“The Joy of Half a Cookie” Over None Or All

…Even if it’s a huge cookie—the kind that might contain as many calories as an entire meal—there’s no fear. You know that you’ll be able to savor a few bites or perhaps half of it, wrapping up the other half for later when you’ll be able to enjoy it all over again. There’s a decision but no struggle. Jean Kristeller, The Joy of Half a Cookie

This is the essence of what can be learned in behavioral medicine researcher Jean Kristeller‘s new book The Joy of Half a Cookie: Using Mindfulness to Lose Weight and End the Struggle with Food. The tips she provides those of us often inclined toward “the whole cookie” come after many years of testing her own Mindfulness-Based Eating Awareness Training (MB-EAT) program.

Publishers Weekly, which calls the book “a winningly low-key primer,” summarizes some of the author’s content:

Replacing yo-yo dieting and endless negation with ‘self-care, self-nourishment, [and] self-acceptance,’ Kristeller teaches regulation techniques that heighten awareness of taste satisfaction, stomach fullness, and overall satiety…Kristeller also gives instruction on the most effective nutritional choices and lists best practices for choosing food at the supermarket and avoiding problematic restaurants and buffets…She discourages rigidity, noting that an ‘all-or-nothing mind-set’ can result in unhealthy cravings. Her thoughts on emotional eating are particularly sensitive and wise, encouraging readers to tune in to their feelings and develop more appropriate coping mechanisms for stress…

Emily Gurnon provides an excerpt at Next Avenue that outlines some of the key steps involved:

  • Let go of the struggle–“…With mindfulness, you’ll shift away from policing yourself and toward understanding and nurturing yourself…”
  • Turn mindless eating into mindful eating–“…We can change our automatic reaction into a mindful response…”
  • Notice the thoughts that trip you up
  • Get away from the food police–tracking your food doesn’t have to feel as though someone’s controlling you
  • Let go of calorie anxiety

And some of the principles of The Joy of Half a Cookie are offered by Jill Suttie, Greater Good:

  • Only you know what your mind and body needs.
  • You can use your thoughts and feelings to inform yourself, not punish yourself.
  • There are no bad foods.
  • Calories count.
  • Your inner and outer wisdoms need to work together.
  • Relying on willpower and guilt leads to dissatisfaction and struggle.
  • Joy can be found in every bite.
  • Your life is about much more than how you eat.

As you can see, this philosophy pays attention to both internal cues and external knowledge, i.e., what’s known to be healthy for one’s body. The goal isn’t quick weight loss, nor is that likely to happen; the goal has more to do with significantly reducing overeating.

Obviously, the process of relearning how to deal with “the cookie” takes time, but there are rewards along the way. As Kristeller tells Jean Fain, NPR: “Although some effects can and do happen quickly, learning to apply them in range of situations takes time and an ongoing sense of discovery.”

Want more info before reading the book? Resources including meditations and worksheets can be found on Kristeller’s website.

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