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Is Mindful Eating Intuitive Eating? What If It Becomes Just Another Obsession?

Jul 06, 2022
meditating woman

 

I was on a 1:1 call the other day and this question was posed to me:

 

“I get so anxious about eating that I almost black out during the eating process, kind of like a binge. I hardly even register that I’ve eaten. I’ve tried doing mindful eating but I’m afraid it’ll become yet another food rule/obsession e.g. I must chew 30 times before swallowing”

 

This is such a fair point and it’s something I bring up in my 30 Day Reboot course. After all, do ‘intuitive eaters’ really count how many times they chew their food? Do they always make sure there are no distractions while eating - sitting in silence with their phones out of sight? Are they basically meditating while eating?

 

The answer is probably a no!

 

In the 30 Day Reboot, where I teach people to stop binge eating and find food freedom, there is a lesson on mindful eating tips. My view is that it can be a helpful tool to practice at times to help bring you back to the present when eating. Being mindful can help you make more aligned choices instead of following unhelpful patterns. Especially when it comes to binge eating or overeating, bringing more consciousness to the moment can be helpful.

 

BUT CAN MINDFUL EATING GO TOO FAR?

 

Obviously, to each their own - if this tool helps you cultivate what you deem to be a healthy food relationship, then great! I certainly use elements of it here and there, for example, sometimes I notice I’m totally zoned out while eating or focused on the TV show so I just stop what I’m doing, take one breath, and give all my focus to enjoying a couple bites of the food.

 

I do, however, highlight to students in the 30 Day Reboot that if mindful eating starts to feel like just another rule, then drop it. What we’re moving towards is food freedom, where food feels easy, light, joyful. 

 

So how about the 1:1 client’s concern - how should she deal with that black-out moment while eating?

 

Because I understand that she’s prone to finding safety in rules and restrictions, I didn’t want to overload her with a set of mindful eating practices. We wanted to keep it simple yet effective. I suggested a tinyyyy bit of somatic work before she starts eating, when that anxiety comes on. To simply take 3 soothing, belly breaths before eating to help down-regulate her nervous system into her rest and digest state.

 

So instead of having her stay in her head and try to reason her way out of this food anxiety, she’ll use the power of her breath and body to calm her mind (called bottom-up healing). 

 

It’s quick and simple enough to not become obsessive or rule-like, but also powerful enough to help her soothe the anxiety. Could it be classed under the 'mindful eating' umbrella? Potentially yes!

 

SO IS MINDFUL EATING REALLY INTUITIVE EATING?

 

On the one hand, it could be seen as yet another structured tool that makes eating even more rules-based and complicated. It could make the eating experience less fluid and more prone to over-thinking. “Am I mindfully eating correctly?”, you might worry. In this case, you may argue it’s not really intuitive eating. We’re trying to simplify eating after all.

 

On other hand, I wouldn’t say that most people incorporate mindful eating practices every time they eat. If they do, it would be sprinkled in here and there. 

 

Maybe, though, some intuitive eaters practice mindful eating through habit because they did practice it consciously for a while first. Initially, it may have felt forced and structured but then became just a useful part of how they eat. Is that then intuitive eating? Maybe!

 

There's no clear cut answer here because at the end of the day, intuitive eating is what feels intuitive, easy, flexible, light for YOU. Yes, getting to that place of intuitive eating might not always feel intuitive or easy (e.g. practicing mindful eating until it feels natural/intuitive), but it's the end result we're after. The key is having awareness around whether adding in certain tools after a while feels too rules-based/structured/forced or not. If it does and you're not feeling it, you are in charge - you get to choose to drop it so you can create the food relationship that works for you :) 



If you do feel like you need help moving towards food freedom, learn more with my 30 Day Reboot course!



With Love

Bríd

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