Archive for February, 2010

Breakfast of Consciousness Again: Tracking Mindfuls

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

Sunday morning: trigger time – paper on the doorstep, coffee brewing, snowed in (still, kinda), so, nowhere special to go – a recipe for a mindless eating morning.

I get a glass soup bowl and warm up some lentil soup. As I notice the second-day jelling of soup flavors and the aroma of the toasted sprouted grain bread (yesterday I totally missed out on its smell, must’ve been the flavor of the fresh-made soup that got my attention), I am seeing the palm of my right hand that craddles the glass soup bowl as I spoon with my non-dominant (left).

Track Your Mindful Eating Moments

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

For years we’ve been asked to track what we eat and how much we eat. That’s all fine and good, but what about tracking how mindfully we eat?

I encourage you to try tracking your mindful eating moments. First, set a simple goal: try to have one mindful eating moment per meal. Mindful eating is often misunderstood as a kind of all-or-nothing approach to eating, where you’d commit to eating mindfully and then you’d have to eat mindfully all the time. I think this is perfectionistic overkill. I think of mindful eating as an alarm-clock. A few moments of mindful eating is enough to wake up the eating zombie. After all, when we set an alarm-clock to go off in the morning, we don’t expect it to keep buzzing non-stop. Same with mindful eating: at a minimum, start the meal on a mindful note and appreciate the residual sense of presence.

What's Your Most Mindful Place to Eat?

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

Where we eat and how much we pay for food is just as related to the overall experience of eating as food itself. Good food in a bad place and bad food in a good place are two very different scenarios. Candle-light and soft music don’t make bad wine good, but they do make it better. Eating a sandwich while you are stuck in traffic will help you kill time. Eating the same sandwich after a vigorous mountain hike at a scenic overlook could be a peak experience. The context of the meal determines its experience. Cultivate mindfulness of the settings in which you eat in order to identify the settings that will help you cultivate the mindfulness of eating.

Safe Overeating – Harm-Reduced Mindless Eating

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Strange as it may sound, having a full, even unpleasantly full, stomach doesn’t have to mean weight gain. Foodstuffs differ in their caloric density. Having a stomach full of cheese is different from having it full of spinach. Some new-paradigm nutritional authors free their readers to eat as much as they please as long as what they eat is low in caloric density. This kind of humanistic, harm-reduction approach to overeating comes without the dessert of guilt! Dr. Joel Fuhrman (2003), for example, challenges us to eat at least two pounds of vegetables a day, four pieces of fruit, a cup of beans, and small amounts of nuts and whole grains. Bottom-line is that it’s okay to overeat, i.e. to eat beyond the sense of pleasant fullness, as long as what you overeat is low in caloric density.

Continuum of Fullness: 3 Stopping Points

Sunday, February 7th, 2010

Assuming you were hungry in the first place, the following three sensations happen after you begin eating:

  • First, the sensation of hunger goes away. This is a moment of hunger relief.  This happens almost too fast for us to have time to enjoy a meal. If you stop eating at this point, then you no longer feel the painful emptiness of hunger, but you also do not yet feel full.
  • If you keep on eating, you will next experience a moment of pleasant fullness as the food distends the lining of your stomach, but not so much as to cause pain.
  • If you keep on eating, you will eventually experience a moment of unpleasant fullness as the stomach distends to a painful degree.

The following exercise will help you tune in to the differences between pleasant fullness and unpleasant fullness through the language of fullness. Print out several copies of the word-lists below. After you finish eating, look over both lists to see which fullness-words tend to describe what you feel. Circle the words that apply. Note the trends. Draw your conclusions.

Unpleasant Fullness Word List

stuffed                        swollen            distended        full                   overfed                        blown up

ballooned        engorged         bloated                        satisfied           sated                satiated

dissatisfied      displeased       unhappy          frustrated        disappointed   uncomfortable

awkward         ill at ease         clumsy             graceless          bulky               cumbersome

difficult to maneuver              large                massive            mammoth        enormous

bursting           sated                insatiable         gluttonous       voracious         excessive

fat                    overweight      heavy   stout    plump              large                corpulent

chubby                        big       obese   portly   podgy  rotund fleshy  tubby   round   flabby  soft

unfit                sagging                        chunky                        tired     exhausted        sleepy  drowsy

fatigued           worn-out         out-of-breath   all-in    drained                        pooped            beat

done-in            gasping                        winded                        panting                        indigestion      puffy

heartburn         repulsive          bad      nasty    disgusting        hideous                        gross

sick                  queasy             nauseous          upset    sickening         irritated           annoyed

inert                 sluggish           torpid              passive             slow     lethargic          slothful

slow-moving   apathetic          gloomy                        melancholic     pessimistic       depressed

glum    sad       low-spirited     despondent     miserable         fed-up             undisciplined

out-of-control  impulsive         wanting to throw up               aching              tender  sore

burning            negative           cynical             irritable            touchy             moody  regretful

Pleasant Fullness Word List

contented        fulfilled                       pleased                        happy              comfortable     at ease

satisfied           disciplined       enjoyable         good                easy                 relaxed

laid-back         calm                 peaceful           stress-free        casual              mellow

smooth                        placid              sedate              settled             rewarded         on the ball

aware               alert                 sharp                capable                        competent       sensible

level-headed    mindful                       conscious         thoughtful       nourished        attractive

optimistic        positive                        in control         upbeat             certain             clear

confident         constructive     decisive           poised              balanced          controlled

composed        reasonable       well-adjusted  stable               together           organized

unruffled         up                    on top of things                                   proper              purposeful

reflective         social               cheerful           complete          whole              …

Mindful Emotional Eating Partnership

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

I am still getting a good bit of correspondence regarding my harm-reduction, moderation-focused, Middle Way approach to dealing with emotional eating.  While the idea is beginning to sink in, there are still lingering questions about how to cultivate mindful emotional eating partnerships and whether doing so would be a form of enabling.  So, I am re-posting this essay (with a section on “enabling”).  Be well.


As you might recall from the “Eating the Moment” self-help program for overcoming overeating, there are 3 reasons we eat:  just because, mindlessly; to satisfy biological/physiological hunger; and to change how we feel/for emotional reasons.  Emotional eating is extremely common.  In fact, it is pretty much hard-wired into our eating culture.  Take the concept of dessert, for example.  What is dessert?  Dessert is something yummy, tasty.  Does your body need dessert?  Of course, not.  So, why do we eat desserts?  Because we want to enjoy the taste of what we are eating.  That’s an emotional reason.  Dessert is for the mind, not for the body.

Same goes for any kind of taste-focused cooking.  As a culture, we spend endless hours pursuing various gustatory highlights.  Why?  Once again, because we want to enjoy what we are eating.  That’s emotional eating.  Why?  Because your body doesn’t really need for the food to taste good.  What your body needs is the right amount of food and a certain combination of nutritional value.  Our obsession with the taste of food is nothing other than an attempt to kill two birds with one stone: to fill up our stomach and to caress the palate of your sensation-seeking mind.  Nothing’s wrong with that!  Let cosmonauts eat spam!  The point I am making is that emotional eating is pretty much hard-wired into all of our eating.  If you want for your food to have a nice taste, let alone if you want a dessert, you are looking at food to satisfy your emotional desires for pleasures.  Once again: there is absolutely nothing wrong with that!

Select books by Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.:
Mindful Emotional Eating Reinventing the Meal
Present Perfect
Eating the Moment

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