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Beautiful mixed race woman eating pasta for dinner while sitting at kitchen table.

Mindful eating isn’t about dieting, it’s about appreciating what you’re eating. It’s not about restriction, it’s about observation. It’s about self-control as a response to self-awareness. 

Mindful eating does not require an entire lifestyle change; it’s a simple practice with origins in mindful meditation that, when incorporated with eating, provides more enjoyment, less stress and improved mental and physical health for individuals who practice.

Mindful eating for sobriety 

According to one source, mindfulness “is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic, offers another definition of mindfulness as ​​the “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”

As such, mindfulness, when blended with mealtimes and food prep, brings a feeling of order, observation and intentionality. Eating becomes less a method of numbing one’s emotions and instead a time of relaxation and leisure, which can be especially beneficial to those working on maintaining sobriety. 

Mindful eating benefits

It prevents one addiction from turning into another

For those who have spent time in their life battling addiction, it is likely a habit of using substances to cope with unpleasant emotions, circumstances, etc. When this coping mechanism is removed, the brain looks for alternative methods to handle those emotions. One common alternative is binge-eating. 

Indulging in comfort foods can have the same effect of numbing or distracting from unpleasant thoughts and feelings. When you’re practicing mindful eating, however, the temptation to use food as a coping mechanism lessens. You begin to understand the importance of eating to nourish the body, as well as, develop the ability to allow these emotions to be felt without affecting you; this translates into a decreased likeliness to eat for the sake of something to do and an ability to let emotions pass without needing to “do something” about them. 

Improved mood through improved food choices

Binge-eating, while it may sound like a comforting idea at the beginning, can result in a host of unpleasant thoughts and feelings — like an uncomfortably full stomach, guilt for eating so much, and dissatisfaction with body image, to name a few. Plus, people rarely binge-eat fruits and vegetables and gravitate instead towards high sugar, fat and salt items. 

Mindful eating not only helps deter one away from the temptation to binge-eat, it gives a whole new perspective on picking healthy food options. For example, when you take the time to stop and think about what your body needs, it becomes obvious that the best sources of vitamins and minerals are grocery items like — dark leafy greens, high protein meats (chicken and fish), avocados, beans and lentils, and whole grains and oats. Not only are these items better for your body, they are better for your mind.

A helpful method to avoiding relapse 

Mindful eating promotes habits that are focused on increasing one’s physical and mental wellbeing, not through dieting or strict pressures and restrictions, but through a greater awareness of the importance of putting good things into your body. 

Following a mindfully eaten meal, consumed slowly and intentionally, one might take 5-to-10 minutes to rest at the table, engaging in dinner time conversation or perusing a magazine. During this time, notice how the food made you feel. Are you full but not uncomfortably so? Did the meal benefit you, in that you don’t feel weighed down by carbs and starches, but feel energized through a balanced meal of proteins and nutrients? 

By becoming more aware of the truth that what you put into your body affects whether or not it functions well. Also it can determine whether or not you even feel good, you might find yourself less and less interested in consuming damaging substances.

Mindful eating teaches order and discipline 

Whereas alcohol and drugs create a lifestyle of destruction and chaos, always focused on when and where and how you might get the next hit or drink, mindful eating promotes a lifestyle of peace, rest and self-care. Every step is intentionally done, engaging all the senses, from the moment you take stock of your pantry, to writing up a grocery list, to shopping to cooking the meal itself. Once you finally sit down to enjoy your creation, you’ll find real joy in being able to partake in such an intentional meal.

It helps heal the brain 

Drug and alcohol use damages the gray matter in the brain, the part of the brain that plays a key role in emotion and memory. While discontinuing the use of addictive substances, in addition to proper therapies, helps restore this gray matter and cognitive functioning, it has been proven that mindfulness practices also help the process of restoring the gray matter back to a healthy state. In other words, mindful eating can literally help heal your brain after addiction.

Mindfully eating through sobriety 

Recovery will include many lifestyle changes, some easier than others, and it’s the hope of those who practice mindfulness that incorporating mindful eating becomes less about a lifestyle change and more about a routine meant to bring leisure, peace and mental and physical health back into your life.

For more information on mindful practices like mindful eating, contact Real Recovery Sober Living today at 855-363-7325.