Mindful eating is not diet culture
“Just eat mindfully, that’s what worked for me!” It sounds nice, but what does that even mean?! It’s not easy but it’s worth investing time in yourself to get there. Mindful eating is a practice that can change overall eating behaviors. It encourages us to gain more awareness and put more focus on the habits surrounding the way in which we eat and how our food makes us feel. It encourages us to be fully present in the moment each time we eat.
Very important thing to note: The ‘it’ is not a diet. When you hear people say, “I do keto,” or “I do intermittent fasting,” don’t think, “I do mindful eating!” Mindful eating simply means being present and intentional with your food choices in a way that serves you, your health goals, and your cravings. It should feel like anything but a diet.
Why it’s important to eat mindfully
Some benefits to mindful eating:
- Eat more intentionally and strengthen your relationship with food.
- Become more connected to our food and hunger cues.
- Eat in a way that helps us feel the best version of ourselves.
- Sustainably reach health goals that last and end yo-yo struggling.
I want to stress that mindful eating is not a restriction. Meals can oftentimes be surrounded with guilt and anxiety. Instead, it should be a time to tune into mindfulness and enjoy the moment. Don’t worry about feeling like you have to eliminate the foods you love or eat in an extremely restrictive way. It is not a fad diet or a quick fix but about creating habits that last, no matter what you are eating. A key factor in mindful eating is nourishing yourself for YOU, knowing what your individual needs are and providing the right nutrition for those. This doesn’t happen overnight. Look forward to becoming more in tune with your body, gaining the ability to become aware of what you need and allowing yourself to have the foods you enjoy and are craving.
Daily practices to incorporate:
- Slow down: Get your mind and body on the same page. Tune in to your hunger cues before meals and pay attention to how quickly you polish off your plate .Each day try to get a little better about slowing mealtimes down and taking the time to enjoy your meal. Over time, you may realize that finishing every last morsel isn’t actually a prerequisite for enjoying a meal.
- Take stock of your body’s signals: Press pause and take stock of signals your body sends you throughout the day. Headaches, energy dips, and (of course) a grumbling belly are all signs that you’ve gone too long without food. Avoid arriving at meals ravenous; doing so will make mindful eating nearly impossible.
- Check in with yourself before you eat: Are you hungry? Bored, sad, stressed? Quiz yourself with these questions, especially when it comes to snacking and/or late-night eating. Sometimes your body really may need that snack or later meal, so eat! If you find yourself eating for reasons other than hunger, try replacing that habit with something else that can give your body the boost of serotonin it’s looking for. Take a nice walk, read for a few minutes out in the sunshine, enjoy a relaxing cup of tea, spend time doing a new hobby, or take some time to call a loved one!
- Plate your food: Yes, even snacks and desserts! Because there’s nothing mindful about noshing on snacks straight out of the bag or box. Instead, take the time to plate your food! This allows your mind and body to get a better idea of how much you are eating, when you are actually getting full, and can also help you build a more balanced plate.
- Remove distractions: You turn on a show and, oops! You’re 3 episodes deep and haven’t stopped chewing the whole time. Even on a smaller scale, eating while scrolling through social media or emails can lower meal satisfaction, prevent mindfulness and cause overeating. Give your mind the focus it deserves. Avoid going into autopilot mode during your meal so you can savor your meals without distraction– technology free.
- Taking a halftime break: Stop and pause when your food is roughly halfway gone from your plate (don’t worry about being exact). Ask yourself how full you are on a scale of 1-10. Take note of how fast you are eating, and if you are truly allowing yourself to savor each bite. This simple check in can allow you to eat the rest of your meal much more mindfully and stop when your body is telling you it has had enough.
- Express gratitude: Whether you prefer a mantra, a prayer, or a different expression of gratitude each day- find a way that feels good for you to silently be grateful for the meal you are about to eat. If you prefer to do this out loud instead of in your head, go for it! No matter what that meal is, this can be a major part of becoming a more mindful eater and helps us foster a very positive relationship with our food!
- Put your fork down between each bite: While you are eating your meals, place your utensil back down on your plate after each bite until you are done chewing. It is common for us to instinctually start going for our next bite before we have even finished our current one. This causes us to speed through meals, interrupt our mind and body connection, and can make it harder to digest our food.
Set yourself up for success
An essential component of mindful eating is shopping for foods that allow your body to feel its best. Going into the grocery store with a plan allows one to be mindful of budget and reduce food waste. If we take a bit of time during the week to plan some meals and create an organized list, we will buy what we actually need. Spend some time to prepare for the week as an act of self-care. By having some healthy snack and meal options easily accessible, you are more likely to make mindful choices. This is especially helpful on extra busy days when you’re on the go.
Mindful eating can change the way you view your weight loss journey and relationship with food for the better. Some studies show that as mindful eating increases, the intention of dieting for the sake of weight loss is reduced and body satisfaction increases. Incorporating these practices into your day-to-day may lead to greater psychological wellbeing and more enjoyable meal experiences. Don’t put your life on pause ‘while on a weight loss journey.’ It’s important not to view your life and your nutrition journey as two separate things– they shouldn’t be mutually exclusive.