Mindful eating: Lessons from Buddhism

“The problem in dealing with craving is that when we try to squelch it, we only step it up somewhere else. It comes bursting out more intensely than ever. For example, suppose you notice, “I’m craving a pizza now.” That’s fine. Just notice it. But we usually don’t stop there. Rather than just seeing, we act upon what we notice instead: “I shouldn’t be wanting pizza. I must stop this desire for pizza.” This very reaction is already more craving. We’re desiring an end to desire. We’re doing the usual thing again – reaching for, insisting, grabbing. This is bondage, not freedom. This is a subtle but crucial point. There’s no bandage to use on this problem that will not itself be the same problem all over again. The only way to eradicate this problem is to see it and thereby no longer feed it.”

(Buddhism: Plain and Simple by Steve Hagen, p.37)


As someone who has struggled with binge eating, I know all too well about cravings. And desires. And desires to end desires. And cravings to end cravings. So when I came across the paragraph above by Steve Hagen (click image above for the link to his book), I found myself relating very strongly to it. It reminded me about another book that I read while I was doing my Master’s dissertation on binge eating urges – Brain over Binge by Kathryn Hansen (click image below for link).


While Kathryn Hansen’s book does not have direct links to mindfulness or Buddhism, her message and technique for overcoming binge eating urges is very similar to the paragraph at the beginning of this blog post. Her technique for overcoming binge eating includes acceptance of the urge to binge (rather than fighting against it), disattachment from the urge to binge (it’s just your thoughts, it’s not you), and non-reactivity towards the urge to binge (simply observe it as it comes and goes). Sounds familiar? Sounds pretty mindful to me! (I highly recommend her book if you are struggling with binge eating. Click here for more information on her method).

So what can we learn from these two different books? What can we learn from Buddhism? Ultimately, this is not a religious or sectarian approach at all. It is simply a way to overcome cravings by – and this is the surprising part – not doing anything about them at all! When we accept cravings (including food urges) as a natural part of life, and see them as they really are, overcoming them becomes somewhat more plain and simple.

“Don’t squelch your desire, or try to stop it. You’ll only feed and intensify it. The point is not to kill desire. The point is to see.” 

(Buddhism: Plain and Simple by Steve Hagen, p.43)

Dear readers, I am currently raising money for Beat – Eating Disorders Association. Please CLICK HERE to read my story and donate a small amount to my fundraising campaign, and feel free to share my page (http://www.doitforcharity.com/KatForBeat) so that more funds can be raised for Beat! Together we can make a huge difference in the lives of the many people worldwide who are living with eating disorders ❤ 



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