National Eating Disorder Awareness week is February 21st-27th this year, where the focus is on bringing public attention to the needs of people with eating disorders and their families.
Why is this important? Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder1 and 30 million Americans will suffer from an eating disorder at some point of their lives2.
With so much pressure to look a certain way, fitness and health can sometimes become confusing and completely consuming. In a society obsessed with diets and calorie counting, our eating behaviors may not be as healthy as they were once intended to be. Case in point, 91% of college women have attempting to control their weight through dieting3. It’s easy to go from wanting to “just cut back on calories” to becoming obsessive and meticulous about what you eat. However you like to stay fit and healthy, it’s important to consider different ways to reach your goals, while keeping your mental health and overall wellbeing in mind.
This is where the idea of eating mindfully comes in. Mindful eating is a different approach that attempts to take some of the stress, anxiety, and unhealthy behaviors out of healthy eating.
What is mindful eating?
Mindful eating is a practice that is aimed to resolve the love-hate relationship with food, as well as trying to combat the mindless, consuming, and guilt-inducing way that many people in our society eat today.
This is eating with a purpose—to nourish yourself and to enjoy food and its effects on your body. Mindful eating embodies the entire process of eating. This means that when you eat, you have a heightened awareness of physical and emotional cues, non-hunger triggers for eating, as well as choosing foods for both enjoyment and nourishment. It’s all about creating a balance, which ultimately is done with the goal of developing a better, healthier, relationship with food.
Why is it important?
Mindful eating can be useful for those who struggle with food, in relation to negative thoughts and feelings. If you’ve ever struggled with binge eating, overeating, or emotional eating, you may find mindful eating particular helpful. Studies show that mindful eating leads to fewer symptoms of eating disorders, like binge eating.4
Mindfulness can make you aware of certain behaviors, which allows you to identify triggers and make healthy changes. When you eat mindfully you are clear on when you are hungry or full, which allows you to create healthier eating behaviors. Overall, mindful eating increases a sense of wellbeing. That’s something that everyone can benefit from, no matter your fitness level or your personal relationship with food.
How can I do it?
Just like diet or exercise, keep in mind that mindful eating doesn’t have to be an all or nothing approach. You can incorporate a couple simple mindfulness tips into your eating and see the differences it makes in your life. Start slow; take it one tip at a time to begin to incorporate mindful eating into your life. Like everything, it’s a process, but over time it can lead to a healthier, happier, life full of balance. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you get started:
Eat slower. This will give you more time to appreciate the food and reflect in all of it.
Pay attention to what you’re eating-experience all of the flavors and textures of what you’re eating. Savor and enjoy your food and embrace the good it’s doing for your body!
Find support. Talk to your friends about your desires to eat more mindfully, social support goes a long way.
Check these websites, too: they’re great resources for not only awareness, but intervention and support as well!
- American Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 152 (7), July 1995, p. 1073-1074, Sullivan, Patrick F.
- Wade, T. D., Keski-Rahkonen A., & Hudson J. Epidemiology of eating disorders. In M. Tsuang and M. Tohen (Eds.), Textbook in Psychiatric Epidemiology (3rd ed.). New York: Wiley, 2011. p. 343-360.
- Multi-service eating disorder association