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A New Perspective on “Mindful Eating”

To eat “mindfully” is to do one simple thing:

enjoy your food—for no other reason than the inherent value of pleasure itself.

Although the diet industry may suggest otherwise, mindfulness is not a method of self-control; its purpose is not to help you eat less or lose weight or “eat correctly” in any way whatsoever;

on the contrary, these intentions will only increase anxiety around food in the long run—turning “mindfulness” into a chore, a diet, into something to fail at.

If the term “mindful eating” rubs you the wrong way or triggers diet-mentality in you (as it did for me for many years), feel free to disregard the term entirely

and instead, simply remember: you have the right—and the privilege—to enjoy your food wholeheartedly; you are allowed to relish and savor the experience of eating without a narrative of self-judgment.

Active enjoyment of food is a radical act through which we restore the natural relationship between food and body—a relationship that is biologically designed for pleasure, playfulness, kindness, and love.  
 
In other words, “Mindful Eating” is a somewhat uninspired term to describe what is actually quite sexy: the sensual joy of tasting and feeling—presence to the deliciousness of food without rebuke.

To learn another perspective on food and eating, make sure to check out my free video training series at stopfightingfood.com

Feel like you could eat forever? A word on satiation.

Yes, there will come a moment when you will be satisfied,
a moment when you’re not only full but simply don’t want anymore.

But that moment only comes to those who are not grasping for it,
who let go of the constant attempts at control,
who let go of the constant judgment of their choices,
and who let go of their food needing to look a certain way.

As long as we live in the judgment,
as long as we live in the need to control,
we will feel utterly compulsed by food—no amount of food will be enough.

On the flip side, when we let go,
when we allow our food to be what it wants to be,
rather than trying to force it into what we think it should be,
satiation finds us. 

Want more of my take on food and eating? Check out my free video training series at stopfightingfood.com.

How to manage ANY health condition…without dieting

I’m often asked—

“If the pursuit of weight loss (almost always) leads to bingeing or rebound weight-gain in the long-run, how am I supposed to address ‘weight-related’ health issues I may be facing? 

What if I have joint pain?
Or high blood pressure?
Or diabetes?
Or any others of the infinite conditions I’m always told will be alleviated through weight loss?

Good question—here’s my answer: 

First of all, it’s important to remember that “weight-related” does not necessarily mean “weight-caused” (in fact, it very rarely does), and weight loss in-and-of-itself is not a fix for any of the problems listed above. More on this here.

That being said, even if a particular condition could be managed through weight loss alone, the fact remains that dieting simply isn’t sustainable for almost anyone long-term (and usually leads to higher weight outcomes, and worse health indicators in the long-run).

In other words, trying to lose weight is not an effective method for dealing with any “weight-related” conditions, by virtue of the fact that there’s currently no proven, safe, or effective way to accomplish that goal.

Thankfully, there are plenty of other (more effective) ways to address all of the conditions mentioned above.

For instance, someone struggling with joint pain may be helped by strength training. If trying to lose weight doesn’t work long-term, let’s get more muscle on you, so you can comfortably carry more weight.

If you have high blood pressure, you may want to work on getting more exercise in your day or lowering the amount of sodium you consume.

If you have diabetes, you can work on managing your blood sugar through exercise, food-pairing, or various other dietary changes.

Ultimately, these behavioral changes *may or may* not lead to weight loss—

but whether they do or not, they have a much better chance of improving your *actual health condition* long-term than some arbitrary attempt at weight control…which is almost surely doomed to fail in the long run. 

Another way of thinking about this is…

if you accepted that the pursuit of weight loss is not an effective course of treatment for any health conditions—by virtue of the fact that diets have a 95% failure rate and a long list of side effects, including weight gain,

what would be your Plan B? How would you approach this problem if dieting (or attempts at weight reduction) was not an option?    

and if you need help figuring out an effective Plan B for managing your particular condition—

ask yourself (and/or your doctor),

how would a thin person manage this condition? 

thin people also get diabetes,
thin people also get high blood pressure,
thin people also get joint pain,
and pretty much any other ‘weight-related’ condition you can think of.

What do *they* do when faced with these medical concerns? Probably something a lot more effective than hopping on the yo-yo diet train…

Food for thought.

(and speaking of your doctor, if you’re struggling to find a healthcare professional who will work with you in a weight-neutral way—e.g. your doctor is refusing to work with you around a particular condition “until” you lose weight, or is shaming you for something that very few people actually achieve—make sure to check out this important book. You may also be able to find a more compatible health professional in your area by clicking here.

Like this blog post? There’s a whole (free) video series about where this came from. Check it out at stopfightingfood.com

Weight Bias is Not In Your Head…and that’s probably not a reason to diet.

Isabel Foxen DukeDear Isabel,

I understand that a focus on “weight control” is what’s behind most restriction (and subsequent binge/emotional eating behaviors). For the sake of my own healing, I’d like to get on the body-positivity train, but it’s hard to let go of dieting in a society that *really does* judge people on the basis of size. I have a deeply set fear that if I get bigger, I won’t be loved, I won’t be chosen for jobs as easily, I won’t be noticed—how do I overcome this fear when I see it happening around me all the time? 

xo Anonymous

____________

Here’s the short answer to this question: 

Yes, we live in a highly oppressive world—towards all marginalized groups on the spectrums of race, gender, size, ability, age, class and various other factors.

Weight discrimination is not just “in your head,” and healing your relationship with your body may mean learning to navigate an incredibly violent and prejudicial culture without hurting yourself or causing yourself further harm.

That being said—I don’t know many people who are made happier, or healthier, by *participating* in their own oppression—by agreeing with, perpetuating, or acquiescing to the demands of cultural mandates that are fundamentally designed to oppress them.

It’s worth asking yourself the question—are you really happier trying to conform to a particular weight standard, than you would be rejecting those standards and being true to yourself—even in the face of judgment?

Are you happier doing the *constant* labor of harming yourself so you can look like something that isn’t natural to you? Likely without any long-term ‘success’ in these efforts anyway?

Are you happier suffering at the hands of restriction, food obsession, diet-binge cycling? Weight-cycling up and down?

Are you happier spending your numbered days on this planet trying desperately to conform at the cost of your own health, sanity, and freedom?

Yes, you may incur judgment by being your natural size—and given the long-term success rates of dieting, you’ll likely incur the same judgment whether you choose to diet or not,

but is incurring the judgment of some fatphobic people really *more* scary than living in a constant state of self-harm, with no promise of safety from that judgment regardless?

Like most people, I battled a deep fear of judgment when I first gave up dieting—but that fear seemed infinitely more manageable when I honestly considered my alternative.

At some point, it felt less scary to stand up to fatphobia, than continue pandering to bigotry, ignorance, and hate.

That’s the short answer.