Back when we were safe to socialize in parties together, I would always have people make the strangest comments to me about mindful eating. For instance, if someone was eating a dessert or just taking a variety of food from a holiday buffet, she would say, “Oh dear, I know I’m not eating mindfully.” This comment would come even from people who I thought had read my book on mindful eating.
So, I’m writing this to try to dispel some misconceptions about mindful eating and help you through the holiday season with a little more joy and ease.
Five Major Misconceptions About Mindful Eating
1. You can’t eat chocolate or other favorite desserts. This one is my favorite misconceptions and one of the most common that I hear. Believe me, I would not have made it as a mindful eating teacher if it meant giving up chocolate. In fact, mindful eating allows you to get the most pleasure from your chocolate and other desserts you decide to have. And, it gives you the awareness and choice not to overeat them as well which is where much of difficulty lies.
2. There are “good” foods and “bad” foods. Mindful eaters don’t make a moral judgment about food. Food is not inherently “good” or “bad.” Placing food in these dichotomous categories is a symptom of the type of cognitive distortions people often engage in that come to my classes. It is a type of thinking that puts everything into all-or-nothing, right-or-wrong, and “good” or “bad” categories. Food is just food. You decide, as a mindful eater, what you really want based on your own internal guidance that you develop over time, not some external evaluation of food like calories or a diet plan.
3. Mindful eating is a diet plan to lose weight. Speaking of diets, mindful eating is not one. Unfortunately, because of the cultural obsession with weight loss, the misconceptions about health and weight, and the research programs which promote weight loss, mindful eating has been advertised by many professionals as a way to lose weight. This paring of weight loss to mindful eating is counter to the essence of mindful eating. Mindful eating is based on following your own internal cues about what to eat, when to eat and how much to eat. When you do that, instead of putting your focus on the number on a scale, you learn what freedom with food really means. You learn to enjoy living in your body and eating the food that gives you both pleasure and life.
4. Mindful eating takes a lot of time. Although I often do suggest that people slow down when they eat so they can enjoy it more, mindful eating still does not take a lot of extra time. In fact, when you start becoming more comfortable around food through mindful eating, you begin to think less about it and enjoy it more. The time you spend with eating will become more pleasurable so even if you find yourself leisurely dining, it will be a choice that you welcome.
5. You can’t socialize and mindfully eat. I often hear people tell me that they can’t eat mindfully when they eat with others. If that was true, mindful eating would be a sad, sad affair, wouldn’t it?! Actually as you learn the skill of mindfulness essential for a mindful eating practice, you learn how to titrate your attention from eating and savoring to conversation with friends and family. The skill of mindfulness allows you to have control of where your attention goes and you can begin to experience fullness setting in even as you are enjoying a holiday meal with others.
There are many more misconceptions, but overcoming these might help you become a little more curious about the practice of mindful eating and what it can do for you. For me, mindfulness, in general, has given me more choice and freedom in how I live and how I eat. It’s wonderful to know I can eat anything I want and I have the clarity to make decisions with help from the wisdom of my body—not an external dictator like a diet, or the culture, or any other expert.
If you’d like to learn more about this life-giving practice of mindful eating, join me for the ten week Eat for Life Program starting at the end of January. We will practice mindful eating together, you will learn how to start or support a mindfulness practice, you will learn what your own misconceptions are about mindful eating and how to overcome them, and you will gain a mastery over your relationship with food and body.
For more information, click here for dates, times, and costs. I have a sliding scale fee structure so that more people can access this program during these difficult times. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have further questions.
May your holidays be filled with the joy and ease of Mindful Eating!