Mindful Eating

Redefining "Enough": Shifting from Unpleasant Fullness of the Body to the Pleasant Expansion of the Mind

By Pavel Somov
Portion control, the good ol' divide (the portion) and conquer (overeating) approach, is not without merit. But what if you redefine the portion size from how many mouthfuls you can have to how many mindfuls you need to feel full, if you shift your attention from a mouthful to a mindful, from a serving to a savoring?

What's a mindful?  A mindful, to coin a term, is a unit of mental absorption in whatever it is that you are doing. For example, as you look back at a typical day, perhaps most of it was spent in a state of robotic, mindless monotony, with the exception of a couple of moments when you were really present, thoughtful, and mindful of something. Maybe you found yourself scratching your head over some challenging problem. Maybe, at the end of your lunch break, you caught a glimpse of a bird swaying on a tree branch. Maybe, when finally home, sitting in your car in the driveway, you had a sense of perspective. Whatever their content, these moments of being mindful are just that: states of being attuned to the moment, absorbed in the here and now.

In application to eating, a Mindful is a moment of being conscious of eating. Maybe it will last ten seconds, maybe half a minute. But however long, it is a unit of awareness, a serving of mindfulness.

A Savoring, to coin another term, is a unit of mindful appreciation, a moment of conscious enjoyment, a highlight. To have a savoring, you first have to have a moment of eating consciousness (a mindful). After all, how can you enjoy a moment if you are not aware of it? So, whereas mouthfuls and servings are the units of fullness, mindfuls and savorings are the units of mind-fullness.

To help you shift from fullness to mind-fullness, I suggest that at the end of your meals, you look back at your experience and take stock of how conscious you were of your eating and of the moments of eating you enjoyed. How many mindfuls did you have? Which moments were you actually fully conscious? Were you present when you tasted the food? Were you present when you picked up the fork? Were you present when you had a sip of water? How many savorings did you have? Which specific moments of delight did you register? What did you enjoy? Did you consciously enjoy biting into that apple? Did you consciously enjoy the aroma of the bread? Was your mind full?

Set a goal: one mindful per serving, one savoring per meal. Challenge yourself, set a more ambitious goal: one mindful per mouthful, one savoring per serving.
Shift from the unpleasant fullness of the body to the pleasant expansion of the mind!

Redefine "enough."

Mindful Eating BookAbout the Author:
Pavel Somov, Ph.D., is the author of "Eating the Moment: 141 Mindful Practices to Overcome Overeating One Meal at a Time" (New Harbinger, 2008). For more information visit www.eatingthemoment.com.