Photo: Ture Lillegraven
How many times have you carelessly snagged a cookie from a baking-happy coworker simply because she brought a plate of them into the office? Or lazily munched your way through a bag of potato chips while lounging on the couch?
Neither is exactly an example of mindfulness, which Yahoo Health editor-in-chief Michele Promaulayko, in her new book 20 Pounds Younger, calls the practice of ”bringing awareness and attention to any experience without getting tangled up in judgment.”
When you apply mindfulness to eating, it has the potential to reboot your relationship with food for the better. We sat down with Promaulayko to learn more.
Congrats on the book! Tell us more about this “mindfulness” concept as it pertains to food.
Mindfulness is something you hear a lot more than you used to, but there’s still a “woo-woo” connotation to it. People wonder, “Do I have to be a chanting yoga master to do this?” And the answer is “no.” Mindfulness is really about slowing down for a minute and making a considered decision, without the judgement. You ask yourself, “Do I really want this?” You’re not just shoveling something into your mouth reflexively.
And it’s not just about thinking, correct? In your book, you write that how you feel is a big part of it.
The other form of mindfulness is tuning into your own body and distinguishing real hunger cues. So many other things masquerade as hunger: boredom, stress, thirst. There are also a bunch of external cues, like what your friends around the table at dinner are doing. Whether or not there’s food left on your plate. To be like, “I’m going to clean my plate,” that’s mindless. You’re not thinking, “Am I full? Do I want to eat that?”
The “clean plate club” isn’t always worth joining. Photo: Susanne Schanz, StockFood
How did you eat when you were younger?
Growing up in a single parent household, my mom didn’t cook a lot: She just didn’t have time. There was a lot of packaged food in our house, and a lot of unhealthy sodium- and sugar-rich foods. What you’re exposed to when you’re young really does form your palate.
[Then, later in life], I was so seduced by some of the early fads, like fat-free. But I wasn’t educated, and honestly the world wasn’t very educated. Fat was vilified … I’ve been on a learning curve, same as everyone—about healthy fats being a good thing and calorie counting being a bad thing.
Try to reach for healthy foods sometimes, such as this apple, fennel, and kale green juice. Photo: Gräfe & Unzer Verlag/StockFood
How did your attitude toward food change?
I’m now at a point where the darkest chocolate tastes good to me, because over time I’ve exposed myself to healthier things [and lost my taste for super-sweet foods.]
A major motivation for me, personally, is this plan the “Eat Sheet,” for which I’ve tapped super experienced experts. It’s not a super prescriptive “diet,” because to me, that’s a recipe for failure. I love food. This is something that is sustainable—and not just for a wedding or a reunion or to fit into a bikini. It’s healthy, and you can maintain it.
Any other tips?
Store-bought food is [designed] to make us want more of it: It’s a powerful force. Unwinding from that means eating more whole foods, evolving your palate, exposing yourself to things that are more healthful, and dispensing with the judgment.
For me, when health is firing on all four cylinders—sleeping, eating, working out, stress management—that’s when the real momentum happens. It’s not to say that everything needs to be perfect overnight. But we are systemic creatures: You can’t just zero in on one aspect of your life and completely neglect the other ones and expect everything to be golden. It won’t be. I don’t expect people to go from one end of the spectrum to another, but they should know that it’s possible to change.
For more tips on mindful eating, check out Promaulayko’s book, 20 Pounds Younger.
Some healthy recipes to get you started:
What’s your secret to eating mindfully? Tell us below!