Liza Oates, BHSc (Naturopathy), GradCert Evid-based CompMed, shares her wisdom on Mindful Eating.
The Greek philosopher Epicurus said:
“Send me a little pot of cheese so that I may feast sumptuously whenever I wish.” Epicurus (341-270 BCE)
It’s quite ironic that in popular culture Epicurus has become synonymous with extravagant gourmet food and even gluttony. In fact he was anything but. In his time, Epicurus was famously modest with regards to food and drink. For Epicurus, the purpose of philosophy was to attain a happy, tranquil life, surrounded by friends. His emphasis was on minimising harm and maximising happiness.
In recent times we appear to have lost sight of that simple celebration of good food. We are faced with a lot of what Michael Pollan would refer to as ‘edible food-like substances’. We seem to think that we can process food until it is unrecognisable and then add back synthetic nutrients to produce a whole food.
The bottom line is that food is more than just a collection of the nutrients that we know about. There are substances in food like phytonutrients, some of which science hasn’t even begun to understand, that impart health benefits beyond basic nutrition, beyond simply staving off the symptoms of deficiency. These are qualities like antioxidant, antibacterial and even anticancer.
But it’s not just what we eat it’s how. We are less mindful of what we eat and as a result we tend to eat more but enjoy it less.
The effects of ‘un-mindful’ eating have been demonstrated in a study which revealed that television viewing increases energy intake by delaying normal mealtime satiation and reducing satiety signals from previously consumed foods.(Bellissimo et al., 2007) The boys in the study consumed on average an extra 228 kcal (approx. one and a half pieces of pizza) over a 30 minute period whilst watching an episode of the Simpsons.
When we are not eating mindfully we’re not able to recognise when we’ve had enough. In contrast, studies have shown that an eating focused mindfulness-based intervention can result in statistically significant decreases in weight, eating disinhibition, binge eating, and psychological distress in obese individuals.(Dalen et al., 2010)
Food has become a relatively small part of the household budget. According to the Household Expenditure Survey, Australians spend less on fresh fruit and vegetables than they do on fast food, alcohol or services such as mobile, internet and pay TV.(ABS, 2011)
‘Mindful eating describes a nonjudgmental awareness of physical and emotional sensations associated with eating.’(Framson et al., 2009) Food is more than fuel for the body, it’s also nourishment for the spirit. When we eat more mindfully we acknowledge the importance of both the physical and metaphysical benefits of good food. Make a commitment this week to eat at least one meal a day more mindfully.
Liza Oates, BHSc (Naturopathy), GradCert Evid-based CompMedis the course co-ordinator for ‘Food as Medicine’ and ‘Wellness and CAM’ in the online Master of Wellness program at RMIT University where she is also a PhD candidate. She has taught ‘Nutrition’, ‘Complementary Medicine in Chronic Diseases’ and ‘Health Enhancement’ to naturopathic and medical students.
The Center for Mindful Eating. Principles of Mindful Eating. http://www.tcme.org/
Mindful Eating Questionnaire (Sample copy). http://sharedresources.fhcrc.
Australian Bureau of Statistics (2011) Household Expenditure Survey, Australia 2009-10 Detailed tables: Table 21A. Age of Reference Person – Household expenditure on goods and services. http://www.abs.gov.au/
Bellissimo N, Pencharz PB, Thomas SG, Anderson GH (2007) Effect of television viewing at mealtime on food intake after a glucose preload in boys. Pediatr Res 61:745-749.
Dalen J, Smith BW, Shelley BM, Sloan AL, Leahigh L, Begay D (2010) Pilot study: Mindful Eating and Living (MEAL): weight, eating behavior, and psychological outcomes associated with a mindfulness-based intervention for people with obesity. Complement Ther Med 18:260-264.
Framson C, Kristal AR, Schenk JM, Littman AJ, Zeliadt S, Benitez D (2009) Development and validation of the mindful eating questionnaire. J Am Diet Assoc 109:1439-1444.
Hepworth NS (2011) A mindful eating group as an adjunct to individual treatment for eating disorders: a pilot study. Eat Disord 19:6-16.