Our body knows what it needs but we’ve stopped listening to it. That’s why when I heard about mindful eating, it just sounded right. I’m sure you’ve heard about it on TV or read about it in the magazines, since it’s such a hot topic right now.
The goal of mindful eating is to become and remain conscious – attentive and intentional about what we eat. It’s a lifestyle, not a diet. The thing I like about mindful eating is that it’s about enjoying the foods we eat, instead of just eating to eat. I want to have a healthy relationship with food and let go of any talk or even idea of “dieting” altogether.
I know I have habits like eating at specific times, instead of when I’m actually hungry. I eat until I’m stuffed and I’ve been taught not to leave food on my plate. All of these habits hurt instead of help when it comes to a better relationship with food.
What does it take to start eating mindfully?
There are only 3 rules when it comes to mindful eating.
1. Learn to hear and then listen to the body’s hunger cues.
That sounds easy enough but it’s also easy to confuse emotional hunger or even thirst with hunger for food.
One of the things I’ve been doing is taking 4 or 5 long sips of water when I feel the desire to eat or when I feel what I think is hunger. If the hunger comes back in 15 or 20 minutes, it means I’m probably actually hungry.
Yet I still have to be on the lookout for emotional hunger which can be caused by stress, fear, or any other strong emotion that I don’t want to deal with. That’s the trick with emotional hunger. It actually shows up more quickly than real hunger.
Hearing the hunger cues also means listening to when to stop eating. Once I’m stuffed, I’ve actually fallen into overeating. I had to give myself permission to leave food on my plate and to address the emotions, like guilt or even shame, that come up when I do.
2. Mindful eating doesn’t have “good” or “bad” foods.
The aim is to be aware of what you ARE eating and to eat more foods that provide actual nourishment to the body.
That doesn’t mean cakes and cookies or colas and ice cream shakes are out. It means making the conscious choice – being attentive to and intentional about what ever it is we choose to eat.
If I choose to have ice cream for dinner, even if based on an emotional response, I stay aware of my feeling as I eat the ice cream and I use rule number three.
3. Eat food slowly and enjoy every bite.
Eating slowly helps me to listen to my body’s satiation level. It also helps me enjoy the time I spend eating. This is the time to find as quiet a place as possible to enjoy my food. It’s the time to taste the flavors, feel the textures in my mouth and the sensations of chewing thoroughly.
It’s suggested that putting down the fork between bites and taking a sip of water helps us eat more slowly as well. I still have trouble doing this, but I do pause between bites and chew really well.
What I’m finding most interesting is the more mindful I eat, the less junk food I want to eat. Have you ever really noticed the texture of Cheetos, or your favorite junk food, after it’s been in your mouth for a while?
It’s a major change to begin listening to your body and stay conscious and attentive to every bite. It doesn’t happen overnight. I doubt there is a person who has a perfect mindful eating practice. It does get easier the more I practice. I’m certain practice makes it easier for you too.
Photo Credit Max Straeten Modifications by Minna LaShae