Ten years ago, Dr. Susan Albers published the first edition of Eating Mindfully, an alternative to fad diets and restrictive eating plans, that emphasized the examination and enjoyment of food as fuel for the body. Now, the frequent Huffington Post and Psychology Today contributor has updated the book with frequently-asked questions, tips, and eating exercises to take help readers break the hand-to-mouth habit that our busy lives often seem to mandate.
Friendly, approachable, and generally helpful, both the book and Dr. Albers are great resources for women looking to stop dieting (because dieting is the worst), and start building a more sustainable relationship with their food–both where it comes from, and what it does once it’s in the body. Dr. Albers was kind enough to give Blisstree readers a few insights about what “mindful eating” really means..and how they can achieve it themselves.
Why do you feel that eating mindfully is an important message for today’s consumers and eaters?
We are desperately in need of an alternative to dieting. Time and again we see that dieting doesn’t work in the long term. It leaves people feeling discouraged and feeling like a failure. This approach is much different. It is about finding balance and tuning into your hunger instead of trying to turn off your hunger. Diets and large portion sizes have really warped our perception of how much we should be eating. Mindful eating helps to rewrite your brain to eat to your hunger not the portion size that you are given or what your “diet” says you should be doing. What is nice about mindful eating is that you can apply it to whatever eating style you have–if you are vegetarian, eat gluten free, are a BBQ fan etc.
How does eating mindfully relate to the environment and issues of sustainability, in addition to just health and nutrition?
Becoming a more mindful eater often goes hand in hand with concern about the environment and sustainablity. When you tune into your food, you start to think more about where it comes from. Being more mindful about what and how much you eat has a direct impact on the carbon foodprint you create. I wrote a blog article for Psychology Today entitled “Movie Therapy for Mindless Eaters.” It gives some examples of movies that can help you be more mindful of the connection between your body, health, nutrition and the environment such as Food Inc., Forks Over Knives and Fast Food Nation.
Although you can eat anything you want, with mindful eating it is likely that you will choose not to eat everything. The more you tune in to what and how you eat, the more particular you become about what you consume. A woman in one of my workshops told me a story about potato chips. She used to love them. Then one day she volunteered to make sack lunches for a school. For an hour, she put potato chips into bags. She recounted how greasy her hands felt at the end of her shift. Her skin was saturated with oil and she couldn’t seem to scrub it off. Prior to this, she had never tuned in to the sensation of touching the potato chips. After this, she looked at them in a brand-new way.
Mindful eaters often find fast food less appealing when they are totally tuned in. To their surprise, it begins to taste greasy, artificial, and overly processed. Sometimes mindful eaters’ taste buds become more sensitive. They notice when tea is overly sweetened or when cereal is loaded with sugar. They say things like, “Oh, that dessert is too sweet.” Also, mindful eaters start to review the ingredients in foods to avoid those that are toxic or unhealthy. They realize that their body doesn’t feel up to par after eating something full of preservatives or other additives. Whole grains and fruits begin to fill them up and make them feel healthier. Mindful eaters still eat treats and junk food, but in much smaller portions, since even small amounts of sweets and fried foods start to seem like a lot. Thus, your food tastes will likely alter a bit as you become a more conscious eater.
Do you feel that consumers are unprepared or ill-equipped to deal with the many choices and messages that they experience each day?