Mindful Eating Defined
To do anything mindfully means to pay attention to it, or to have a greater awareness of it. Mindful Eating is simply eating with awareness.
Mindful Eating is the opposite of following a diet. Diets involve cutting out certain foods and often certain food groups, i.e. Atkins with carbs. Mindful Eating is about balancing our diet, gaining awareness of our mindless eating habits, and getting in touch with what our body needs to enjoy sustainable energy throughout the day.
The Problem We Have Most of the time
We are so busy most of the time that we don’t give food, eating and our own body enough time and attention to truly reap the benefits of good nutrition. As a result, it is our health that suffers.
Our Relationship With Food
We are in relationship with food. As in all relationships there needs to be mutual respect, to give balance to the relationship. Overeating, undereating and bingeing are all indications that our relationship with food is out of balance.
Do we respect our food? Do we acknowledge what it does for us?
Do we ask too much from our food? Is it a substitute for dealing with our feelings?
Connect with your food. Think about who grew it, where it came from, who prepared it. Give thanks for your food and all the animals and people involved.
Our Relationship With Our Bodies
We are also in relationship with our bodies. Again, there needs to be mutual respect between ourselves and our bodies. Do we respect our body? Do we listen to it when it speaks to us? What are some of the signals that it gives us as it tries to tell us something?
Hunger, thirst, pain, fatigue and indigestion are all signals that our body gives us to let us know when some kind of action is required by our selves to help our body.
We can begin to retrain our brains to be mindful of our body needs, rather than our body wants. Food cravings are often related to the body wanting to achieve homeostasis, or balance, particularly with brain chemistry.
Cravings disappear when we are mindful about the nutrition we give our bodies and brain.
What We Eat
The quality of our food will naturally improve as the quality of our relationship with our bodies improves. As we are more mindful of how we eat, we will start to taste the quality of the food more, and become more discerning about what we eat.
As we start listening to the needs of our bodies more, we will respond with better quality food. What does better quality food look like? Are we willing to make more foods in our own kitchens?
A good way to think about what to eat is to always include a protein, a complex carbohydrate and a good quality fat with each meal and snack.
Get in touch with your intuition and have lots of good quality foods on hand to create your nutrient dense snacks and meals.
When We Eat
We need to eat when we are hungry, but not over-hungry. This is a fine-tuning exercise that is important, because by eating at the right time we avoid blood sugar crashes, which rob us of our energy. When you are experiencing hunger on a scale of 1-10, 1 being overstuffed and 10 being starving, learn to identify when you are at a 6 or 7 and eat then. It is important to eat at regular intervals throughout the day. It is quite normal and in fact necessary, to snack between meals.
Don’t forget to eat breakfast. Eating a quality breakfast ensures that you get enough nutrients to energize you for the day, and it also prevents overeating and making poor food choices later on.
How We Eat
We need to S L O W down everything about our way of eating. Chewing is a necessary part of digestion. Don’t leave it all up to the stomach to do. Let’s chew our food very well. Enjoy the appearance, aromas, flavours and the textures of our food. By slowing down our eating, it gives our body time to signal to the brain that we are full. This prevents overeating.
Where We Eat
It is best to eat seated, at a table (not behind the wheel of the car or in front of the computer). It is even better to have no distractions such as TV, loud music or annoying dinner guests. Let’s stop the multitasking such as texting or balancing your chequebook while eating. If you must read, choose your reading material to be light-hearted, not depressing or distressing. Your stomach is wired to your brain and thus, can be affected by negative stimuli, such as today’s news.
Why We Eat
Eating sustains life. It was meant to taste delicious, otherwise we would be less likely to do it. Eating mindfully has many benefits to our overall health. By chewing our food quite well we digest it better, and assimilate the nutrients better. We also are in touch with when we have had enough to eat.
When Does Change Take Place?
In my experience, change takes place when it becomes too uncomfortable living the way you’re living. Change does not take place just because other people tell you what they think you need to do. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and becoming a Mindful Eater takes time, too.
How To Get Started
Do nothing. Just observe your mindless and mindful eating patterns. Next, start by eating one meal or snack a day mindfully. Congratulate yourself when you do.
Keep a mindful eating food journal. Keep track of how eating affects your mind, body, thoughts and feelings. Become Master of your body!