Mindful Eating

A Mindful Approach to Eating: Week 1

The Retreat at Ponte Vedra Beach is committed to helping individuals and families develop the tools for living every day more satisfied. We know that happiness is connected to finding a rhythm to life that makes sense and is sustainable.

Despite the fact that a relationship with food is a part of both our daily routine and deeply ingrained individual and family traditions, it remains an aspect over which very few people feel that they have mastery. There are many reasons for this, but in my opinion, one of the major problems is that there is just too much advice available about what we should be eating that it’s impossible to make sense of it all. The importance of a healthy diet for physical and emotional wellbeing is not in dispute, but knowing what to do or who to believe is much less clear. The confusion created by all the information available is not to the advantage of the individual.

This flood of information is in response to the demand and people’s willingness to allot a significant amount of resources in attempts to master how they nourish their body.  There are so many conversations going on about what to eat and how to eat: paleo versus vegan, low glycemic versus starch based, six small meals a day versus intermittent fasting, juices versus bowls, fish versus mercury. The list goes on and on. Sorting through all this is overwhelming and leaves people feeling like they are missing the key to achieving their goals.

Mindfulness is an approach to eating that moves beyond a “diet plan” and offers opportunity to recalibrate our appetite.

There is so much information about how you should eat, what you should eat, and when you should eat that it’s difficult to know what’s really useful. The potential for your investment into a plan that is not effective gives short-lived results or leaves you with consequences to your overall health, which is a fear everyone has. People are tired of food trends and buying supplements that, as a nation, have not made us healthier and happier.

Diets that eliminate food groups or strictly reduce calories leave people feeling resentful, unsatisfied, and generally do not lead to long-term health outcomes. Additionally, it can be counterproductive to move towards a category of eating that is judgmental or judged as extreme by others.

    Try implementing this tip this week:

    -Let your body guide your eating.

    Hunger is an important cue.  So is satiety.

    It takes your body about 20 minutes to feel full during a meal. It meal time is shorter, the signal will be missed and overeating will happen.  

    When pressed for time, consider eating a replica (in size and content) of a healthful meal you like, that fills you up and keeps you satisfied.

    Eating calorie dense foods quickly tricks your mind into thinking you need much more of it than you do.  You also get a huge mental reward (similar to sex or winning) when you eat foods high in fat. This makes it a very seductive option at the moment you want a quick boost in mood.

    This is also what makes it risky to use food as a reward for children. It does not take long for this phenomenon to become a craving.  This pattern sets you up to repeatedly turn to food for emotional reasons rather than in response to hunger that comes from your belly.

    It may take some time for your stomach and your brain to start communicating effectively again, but it will happen if you keep up the tips discussed in this series! 

    Theresa Randazzo-Burton, MD
    Child, Adolescent, and Adult Psychiatrist