To discuss mindfulness in May felt catchy and appropriate. Spring is the season of creation. For creation in my life, I wrote a book with a dear colleague and friend (being published!!!! ) Exciting! In the creation of the manuscript, we began to discuss if there is a difference between mindful eating and coping with food. I found it to be helpful with my discussions, ponderings, and further application with clients, so I wanted to share with you as the principles can be applied to relationships, finances, time or so many areas of life.

When we are being mindful, we are aware, we are present, and we have the ability to use our brains and bodies with intention, even if it is uncomfortable. For example, when we are mindful about exercise. Sometimes, the movement or stretch is uncomfortable however we engage in it because the benefit outweighs the momentary discomfort. The growth comes from being uncomfortable and if we are mindful during an exercise, even with tolerable pain, we will avoid injury as much as possible. So does that mean in order to be mindful with our eating behaviors, we might be uncomfortable? Keep reading and I can answer this momentarily. Stay present.

When we are coping with food, we are typically eating or avoiding food in reaction to an emotional state. Rather than addressing the emotional state such as fear, boredom, anger, anxiety or even stress, we use food to avoid feeling the emotion, and voila, we “feel” better. Although coping mechanisms feel good, the underlying emotional (or physical) discomfort will not be addressed. So when we cope with food, we might feel better momentarily yet in the long run, the source of discomfort is not addressed.

Pain is uncomfortable. We try to avoid it. However, there is pain that can lead to growth (or change). A question to consider is what capacity do you have to tolerate this discomfort or pain for the purposes of growth? There are times in life we are able to grow. For that growth to occur, two things are necessary, we first must get uncomfortable and then have energy to fuel that growth. There are also times in life when we are not able to grow, and we need to use energy to heal. So it can be concluded that both growth and healing require pain/discomfort and energy. The irony is that food is needed for growth and healing yet food is not meant nor designed to take away your pain. Pain is inevitable in our lives and understanding our capacity and willingness to withstand various types of pain is up to us and how we choose to deal.

Mindfulness is a skill that allows you to choose to withstand discomfort in growth. Maybe you have the capacity to practice mindfulness in your health, as you’re able to withstand some discomfort. Coping with food soothes the pain and can be used in times of need. The key is being aware of your intention and if it is in alignment with your goals.