The Art of Mindful Eating

PureInsight | February 5, 2007

Sonya Bryskine, The Epoch Times Australia Staff

If you ever felt that a day at work is more like a marathon, with
minimal windows of opportunity to relax let alone worry about what and
how much you eat, then you are not alone.

The daunting reality is that many of us are too preoccupied with time
efficiency and convenience, leaving virtually no time for what is
becoming an increasingly popular approach to healthy eating known as

This simple technique is based on an ancient Buddhist and Zen
philosophy that combines meditation with enhancing greater awareness
about the body's natural feeling of fullness.

The idea behind mindful eating is that one meditates to focus the mind
on overcoming particular fears or habits that have led to the
imbalanced eating regimen. For example setting a list of "forbidden
foods" can eventually lead to overeating them. At the same time being
overly anxious about food can also result in forced starvation and

Although it may be difficult to have a "mindful" eating experience,
while juggling phone calls, typing an email, completing an assignment,
or battling the traffic, the key is to develop focus on eating when the
body requires it, rather than be misled by emotive clues such as
anxiety and depression.  

Curbing the Binge

Speaking on ABC radio, Dr. Jean Kristellar, from Indiana State
University, describes a simple exercise: Put a single raisin in your
hand, feel the raisin, look at it, and then put it into your mouth, but
don't actually swallow it while savoring the flavor and making a meal
of the raisin.

Sounds ridiculous? Well, not really. Research suggests that it is this
lack of mindfulness that often leads to binge eating, which affects
millions of people, especially women, around the world.

In the United States alone, over 25 million people are estimated to
suffer from the disorder, according to the National Eating Disorders
Association. In Australia, one in 25 adults are believed to binge eat,
yet true numbers may be much higher, since about one tenth of cases may
go undiagnosed.

Griffith University psychologists Michelle Hanisch and Angela Morgan
said women who binged were often overachievers and perfectionists.

When such women perceived they didn't measure up to self-imposed
standards or were not in control of situations, they indulged in
secretive eating binges. A typical late-night binge could involve four
quarts of ice cream and a couple of packets of chocolate biscuits, Ms.
Hanisch said in a press release.  

"Many women develop elaborate methods of hiding the evidence of their
binges and some feel so guilty afterwards they also induce vomiting,
overuse laxatives, or exercise excessively to counteract the effects of
the binge," she said.

Again, this is where mindfulness comes in. With proper assessment and
channeling of thoughts to create a positive experience, the disorder
may subside.   


Furthermore, meditation has already been shown to be effective as a
treatment for anxiety and depression, substance abuse, and the stress
associated with physical conditions such as trauma, chronic pain, or

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