Monday, May 2, 2011

Eating Mindfully

Note: This is an excerpt from Amy’s upcoming book: “Imagine Being at Peace…”

I’m sure people have said to you, “Just stop when you are full.” But there is so much more to this than just forcing yourself to stop eating. It’s about learning how to eat in ways that heighten Satisfaction, which is much more important to most people than Fullness.

Let’s look at an example of what that means. Lindsay is fairly hungry, and she asks her Body what it wants and the answer comes back, “Macaroni and cheese.” Lindsay’s Food Police Part yells back, “OMG! Do you know how much fat is in that!? You can’t eat Carbs! No way can you have that. You can have broiled fish and a salad with fat free dressing.”

As Lindsay eats, her Body becomes fuller – but because she isn’t eating what would satisfy her, her Satisfaction level goes down. Her Food Police Part tells Lindsay that she cannot have any more food.

But Lindsay is not Satisfied and she begins to ‘Hunt’ – you know what I mean, looking in cabinets and the refrigerator, eating a little of this and a little of that. If she were paying attention Lindsay would notice she’s hunting for foods that have some of the satisfying qualities of macaroni and cheese.

Because Lindsay is eating more she gets fuller and eventually her Rebel Part says, “Screw it! We’ve blown it this far, we might as well have the mac and cheese!” Afterwards she is quite full (Danger!) and feeling remorse that she ate so much, she vows to stick to her diet next time.

For some of you this is the end of the story. But since Lindsay is bulimic, she purges, which sends her glucose levels plummeting. And you know what happens when our glucose levels are low. Yes, you guessed it – our friend NPY kicks in and makes her want to eat again.

What do you think would happen if Lindsay allowed herself to eat the macaroni and cheese in the first place? (Maybe with the broiled fish and a salad with a dressing she enjoys – eating a variety of foods, textures and temperatures heightens Satisfaction.) If Lindsay ate the macaroni and cheese very slowly and mindfully, savoring the flavor, texture, temperature, her Satisfaction level would go up immediately. And she would be able to stop eating.

When we do not have Satisfaction we overeat – past the point of comfort – and still want to eat more. When we are Satisfied we eat less – some people even lose weight by doing this. But of course the minute you turn Satisfaction into a weight loss diet, then the Parts who rebel against deprivation will make you eat more! How ironic!

What is Satisfaction? When you savor an enjoyable meal that ‘hits the spot,’ that’s Satisfaction! Satisfaction is eating foods that your Body wants and needs, and prepared in ways that are enjoyable for The Child on Your Tongue. We can heighten Satisfaction when we eat very slowly and mindfully. We heighten Satisfaction by eating a variety of tastes, textures, and temperatures at each meal. Satisfaction is higher when we match the food to the situation and our Body’s needs.

In a way, we can blame our culture for part of the problem. Culturally, we eat quickly and mindlessly. As young children, we learn to wolf down our lunches quickly so that another class can use the cafeteria. We eat at our desks while working; we eat in our cars while driving to an appointment; we eat while watching TV. We do not savor the texture, temperature and tastes of the food. When we do not get Satisfaction from eating, you know what happens next – we want more! We start to hunt, we eat more, we get too full and we start to yell at ourselves, we purge or restrict and start the cycle all over again.

Learning to eat slowly and mindfully may feel a bit counter-cultural to you. You may notice when eating with friends or family, how fast they eat and how little attention they give to their food. Your friends or family may even pressure you to eat more or to hurry to eat faster. Even after you practice eating this way, it may be difficult not to fall into old ways when eating with others. You will need to dig out your Toolbox and find Tools that can help such as, “Planning Ahead” and “Speaking up from Our Wise One Within.”

I recommend starting small – start with one meal a week – or if you can’t handle a whole meal, start with just one food. You can join a Mindful Eating Therapy Group or enlist the help of a trusted friend or therapist. You will have to practice this new way of eating for a while before it feels comfortable for you.


Amy Grabowski, MA, LCPC

Amy will be leading “Mindful Eating” a workshop on Sunday June 5th, from 12-2pm.

You've heard about Eating Mindfully: "Listen to your body for hunger, fullness and satisfaction. Eat in a way that enhances stopping when full. Balance eating for health with eating for enjoyment." You would like to experience Mindful Eating first hand - but with a 'guide' to help you. This workshop will explore myths and misinformation about food, eating and weight. Uncover triggers for mindless eating which do not honor the body. Come share an intuitive, contemplative meal in a safe supportive environment. (Each participant will bring their own food.)

For more information call (773) 929-6262 x 11 or email


  1. I'm so busy that I often eat on the run, but after reading this I think I'll try to pay attention to my meal and see if I notice a difference. . .

  2. This post is amazing. Thank you for sharing it. Another great resource is "Eating Mindfully" by Dr. Susan Albers. I look forward to your forthcoming book.