Mindful Eating in a Sometimes Mindless World

Mindful eating is not only about what you eat, but also about how you eat.

Is Mindful Eating a Healthy Habit?

Mindful eating might be the goal, but most of us are making mostly mindless food decisions. Did you know that the average person makes over 200 food-related decisions every day? Talk about a mind-boggling buffet of choices! 🤯 In fact, there is an entire industry designed to make all of these decisions even more complicated with attention-inducing packaging, promotions, advertising, and even the layout of grocery stores and websites. All of these unconscious choices add up to a lot of decisioning about food, but very little focus.

That's why so many people are talking these days about Mindful Eating. It's related to mindfulness, but while mindfulness is a broader practice of being present, mindful eating is the conscious act of nourishing your body and paying extra attention on the actual eating experience.

But First...a Disclaimer

And before we continue, I can already hear all the busy moms and dads saying "we don't have time to experience food…we just need to eat and move on to everything else". Mindful Eating doesn't require a complete re-imagining of eating, and it doesn't have to happen for every meal. Honestly, what I think you'll find is that it's a game-changer for stress reduction and cultivating a more positive relationship with food.

Let's dig into the some more of the details first.

What is Mindful Eating, Really?

Mindful eating is not just about what you eat, but how you eat it. It's about being fully present. Focus on the colors, textures, and flavors of your food. Turn off distractions, tune in, and lean in to each bite. Let me give you an example. Have you ever found yourself inhaling a bag of chips while binge-watching your favorite show? Me too (although my go-to is pretzels and humus). Now, imagine savoring each chip or pretzel, appreciating its crispiness, and truly enjoying the taste. That's mindful eating – turning a mindless snack into a mindful delight.

How Does it Work?mindful eating is the practice of exploring the feelings associated with eating healthy food

There are several different types of frameworks including the 3-4-4 Eating Method, and a variety of stepped processes. Harvard's School of Public Health outlined 7 steps but Dr. Susan Albers with USC's Arcadia Hospital synthesized it in just 4 easy steps. Try these at your next family meal:

  1. Sit Down: Give your meal the attention it deserves. The brain's responsibility is to tell you that it's hungry and seek out food. Instead of being critical with your food thoughts, thank your brain for trying to save you.
  2. Savor: Relish the flavors and textures.
  3. Sip Water: Stay hydrated; it enhances the mindful experience.
  4. Slow Down: Let the pace of your meal match the rhythm of your breath.

Final Thoughts, From Dr. Pam Wright

I will do an entire segment on mindful eating vs emotional eating in a future post. The takeaway here is that I truly believe being mindful, not just about HOW we eat, but WHAT we eat is important. There are a lot of tools and ways to listen to your body and determine your level of hunger-fullness.  Mindless and often times emotional eating is super problematic since we are not aware of what we eat. Have you ever watched an interesting movie or show and realized you ate way more than you intended? Being mindful helps to control this phenomena.  Be on the lookout for more mindfulness and body awareness tips coming soon!

#MindfulEating #NourishYourSoul #HealthyHabits 🌿💖

Dr. Pam Wright is a licensed psychologist and mental health expert. She is the founder and owner of The Life Change Group in Peachtree City, Ga.Dr. Pam Wright is a licensed psychologist and a mental health expert. She is the Founder and Director of The Life Change Group in Peachtree City, Ga. Her psychology practice is a team of therapists, counselors and psychologists offering a wide range of psychological testing and individual, couples and family counseling. Dr. Wright is also a co-host of the "Middle Age(ish)" podcast and has appeared on NBC in Atlanta.

Why Seasonal Affective Disorder Literally Makes You SAD

SAD is an acronym for Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is a cause of depression for many in the winter months

Why Seasonal Affective Disorder Makes People Sad

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a recurrent type of clinical depression that affects about 5% of the population according the American Psychiatric Association, mostly in the winter months when the days are shorter, and mostly among women (about four times as much, actually). Symptoms include:

  • Low energy
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Poor concentration
  • Sadness
  • Changes in sleep and appetite
  • Irritability
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Feelings of worthlessness

People with SAD tend to be tired all the time, and some report craving carbohydrates and weight gain. Treatments include light therapy, anti-depressants, Vitamin D, and counseling.

SAD Explained

But what is really happening with our minds and bodies to cause all of these symptoms? The cause seems to stem from two hormones - serotonin and melatonin. People with SAD have trouble regulating the neurotransmitter serotonin—which is responsible for balancing mood. People have a protein that assists with serotonin transport called SERT. When SERT is high, that means serotonin activity is low—leading to depression. Sunlight typically keeps SERT low, but as sunlight decreases, a decrease in serotonin activity also occurs. Based on a Johns Hopkins article describing SAD, people with this disorder also overproduce melatonin, which most people know is used to help sleep. Thus, people with SAD feel lethargic and sleepy. Decreased Serotonin and increased Melatonin impact circadian rhythms. Additionally, Vitamin D is often deficient—and low Vitamin D is associated with clinically depressive Symptoms.

Treatment Options

light therapy products can help fight the effects of SAD (seasonal affective disorder)We mentioned a few treatment options like anti-depressants, vitamin D and counseling. But one of the most commonly used treatments is called Light Therapy, or Bright Light Therapy. These products, which you can find online, emit full spectrum light similar to sunlight-but without UV rays. Whichever one you select should provide exposure of 10,000 lux of light. This makes these light boxes approximately 20 times stronger than indoor lighting. Light therapy is typically used first thing in the morning for anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes. The Mayo Clinic has a wonderful light therapy product buying guide.


Be sure to follow the manufacture’s guidelines when using. People should not use light therapy if they have retinal disease such as macular degeneration. It is also not recommended for those on certain medications, such as Lithium, Acutane, Melatonin, and certain anti-biotics. Light therapy is not recommended for those with BiPolar Disorder unless recommended by a professional. Light therapy should be monitored by a health professional. Taking Vitamin D can also help SAD. Low Vitamin D is associated with depression due to insufficient dietary intake or little outdoor exposure to sunshine.

Other Options

The Johns Hopkins research also indicates that you can mitigate SAD symptoms by doing the following:

  • Set attainable goals, consider breaking down tasks and make reasonable priorities. Feeling better will take time, so set that expectation with yourself
  • Accept help and support from friends and family
  • Get regular exercise and eat healthy, well-balanced meals
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs since these can make depression worse

Final Thoughts, From Dr. Pam Wright

Clients often ask me how to know the difference between major depressive disorder and SAD. I tell them to think of SAD as a recurrent depression. So if you typically have depressive symptoms at the same time each year (starting during the winter months), you most likely have SAD. I highly recommend light therapy for those with SAD. I use a light myself during the winter months. It’s best to use the light first thing in the morning for 20 to 60 minutes. This helps to reduce melatonin and increase serotonin.

Dr. Pam Wright is a licensed psychologist and mental health expert. She is the founder and owner of The Life Change Group in Peachtree City, Ga.Dr. Pam Wright is a licensed psychologist and a mental health expert. She is the Founder and Director of The Life Change Group in Peachtree City, Ga. Her psychology practice is a team of therapists, counselors and psychologists offering a wide range of psychological testing and individual, couples and family counseling. Dr. Wright is also a co-host of the "Middle Age(ish)" podcast and has appeared on NBC in Atlanta.

Resilience Helps Trauma Recovery

spinsight Counseling, General Psychology, Individual Therapy, LGBTQ
the image of a purple flower pushing through the concrete is an example of resilience. This is representative of the resilience that people demonstrate when recovering from trauma

The Surprising Science Behind Resilience and Trauma:

Resilience has surprising scientific powers.

As a former news reporter, we were always taught "if it bleeds, it leads". Click or swipe anywhere online and you'll see that adage still holds true. But I think there is a growing population that loves a good comeback story even more. The down and out family recovers from losing everything to gaining fame and fortune. The high school athlete suffers a catastrophic injury only to heal, persevere through therapy and win the gold. The stories and movies are endless.

The best comeback stories are when people show their true grit and resilience to overcome their obstacle, pain or trauma. There's actually scientific proof to show why resilience is a key to recovering from trauma. Having and demonstrating resilience is so powerful and could become a key treatment to recovering from all kinds of trauma and stress.

Understanding the Science of Resilience

Resilience, in psychological terms, refers to the ability to bounce back from adversity and adapt positively to life's challenges. Studies have shown that being exposed to these types of stories can enhance your well-being. This includes being able to increase self awareness, self control, openness with others, and better decision-making while also being associated with decreasing anxiety.

Dr. Steven Southwick, a professor of psychiatry at Yale University, explains in his book "Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life's Greatest Challenges", that resilience is not a fixed trait but rather a dynamic process. The brain, he says, possesses neuroplasticity—the ability to reorganize itself in response to trauma. Therefore, it acts as a buffer against the negative effects of stress and trauma, aiding in the rewiring of neural pathways for a healthier mental state.

Other neurobiologists have found that certain neural pathways associated with resilience can be strengthened through various practices, such as mindfulness, social support, and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT); which is why these three specialities are offered here at The Life Change Group.

Why Resilience is so Important

Psychologist Angela Duckworth, known for her research on grit and perseverance, offers another powerful perspective. She notes that success is often not just about talent but about sustained effort over time. Duckworth's insights underscore the importance of tenacity and resilience in the face of obstacles, reminding us that setbacks are not the end but rather opportunities for growth and healing.

In the words of Winston Churchill, "Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts." Let these words resonate in your heart as a testament to the enduring power of the human spirit.

Embrace resilience as your companion on the journey to recovery, and remember, you have the power to write your own headline.

For More Information

To find out more about how to deal with trauma or anxiety, please check out our Specialties page.

Empowering Our LBGTQ Friends

spinsight Counseling, General Psychology, Individual Therapy, LGBTQ
How to become a better ally to the LGTBQ+ community

Empowering our LGBTQ Friends

How can we be a better ally?

Empowering our LGBTQ friends is a key first step to becoming a better ally. As a leading psychologist committed to promoting mental health and well-being, I am often asked about the best ways to reach out and support the LGBTQ community. In this blog post we’ll explore practical and psychological approaches to foster inclusivity and establish a safe space.

How can we be more inclusive?

Creating a more inclusive environment involves a conscious effort to embrace diversity and promote understanding. This requires having an open instead of a closed mindset, and one key step is educating oneself about LGBTQ issues, terminology, and experiences. Acknowledging and respecting individuals’ preferred pronouns is also a fundamental aspect of inclusivity. This is a foundational to empower our LGBTQ friends and a simple way to recognizing and affirm identities.

At an even higher level, practicing active listening and open communication are essential tools for building bridges. In a recent Forbes article (subscription may be required) focusing on allyship, the author noted, ““the onus [for listening] should not be on the affected community to tell me what to do to help, but for me as an ally to discover by listening, understanding and, most importantly, empathizing, how I can help.” It’s crucial to create spaces where people feel comfortable sharing their experiences without fear of judgment. By actively seeking to understand the challenges faced by the LGBTQ community, we can contribute to a more empathetic and supportive environment.

Promoting inclusivity also involves advocating for equal rights and challenging discriminatory practices. Being an ally involves not only supporting LGBTQ individuals personally but also using one’s voice to address systemic issues and push for positive change.

How can we raise awareness for the LGBTQ community?

Raising awareness for the LGBTQ community is a multifaceted endeavor that involves education, visibility, and fostering empathy. We all play a crucial role in learning, sharing and disseminating accurate information about sexual orientation, gender identity, and the unique challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community.

Educational initiatives can take various forms, such as workshops, seminars, and informational campaigns. By engaging with diverse communities, we can all dispel myths and misconceptions, promoting a more informed and understanding society.

Media representation is a powerful tool for raising awareness and ensuring accurate and positive portrayals of LGBTQ individuals that contribute to the normalization of diverse identities. By highlighting the richness and diversity within the LGBTQ community, we can challenge stereotypes and promote a more inclusive narrative.

How do we make LGBTQ individuals feel welcome?

Creating a welcoming environment for LGBTQ individuals involves intentional actions and a commitment to inclusivity. Allies can contribute by displaying inclusive signage, such as pride flags or LGBTQ affirming materials, in their offices. This signals to clients that their identities are recognized and respected.

Using inclusive language is another crucial aspect of creating a welcoming space. We can all adapt our communication styles to be affirming and supportive, avoiding assumptions about clients’ gender identities or sexual orientations. Training staff to be aware of and sensitive to LGBTQ issues is essential for fostering a culture of acceptance.

Additionally, all allies can cultivate a welcoming atmosphere by actively seeking feedback from LGBTQ clients. This can help identify areas for improvement and ensure that the practice is responsive to the unique needs of diverse individuals.

How do we create a safe environment for LGBTQ individuals?

Establishing a safe environment for LGBTQ individuals requires a commitment to creating spaces free from discrimination, judgment, and bias. Allies can start by implementing nondiscrimination policies that explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identity. This sets a clear standard for inclusivity within the practice.
It’s also important to remember that confidentiality is paramount in creating a safe therapeutic space. As a psychologist, I assure all of my clients that their identities and experiences will be treated with the utmost respect and confidentiality. This is especially crucial for LGBTQ individuals, who may face additional challenges related to stigma and discrimination.

Ongoing education and training are vital for maintaining a safe environment. Staying informed about the latest research on LGBTQ mental health, cultural competence, and affirming therapeutic practices ensures that professionals are equipped to provide the highest quality care.

Our Role as Allies in Empowering our LGBTQ friends

Ultimately, we all have our part to play in empowering our LGBTQ friends by fostering inclusivity, raising awareness, creating welcoming environments, and establishing safe spaces. By integrating these principles into both professional practices and personal interactions, we can contribute to a more equitable and supportive society for everyone.