How to Practice Mindfulness and How Shame Can Affect Your Eating Habits

Eating is a daily practice that helps nourish our bodies by keeping them strong and healthy. It is the “fuel” that provides energy for the day. Eating habits may become unhealthy patterns ladened with guilt and shame. It is important to become aware of maladaptive core beliefs and the internalized messages that come along with eating habits and feelings about weight, appearance, or overall body image.

Shame is an emotion that can greatly affect eating habits whether it be mindless eating, restricting, binging, purging, struggles with weight, and/ or body image. Feelings of shame are often present with behaviors that are done in secret and may be associated with rigidly held beliefs including “food rules” that affects-eating-habits. Mindfulness can help bring awareness to unhelpful thoughts that contribute to feelings of shame. Mindfulness can help us sit with the discomfort these feelings bring, being present in the moment and approaching eating habits with curiosity. In our moments of pain and suffering may we find compassion for ourselves. Oftentimes it is much easier to show compassion for others while the inner critic is unleashed on the self. Offering yourself kindness and compassion during a difficult situation is a great mindfulness practice that can help work with feelings of shame.

Here are some guidelines on how to practice mindfulness while eating that incorporate simple practices for daily life.

1) Notice What You are Eating. Make mindful choices that nourish the body and soul.

2) Savor Your Food. Take time to notice the aroma, taste, and texture. Allow yourself to connect and enjoy these sensations.

3) Create a Pause. Activities to slow down and then enjoy the food such as breathing or prayer before eating can help with the transition to meal time.

4) Be Mindful of Where You are Eating. Do you eat on the couch in front of your TV, at your desk while working, or in bed? Take the time to prepare a special place for mealtime, even if it is a place setting for one.

5) Listen to Your Body Signals. Learn to recognize and appropriately respond to signals of hunger and fullness.

The Center for Mindful Eating provides some great information on mindful eating as well as mindful meditations:

If you are struggling with shame around eating habits, please schedule a time to talk to a therapist with a specialty working with eating disorders or a specialty clinic that provides treatment for eating disorders.

Melrose Center:

The Emily Program:

Written By: Charlotte Johnson, MA, LPCC


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