Summer School Part 2: Mindfulness

I’ve finished the first book in my self-structured summer school (not to be confused with my actual, final-grad-school-prerequisite, summer school class). This week I jumped into the second, Jan Chozen Bays’ Mindful Eating. It was a book I’d checked out from the library last year, then decided I needed my own copy.

The first chapter is pretty much an introduction to what mindful eating is (it’s more than just eating without watching TV or reading at the same time), why it’s important, and how it can benefit not just your eating, but your whole life. She tells a really nice little story about herself and a lemon tart that illustrates her points quite clearly. Chozen Bays is a pediatrician and a meditation teacher, so she has solid experience with the realms of both body and mind, which is appropriate for a subject like mindful eating.
As with The Slow Down Diet, Mindful Eating doesn’t deal with nutrition, per se. Both books, in their own ways, deal with the fact that many people have such a confusing relationship with food that they don’t know what it means to “eat normally.” Clear the confusion, build a healthier relationship with food, and better nutrition is almost certain to follow. So what does a healthy relationship with food look like? Chozen Bays gives seven clues:
  1. Food is not your only reliable source of pleasure and satisfaction.
  2. You don’t eat when you’re not hungry.
  3. When you feel full, you stop eating, even if that means leaving food on your plate.
  4. At mealtimes, you feel hungry and enjoy eating, but in between mealtimes you are not hungry and you don’t really think about food.
  5. You enjoy eating many types of foods.
  6. You maintain a healthy weight that doesn’t fluctuate by more than a few pounds (you stay within a 5- to 7-pound range). You don’t need to weight yourself more than once every few months or years.
  7. You don’t obsess about food or count calories in order to decide if you can “afford” to eat something or not.
Let’s see how I rate:
  1. I have lots of activities that make me happy, even though I do love good food!
  2. I don’t usually eat when I’m not hungry, but I am easily swayed by the presence of tempting foods and can feel “driven” to eat when I’m bored. This is why I keep tempting stuff out of the house, and try to be aware of when I’m getting the “bored munchies.”
  3. I’ve gotten MUCH better about stopping eating when I’m full since reading The Slow Down Diet. I’m still striving toward stopping when I’m 80 percent full (that point is hard to identify, at least for me, and will take much more practice to nail it).
  4. Hmmmm….between meals I get “fake hungry” if I’m bored, and I do think about food a lot, partly because I love to cook and own way too many cookbooks!
  5. I absolutely enjoy many types of foods!
  6. I have to weigh myself more often. I don’t always do it daily, but I’ve lost too much weight to not be vigilant. I like the idea of weighing in a few times a year, though, without getting a unpleasant surprise. Definitely a goal to work toward.
  7. I don’t really obsess, but if I know I’ll be having a splurge meal (holidays, occasional restaurant foray), I’ll consciously adjust some of my other food intake for a few days, in order to achieve some calorie balance for the week. This does NOT mean I starve myself so I can splurge later. I eat regular, healthy meals!
I’m looking forward to the next chapter, “The Seven Kinds of Hunger.” I wonder where boredom will fit in…