When we think of mindful eating, most of us imagine someone eating dinner in silence, carefully chewing every spoonful of food while paying extra-close attention to the meal in front of them. But Dr. Alexis Conason, an NYC-based clinical psychologist and founder of The Anti-Diet Plan, tells Lively we shouldn’t feel pressured to live up to this dream notion of “mindful eating."
“Mindful eating can be done in any situation, in any place, with any food. It doesn’t have to be a perfect setting. We don’t have to eat in silence,” says Conason, whose program walks people through rebuilding their relationship with food. “That’s not real life for most people … a lot of people do eat on the go or at a lunch meeting and grab something when they can.”
Conason is all for people learning to become more in-tune with their bodies (i.e. asking themselves, “am I really hungry right now?”), even if just for one minute to “create a real shift” in their relationship with food. She also advises people to let go of the judgment most of us feel when confronting different foods.
“The number one thing that I’d recommend is lessening the judgment around food. Paradoxically, the more we try to control our eating, the more out of control we feel around food,” she says. “We need to neutralize food and not judge the chocolate chip cookie differently from having a big bowl of kale.”
Giving into cravings in an effort to let go of that control can be scary. And it makes sense considering most people have been conditioned to group certain foods into “good” and “bad” categories. “We’re taught that our bodies are going to lead us astray and if we don’t control our bodies in some way, we’re going to eat chocolate chip cookies all day, every day,” adds Conason.
Letting go of those limitations will encourage new eating habits that put a healthy emphasis on moderation.
“When you actually allow yourself chocolate chip cookies, you’ll find that most of the time, you don’t want them all day, every day,” she says. “If we eat them when we want them and enjoy them without judgment and guilt and things that accompany food morality these days, we can have what we want, eat it and get on with our lives.”
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