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Can Food Really Be About Pleasure? Try Something Different This Holiday: Mindful Eating

» Mental Health Library » Disorders & Conditions » Binge Eating Disorder » Featured Article

By Ondina Nandine Hatvany, MFT

Ondina Nandine Hatvany, MFTMindful Eating - A Way To Enjoy More Quality vs Quantity

What is Mindful Eating?

Mindful eating is about paying attention to what you eat. Actually focusing on the flavors, textures and subtleties of what you are putting in your body. It is not about eating while you are thinking of your bills, the kids, how many calories, watching TV etc. For most of us this is a tall order. There are so many distractions and people, places, things pulling on us, who has time to really pay attention to what they are eating? What is even the point?

The point is pleasure. When we are really present with what we choose to put in our body we experience the subtleties of what we taste. We experience the food more intensely. We allow it to nurture us more deeply. We are not thinking about our next meal because we are too busy enjoying this meal. We are not reaching for the next piece because we never really tasted the first piece. In this way we end up enjoying more quality and needing less quantity.

For the eating disordered population or those with food, weight and body image issues, mindful eating is key. If you allow yourself to enjoy what you eat and practice being present, you will need less to feel satisfied. If on the other hand you are so consumed with guilt while you eat that piece of chocolate and thinking of all the ways you are going to have to make up for this misdemeanor, you are barely going to taste that first piece of chocolate and need another and another.

Next time you want chocolate or that * "forbidden food” try this exercise. You might find you enjoy more and eat less as a result…

*     *     *     *     * 

Mindful Eating Practice with Chocolate:

 Next time that chocolate craving hits, close your eyes and ask yourself with focus;

  • What kind of chocolate do I want exactly?
  • Is it dark, milk or white chocolate?
  • Is it crunchy or smooth? Gooey or hard?
  • If it’s crunch you want, ask yourself: What kind of crunch exactly?
  • Is it a nutty crunch, candy crunch or a rice crispy kind of crunch?
  • What kind of gooey? Is it a caramel gooey or a fruit gooey?

And so on…. See if you can define exactly what you want. Be specific!

When you have defined exactly what it is you desire, you are ready for the best bit!

Find a space without distractions. Unwrap the chocolate slowly, enjoying the crinkle of the paper and the smell of sweet cacao being released. Look at the chocolate, smell it, lick it. Notice the texture and sensation of biting into it. Let the chocolate melt on your tongue, dissolving in deliciousness. Enjoy the feeling of this chocolate luxury, decadence and pleasure and let it sink deeply into your being.

After awhile the feeling of pleasure starts to become less intense. This is your signal that you are nearing the end of this delicious excursion into chocolate. If you are practicing *"intuitive eating" you know you can put the chocolate away with the sure knowledge that when you want some more you will let yourself have more and fully enjoy it.

This mindfulness practice can apply to ALL your eating not just chocolate/ "forbidden foods”

*     *     *     *     *

In the book, "Intuitive Eating; A Revolutionary Program that works," Trobole and Resch encourage making all activities pertaining to food pleasurable ones:

"When you eat what you really want in an environment that is inviting, the pleasure you will derive will be a powerful force in keeping you satisfied and content… You will find it takes less food to decide you have had enough.”

"I won’t be able to stop eating!"

All of this might seem really scary for those of us who have been steeped in the diet ruled mentality that advocates controlling our body’s appetites and desires at all costs. We have a $40 billion dieting industry in this country that advocates this way of thinking. It can seem unfamiliar and scary to consider listening to our body and having our body be our friend instead of our battleground. I hear clients voice fears around the concept of intuitive eating all the time:

"I won’t be able to stop eating!" Or "I don’t know how to listen to my body’s appetites." Be patient with yourself and get some guidance. If you are getting your nutritional needs met you won’t go crazy on the chocolate. If you practice listening to your body it becomes easier and more fluid. It also helps to have some guidance/ therapy especially in the beginning.

Here’s to a Pleasure-Filled Holiday!


* "forbidden foods" -
Intuitive eating principles propose steering clear of rigidity around food. Labeling food as either "good” or "bad” causes food obsessions and contributes to eating disordered thinking.

* "intuitive eating" encourages a "bottoms up approach" of listening to your body versus the "top down approach" of using your mind to rule your body.

About the Author...

Ondina Nandine Hatvany, MFT is a licensed psychotherapist with practices in Mill Valley and San Francisco. She is also Director of the Eating Disorders program at Community Institute of Psychotherapy in San Rafael, CA. She works with food and weight issues by helping her clients develop a non-diet lifestyle and come home to their bodies. This means redefining the body from being the battleground or ‘shame container’ to becoming the place of grounding and connection with both the self and other. She works with clients to talk about their problems instead of trying to stuff or starve the problems out of existence. Ondina believes this is the first step toward empowerment and living a fully embodied life.

Last Update: 10/29/2010



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