EXCHANGE: ISU professor's book discusses mindful eating

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TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) — A half a cookie becomes a whole experience through "mindful eating."

Jean Kristeller explains how people can transform their approach to food, lose weight and feel healthier in her new book, "The Joy of Half a Cookie." The professor emerita of psychology at Indiana State University poured 35 years of research into the power of mindfulness and meditation, resulting in the book published by Perigee, a division of Penguin Random House.

People can learn when to stop eating that cookie, or any other food that appeals to them. That moment could come after a few bites of their favorite pizza or a warm chocolate chip cookie straight out of the oven. Through mindful eating, a person learns to enjoy the tastes felt in the initial bites and then wrap up the cookie or pizza slice once the initial sensation of flavor fades.

Instead of willpower and self-deprivation, a person can savor dishes they crave, but in smaller amounts as they learn to sense the moment when their taste buds "habituate," or become tired of the flavor. In a nutshell, when the thrill is gone, you stop eating. In a pair of studies in Terre Haute and North Carolina, participants discovered "they really didn't want that fourth bite," Kristeller said.

Yet, they still get to experience delicious foods.

"I emphasize cultivating your inner gourmet," said Kristeller. "And if you're going to eat it, you might as well enjoy it. And enjoy it, rather than gobbling it down." Mindful eating involves smaller amounts of food "and savoring the experience."

She's been "working on this area, really, from the beginning of my career," she added. Kristeller, who has earned degrees at the University of Wisconsin and a doctorate at Yale, researched eating disorders in her post-doctoral training, and she came to ISU in 1991 after serving on the staff and faculty in behavioral medical services of Cambridge Hospital at Harvard Medical School and the University of Massachusetts Medical Center.

Like millions of other people, she struggled with weight fluctuation in her teen and early college years. After eating too much at dinner, Kristeller would starve herself the next day, overeat again that evening, feel guilty and repeat the cycle the next day. The daytime skimping and deprivation failed to offset the heavier eating at night.

"Despite my attempts, I never lost the weight I'd hoped to," Kristeller writes in the book, "and in fact, I gained more. A familiar story."

The studies — one supported substantially by National Institutes of Health funding — delved into a person's concept of feeling full. Some participants defined that point as 20 minutes after starting a meal. Others told Kristeller that time comes "when my plate is empty." Through mindful eating practices, they detect the tiring of their taste buds. The meal slows down, the pleasure stands out more, and the sensory signals to stop become more clear.

"Absolutely, people will tell me they're finding they can just stop and reflect for a moment," Kristeller said, "and that they're in a wiser place."


Source: Tribune-Star,


Information from: Tribune-Star,

This is an Indiana Exchange story shared by the Tribune-Star.

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