Mindful Eating: How to Shift Your New Year’s Resolution about Food

By Aly Pancer, Mindful Wellness Coach

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Happy 2022! We have arrived at a brand new year, with brand new beginnings, goals, hopes, and dreams. We get to begin again. We set New Year’s Resolutions that include better nutrition, better sleep cycles, a regular exercise routine, and the decision to lose weight. We then pick an ideal weight and size, and go on a diet where we learn to restrict food in an effort to become thinner than we are. We tell ourselves we will start our diet on Monday.  “In fact, by the end of December, many people have made that promise to themselves 52 times” (Merendes, Gabriel, MD, Mayo Clinic, 2021).

Food. We need it, we crave it, we love it, and sometimes we have a challenging attachment to it. Like the diverse and negative attachments we enact in romantic relationships, our relationship to food itself is a symptom of how we are anxiously, avoidant or securely attached to our self. Many folks try to have three meals per day with a few snacks in between. Often, we are eating a meal or snack while multitasking, such as watching TV, checking Instagram, watching the latest Tik Tok video our friends shared, socializing, working, walking, driving, etc. We take the first bite of what we have chosen to eat, enjoy the taste, and then continue to eat the rest of our food in auto pilot, where we have stopped paying attention to what we are eating. The next thing we know: we are stuffed, feel bloated, and more often than not, we have finished everything on our plate. Then what follows usually are the twin emotions of guilt and shame into a spiral of negative attachment to ourselves and food.

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Frequently people blame ourselves for having consumed too much. This can lead to a cycle of feeling depressed, anxious, self-conscious and isolated for overeating. They shame and criticize the way their body looks, which can lead us into developing eating disorders. “While there is no single cause of eating disorders, research indicates that body dissatisfaction is the best-known contributor to the development of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa (Stice, 2002)”.  Distorted thoughts encourage people to climb onto the scale too often, or ignore it all together as part of an avoidant attachment to their bodies. An attempt to fit into clothes that are sizes too small in an effort to be the “ideal size” only furthers a magical thinking that leads to unrealistic diet fantasies. Many folks feel helpless if they dare to look at themselves in the mirror perhaps even calling themselves some negative names we believe describe our bodies.

The fantasy continue as people make 2022 New Years’ resolutions by restricting food through diets, fasting, and other unhealthy rules about food in an effort to reach a goal weight which feeds into the multi-billion dollar industry of diets.  There have been a slew of recent articles about Noom arguing that the way it markets itself as the ‘un-diet’ is just good marketing.

Consider for a moment changing your relationship with your food by exchanging the words and actions of “MindLESS Eating” to “MindFUL Eating”. What would that look like? How would it feel to abandon many fad diets, where you are being told about how to eat, what to eat, how much to eat, etc by others? How would it feel to be guided by your OWN cravings and satiety cues, from the inside out,  using mindfulness techniques for yourself, so that you can organically enjoy your food, moment by moment, bite by bite, and feel a secure attachment to your body and ultimately yourself?

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The Mindful Eating skills I teach through coaching are based on the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction model pioneered by Jon Kabat-Zinn. It invites you to slow down the pace of eating, to awaken all your senses, to focus on every bite you take and ultimately to give yourself permission to stop eating when you notice you are satiated.

I find it exciting to work with mindful eating clients who are eager to establish a wellness journey that focuses on intention and practice rather than fantasy and anxious attachment. One can create a secure relationship to food, and in doing so, be fully present, embodied and able to show up fully in their life.