Mindful Eating Programs and Training

Mindful Eating Programs and Training

Mindful Eating in Diet Culture

Michelle May


mindful eating in diet cultureI signed up for yoga classes during the four days we were at sea during a cruise to celebrate our 30th anniversary. Who new I would also gain insight about how to stay focused on mindful eating in diet culture!

During the first class, I discovered that the yoga room had an open doorway from the ship’s gym so we heard the whirr of treadmills and clanging of weights in the background. After noting my distraction, I settled into my practice and took no further notice.

During the second class, I was in a downward facing dog looking at the ocean through the floor-to-ceiling windows when a guy in exercise attire strolled in, headphones on, and began a solo boxing workout at the back of the room, smack in the middle of my view. He watched our yoga class while hopping from one foot to the other, grunting and jabbing the air like Rocky. The teacher seemed puzzled too but continued the class.

During his 30-minute (!) workout, I experienced thoughts and emotions ranging from curious and amused to incredulous and irritated. Mindfulness has taught me to be just as curious about my own responses as I was about his apparent mindlessness. Eventually, I made this distraction part of my yoga practice and kept bringing my attention back to my breath and postures.

Do you feel distracted by diet culture?

Our ever-present diet culture becomes magnified during the New Year’s resolution diet-hype.

It occurred to me that mindful eating in diet culture is very much like practicing yoga while someone boxes in the back of the room! Whether we are simply aware of the constant murmur of diet-talk all around us or frequently distracted by it, we have the choice to ignore it and settle back into our mindful eating practice.

However, since restrictive eating messages are particularly heightened this time of year, it becomes increasingly difficult to cultivate your attention and maintain your intention to make healing your relationship with food the priority over temporarily losing a few pounds.

Whether it’s your girlfriend’s latest fad diet, your doctor’s admonishment to lose weight, or even our beloved Oprah touting Weight Watchers, now WW (as though it’s not really a diet since you can eat whatever you want as long as you don’t exceed your allotted points), the pull toward the familiar though ineffective old approach is alluring.

Tips to stay focused on mindful eating in diet culture

Take a few deep breaths.

The simple grounding strategy of taking a few conscious breaths will help calm your nervous system and bring you back to the present moment. When you are calm, you can decide where to focus your attention.

Use self-compassion.

It is understandable that you would initially feel drawn toward diet-culture since they make it sound easy, fast, new, ground-breaking, or miraculous. Remember, those are the words that marketers use to attract customers – but the words don’t have to be true. (Remember all the times your diet started out easy but just got harder to maintain?)

Be compassionate toward others.

Oprah’s enthusiasm about WW reminds me of my own each time I experienced initial “success” (though it never lasted). While maybe that is the answer for her, I know that weighing, measuring, counting, and logging is not the answer for me anymore!

Do a reality check.


There are two questions to ask yourself:

1. Does this sound too good to be true? If so, then it probably is!*

2. Can I do this every day for the rest of my life? If not, then don’t bother doing it for a day, because as soon as you stop, you’ll be right back where you started – or even worse off!

Choose your focus.

Imagine what would happen if you took a fraction of the time, energy, attention, and money that you would have spent on that new diet (whether they call themselves a diet or not!), and instead invested it in becoming the expert in yourself?

Take supportive action.

What is one small step you could take toward mindful self-care when you feel tempted (or frustrated) by all the diet-hype ? A Body-Mind-Heart Scan? Use your Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating Virtual Coach App? Take a mindful bite?

Shift your focus from diet-culture to mindful eating

Mindful eating, like yoga, is teaching me to be present and nonjudgmental. I am repeatedly amazed at what shows up when I simply pause to notice.

Our final yoga class during the cruise was held on the grassy upper deck of the ship as we pulled away from the French Riviera. I was in a downward facing dog looking at the ocean through the railing when I saw a beautiful rainbow…

* At first, mindful eating might sound too good to be true! Eat what you love? How can that possibly work? Admittedly, it sounds simple, but it isn’t always easy. Like most worthwhile changes, it’s a process! (Read How Long Does It Take to Learn to Eat Mindfully?)

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