 07 April 2020].
[3] C. Bustamante, “Molecular machines one molecule at a time,” Protein Science, vol. 26, no. 7, pp. 1245-1248, 2017.
[4] C. Myss, Energy Anatomy, Sounds True, 2001.
[5] W. H. O. (WHO), “Obesity and overweight,” WHO, Geneva, 2020.
[6] W. S. Aronow, “Association of obesity with hypertension,” Anals of Translational Medicine , vol. 5, no. 17, p. 350, 2017.
[7] J. Vekic, A. Zeljkovic, Z. Jelic-Ivanovic and V. Spasojevic-Kalimanovska, “Obesity and dyslipidemia,” Metabolism Clinical and Experimental , vol. 92, pp. 71-81, 2019.
[8] K. MD and J. S. Drent ML, “The role of leptin and ghrelin in the regulation of food intake and body weight in humans: a review.,” Obesity Reviews, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 21-34., 2007.
[9] J. B. Nelson, “Mindful Eating: The Art of Presence While You Eat,” Diabetes Spectrum, pp. 171-174, 2017.
[10] J. B. Nelson, “Mindful Eating: The Art of Presence While You Eat,” Diabetes Spectrum, vol. 30, no. 3, p. 171–174, 2017.
[11] J. C. Bays, Mindful Eating A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship With Food, Shambhala, 2017.
[12] M. May and R. Johnson, “Mindful Eating – Shifting the Focus from Weight to Well-being,” Corporate Wellness, [Online]. Available: https://www.corporatewellnessmagazine.com/article/mindful-eating-well-being. [Accessed 10 April 2020].
[13] J. Daubenmier, J. Kristeller, F. M. Hecht, N. Maninger, M. Kuwata, K. Jhaveri, R. H. Lustig, M. Kemeny, L. Karan and E. Epel, “Mindfulness Intervention for Stress Eating to Reduce Cortisol and Abdominal Fat among Overweight and Obese Women: An Exploratory Randomized Controlled Study,” Journal of Obesity, vol. 2011, pp. 1-13, 2011.


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