The Buddha told monks to take meals silently, with no books or conversations to distract them, only an awareness of what their body needs to get through the day. When they felt full, they stopped eating, even if that meant leaving food in the bowl.
As a full-time therapist at the Carolina House, a residential facility for eating disordered women, I spend a lot of time thinking about how to use DBT skills, particularly mindfulness, to help our residents deal with their various eating issues. For these women, food is terrifying. I teach them mindfulness skills to help them manage their fear around food and prevent the use of symptoms such as restricting or purging. It’s a hybrid of treatment for OCD, with exposure and response prevention, and systematic desensitization.
Regardless of the mixture of behavioral therapies that takes place at Carolina House, the core of my teaching involves mindfulness. A recent book by Jan Chozen Bays called Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food further illustrates the benefit of using mindfulness to bring balance to one’s diet. Pay attention to your hunger and satiety cues and let your body tell you what you need. There is one caveat to that belief: our bodies can be easily fooled into thinking we need more (or less) than we actually do. If you’re having trouble regulating your meals, start by meeting with a nutritionist to get your perceptions in line with reality and then use mindfulness to get you the rest of the way there.