Mindful Eating: Food with Consciousness

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“The simple act of actively noticing things.”

– Ellen Langer

I love the podcast On Being with Krista Tippett. A recent episode was especially interesting to me because it was with Ellen Langer, the first female professor to gain tenure in the Psychology department at Harvard. Dubbed in some circles as “the mother of mindfulness,” Langer has been studying mindfulness for over 35 years. To her, it’s not just meditation and yoga. We can practice mindfulness by “simply noticing new things.” It’s more about being intentional with our behavior and observing our surroundings. Truly “being mindful” is about noticing not just being.

The practice of being more mindful when we eat is an important one because research shows that most of our eating is unconscious. We are mindless when it comes to it – except when we are dieting. When we diet, we are conscious about every single morsel we put in our mouths. This is why dieting doesn’t work in the long term. It’s too extreme behavior for our brains to handle. What we want is to strike a balance. To be mindful, not rigid. To notice and observe. To make healthy eating habitual yet still thoughtful.

Food is meant to be enjoyed. And as Langer points out “our experience of everything is formed by the words and ideas we attach to them.” How we frame our food – good vs bad – will determine how we experience it. If we decide that a salad is “diet food,” something we don’t want to eat but feel like we should, we are setting up ourselves for displeasure. Salad doesn’t stand a chance next to pizza. However, if we reframe the way we think about healthy food, see it as something delicious, we will enjoy it more. We are influenced by what we believe something is – the meanings we attach to it. Notice how you define certain foods and then explore reframing the way you think about them.

To eat healthier, we must eat with consciousness.

eatingJulie Minchew