5 Barriers to Mindful Eating

melon bowlEat mindfully, is the art of being present with our meals, and eating with deep awareness of our bodies’ cravings, needs, and satiety levels. When we do not eat mindfully, we may find ourselves shoving meals down quickly while watching TV, multi-tasking during mealtime, or eating on-the-go. Barriers or hindrances to mindful eating include: thoughts, feelings, and sensations that hinder our capacity for mindfulness. They cause us to divert our attention, they weaken our wisdom, and distract us from noticing the present moment or noticing the feelings we are trying to avoid. The five classical hindrances or barriers are: 1) sensual desire, 2) aversion, 3) boredom, 4) restlessness, and 5) doubt. All of these can hijack our attention from mindful eating. Here’s a brief run-down of how! Sensual desire is being absorbed in enjoyable sensations without the recognition that they are fleeting. We keep going for more thinking we can maintain the feeling. The joy of fulfilling desire is not getting it, because that is not satiable. Aversion is ill will or punishing ourselves by abusing food. Doubt questions mindful eating and the ability to engage in it. Restlessness and boredom both involve misplacing our energy and directing it towards food to avoid feeling nothing or perhaps the frustration of boredom.

Why are these habits or barriers important to recognize on an ongoing basis? If we remain aware of our hindrances we can prevent or avert hindrance attacks. By understanding our patterns we can learn to understand our behaviors in any given moment, and also teach ourselves to develop empathy for the choices we make. If we don’t take the time to recognize them, we will engage in behaviors unconsciously and be powerless to change them or choose differently. 

To overcome the barrier of sensual desire, look at the objects of desire and determine what are the unrealistic expectations, are we seeing it clearly? How long will the pleasure actually last? Ensuring that we are appreciating and savoring the sensual desire while eating our food rather than mistreating it is key. We can also work to override the feeling of desire by practicing contentment, until we have trained ourselves to easily disengage from the object of desire. To deal with doubt, you could chat with a mindful eating teacher or coach and talk through the doubts you have. Our just journaling your thoughts may be effective enough. Acknowledgment will give the doubts less power. With aversion we can take time to get to the root of what we are punishing ourselves for. If we unearth the shame, guilt, or upset and deal with it head on, we will be less likely to use food as aversion. Mindfulness activities or meditations can help us stay rooted in the present moment when struggling with boredom and restlessness. Rather than go on autopilot and begin eating to cope, we can train ourselves to ask questions before we chose to eat to determine if we are just killing time or avoiding feelings.

It’s important that we do not beat up on ourselves for not achieving the elusive title of “mindful eater.” Part of cheering ourselves on is recognition that it’s all a process that requires positive choices day by day. We have to realize that slip-ups are not wrong, they are just a part of the ebb and flow of life. We can get excited when we start to notice behavioral changes or landmarks that we achieve. Perhaps we stop rushing and eating on the go, or we learn to put away our phones during dinner. Celebrating the small victories can go a long way to helping us stay on the path. –Xo Raw Girl

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