Mindful Eating with Dr Larry Kaskel

What is mindful eating? Dr. Larry Kaskel is the Director of Executive Wellness at North Suburban Wellness in Downtown Highland Park, and took some time to talk with us about this important topic. Dr. Kaskel is a Highland Park resident, and recently moved his practice from Libertyville to Highland Park. With a focus in clinical lipidology and internal medicine, Dr. Kaskel emphasizes prevention, nutrition, and less medication with his patients. An avid paddle tennis player, he strongly believes in a peaceful office environment to help his patients with whole body wellness.  Offering weekend and evening hours, he is always accessible to those who want highly personalized service.

The following excerpt is from Dr. Kaskel’s book, Let Food Be Thy Medicine:

“Mindfulness is the sense of being wholeheartedly present in the moment with whatever is happening then letting go and moving on to the next moment. Mindful eating, then, is learning to be fully engaged with your meals. In short, that means listening to your body and eating as much as it needs.  It means eating as much of a variety of foods as recommended here as possible so you get all the micro- and macro-nutrients you need. It means watching your mind as you eat.

Watching your mind as you’re eating is the tricky part. Left to its own, the mind will lead us to cravings and overeating, especially of the foods we like.  People often mistakenly think that we should focus our attention on enjoying each mouthful ‘to the fullest.’  That makes us want more, and wanting more just leads to overeating.  Our meals and eating should be nutritious and nourishing, not a source of gluttony.”

Here is an exercise in mindful eating:

Pick a restaurant that you like. Make a reservation there as early as possible for dinner, just when the restaurant opens and when there are the fewest patrons in the restaurant: maybe a Monday night at 5:00 or 6:00 p.m. The quieter the restaurant, the fewer distractions there will be to pull you away from your mindfulness. Make the reservation for one. This is an ‘eat alone’ meal.

Arrive a few minutes early. If you are asked where you would like to be seated, say, ‘Anywhere is all right.’ When the server arrives and asks if you want a drink, ask for a glass of water without ice. When it’s time to order dinner, ask the server to pick an appetizer and an entrée for you. Skip the bread. Mention that you know the restaurant and just want to be surprised. Do mention if you have any allergies.

Mindful eating is about being present with the eating, not about picking and choosing. So far in the exercise, you really haven’t picked or chosen much, other than the restaurant.  While you wait for the food, just sit there, still and calm, hands in your lap and allow yourself to sense your body. Let it relax into the seat. Relax your back against the back of the chair. Relax your core into the seat. Next, relax your face, letting go of any tension; then your neck and chest. Finally, settle the soles of your feet comfortably on the floor and relax your hips, thighs and legs.

When the food arrives, say, ‘Thank you.’ Eat slowly. Put your knife and fork down between bites. Fully address your attention to the experience of eating, to what it feels like to press the fork into the food, what it feels like to lift the food to your mouth, how the food feels and tastes in your mouth as you eat it and swallow it. Then let it go and take the next bite. Immediately let go of any judgement about the food. When you leave, just leave, mindfully. That’s it. Learn to do this with every meal and you will have conquered your eating issues.

At home, start the practice of mindful eating with these general guidelines:

  • Don’t eat while standing or in front of the refrigerator door.
  • Eat slowly and mindfully.  Put your fork down between bites.
  • Skip dessert, unless it’s fruit.”

To learn more, visit Dr. Kaskel at:  Dr. Larry Kaskel