I remember standing in front of the mirror and hating everything I saw. Hugging my unnaturally thin waist to shamefully cover myself, I stepped on the scale for the fifth time that week to see that the number kept going down, and down. Controlling every ounce of food that entered my body, I was living in an unrealistic world. My stomach was growling, but the voices in my head were telling me to suck it up and ignore the growls. Mindful eating was a totally foreign concept to me.

Feeling my bones protruding from my skin, feeling my clothes get looser, and feeling my growling stomach was a sign of victory for me. It was like I was in a competition with myself and I wanted to prove that I was winning. But, at what cost? As time went by, my unhealthy relationship with food started getting in between my friendships, my health, and my life in general. I had single-handedly locked myself up in a prison that I couldn't escape. 

All of a sudden, it wasn't a game anymore, but rather my own life. I was physically and mentally sick, and I was unhappy. I was ready to accept that I had a problem, and I found myself crying out for help. I remember crying to my mother, and finally admitting that I was battling with an eating disorder. That was the first time I had spoken the truth out loud. 

It's been a long road to recovery, and I'd be lying if I said that these thoughts never come back. In fact, I have come to terms with the fact that my eating disorder will always be a small part of me. However, as time goes by, I find myself healing, knowing that I am the only one who can truly help myself. Now I understand that I have to stop hurting myself with these thoughts, and I have finally discovered the beauty of mindful eating. 

What Is Mindful Eating?

platter, feast, waffle, chocolate
Liyan Cai

Mindful eating, for me, is all about finding your "happy point." It is about being able to listen to your body, your thoughts, and feelings, without judgment. It is about being able to select food that is both nourishing and satisfying for you. Having no feelings of guilt associated with the foods that you enjoy eating is extremely liberating. Last but not least, mindful eating is about experiencing food, rather than scarfing down the leftovers in your fridge and then realizing you weren't even that hungry to begin with.  

In today's culture, we are constantly being exposed to a long list of do's and dont's when it comes to eating. Registered dietitian Marsha Hudnall says, "The entire process repeated over time may create an unhealthful relationship with food and eating; individuals begin to fear food because they believe they cannot eat without overeating." And that is exactly what people all over the world experience on a daily basis. 

It has taken me so much time to stop associating feelings of guilt with food and start embracing the experience of food. As a nutrition and culinary arts major, I have fallen in love with being able to take delicious, quality local ingredients and turning them into a work of art in the kitchen. Mindful eating has helped me feel safer around food instead of fearing it. 

Rules for Mindful Eating

chocolate, cream, sweet, cake, candy, pastry, brownie, goody, Oreo, Oreos, half eaten
Anna Arteaga

The #1 rule to mindful eating is that there are no rules. Today's diet culture, social media, and even our peers drive us to believe that there are certain foods that should be labeled as "good" or "bad." Truthfully, mindful eating is the most open diet you'll ever find. Instead of completely ruling out certain food groups like the fad diets we run into all the time, a mindful eating lifestyle allows you to come to your senses and listen to your body's cues. 

Next time you eat an Oreo, or any food for that matter, take time to visualize, chew slowly, and appreciate all of the flavor components. I promise that it will be the best damn Oreo you'll ever have. 

Tips for Mindful Eating

cafe, terrain, tea, wooden, plates, quinoa, chicken, lunch, Dinner, ketchup, fries, silverware, white plates, mason jars, table, burger
Katie Kasperson

1. How are you feeling? Are you hungry, bored, or stressed? Take a minute to ask yourself that question, and you will be surprised with what you will discover. 

2. Slow down and pay attention to what you are eating. You might see a burger and decide you want to eat that, but realize halfway through that what you truly need is something a little more fresh. Or you may discover that you actually don't like the peppery taste of arugula

3. Set all distractions aside by focusing only on the meal that you are eating. Be present in the moment, and you just might find that there is a whole world happening around you, outside of your Instagram account. 

interiors, Interior, Friends, people, cafe, coffee, Shanghai, China, decor
Denise Uy

4. Allow yourself to enjoy food. Food is not the enemy. In fact, it is a basic human need, so we might as well enjoy it, right? 

5. There are 821 million people in the world that are malnourished, for one reason or another. We have been blessed with the opportunity to have food on our table, and I believe it is important to appreciate that. Value the people around you, the people who prepared your food, the colors, the taste of food, the textures, and everything in between. Eating will no longer be a routine, but rather an experience.

lettuce, spinach, salmon, lemon, cheese, tomato, pepper
Josi Miller

Food, regardless of your background, is a huge part of our daily lives, and if we can learn to appreciate it and be mindful of it, we will create a healthier environment for all of us. Practicing mindful eating is the first step to a better, healthier, and happier version of you! 

Remember, you are not alone. 

Don't be scared to ask for help. Call 314-977-8255 (TALK) or visit this site if you ever find yourself in a situation where you need to talk to someone at Saint Louis University.