Mindful Eating for Queer Women


Michelle Cataldo, LCSW, Lindsay Williams, intern, and Shahara Godfrey, PhD

Food is a celebration of our lives, health, bodies, and community. Except when it’s not.

Many of us find that our relationships with food and eating are unsatisfying. And it’s no wonder, given how many of us eat at our desks or in the car, while rushed or stressed, transforming eating into a chore. And negative feelings about our bodies—how we think we should look or what number we should see when we step on the scale—can also turn eating from a joyful experience into a stressful one.

There is an alternative. A mindful approach to eating allows people to re-connect with what they love about food and their bodies.

In March, AHP began a 13-session Queer Women’s Mindful Eating Group facilitated by Shahara Godfrey, PhD, and Michelle Cataldo, LCSW. Nine participants explore mindful approaches to eating, including meditation, movement, and maximizing the pleasure of eating. All these practices share a focus on helping participants learn to be more present and focused, and to treat themselves with greater compassion and love.

“It’s exciting to be part of a process that helps people move toward something that we all want: more peace and well-being, and a loving, kind relationship with ourselves,” Cataldo said. “As queer women, we get a lot of messages about our bodies, our appearance, our sexuality. This is a chance for us to support each other as we define what it means to each of us to be our healthiest self.

Queer women experience the double impact of repressive societal messages about female bodies and about sexual minority status, and many experience ageist and racist attitudes toward their bodies as well. In the safe environment of the group, members get a break from these messages and the negative impact they can have on the ways queer women may relate to food and their bodies. Members also get to focus on appreciating the experience of food and enjoying nourishing themselves.

Each session consists of a meditation and review of mindful eating practices, followed by discussions about how to make thoughtful choices about food and activity. Members check in about how their meditation practice and mindful eating is going at home, and offer each other encouragement and share ideas about what is working for them.

Many group members express their appreciation that the Mindful Eating Group is not a traditional “weight loss” program. They like an approach that de-emphasizes the number on the scale and focuses on achieving their personal health goals: feeling better, having more energy, and being able to enjoy work and being with people.

There is very little in the health research literature about queer women’s health. So the Mindful Eating Group is not only a service for AHP clients, it is also a pilot research study, examining whether mindfulness techniques can help queer women enjoy healthier lives. We are so excited to take on issues related to weight and health in a way that gives clients the tools to design healthy lives that work for them