- I tend to eat whatever is on my plate, no matter how big that plate is.
- Sometimes I finish eating and am overly full or feel bloated.
- I usually eat while working, watching television, checking emails, or doing some other activity.
- I don’t pay much attention to my portion sizes.
- I eat very quickly because I’m often in a rush.
- Sometimes I eat unhealthy foods when I’m upset, sad, excited, happy, or another emotion.
If you can see yourself making one of these statements, don’t worry – many of us do these things. But these habits can be detrimental if they occur frequently. We often eat quickly or while multitasking, and don’t let ourselves enjoy the overall experience of eating, including the variety of tastes and textures we are consuming. We may overeat when not paying attention to whether we’re full or not, which can lead to additional calories consumed each day and potential weight gain. Emotional eating can also lead to unhealthy choices and weight gain.
One way to tackle the issues above is with a technique that has become more popular in the past few years called mindful or intuitive eating. Mindful eating is all about creating a healthier relationship with food, including being more in touch with hunger and satiety cues. It’s not something that works for everyone – some people prefer more structured meal patterns, and some think the guidance is a little “touchy-feely”, so to speak – but many of the concepts associated with mindful eating are valuable pieces of advice. Here are some common suggestions for eating more mindfully:
Reject fad diets and weight loss supplements. There is no quick fix to becoming healthier or losing weight. Create small changes that are sustainable over your lifetime. Any diet or program that requires you to cut out major food groups or restricts you to an unhealthy calorie level is not sustainable - and will ultimately fail you.
Eat when hungry. If you’re hungry, eat! Your body needs food to function, and it’s important that we take in healthy amounts of all the macronutrients (fat, protein, and carbohydrates). Sometimes people try to stay below an insanely low calorie limit in order to lose weight, and then feel bad about themselves when they give into eating. If that’s the case, your body needs more food – cutting calories too low actually makes your metabolism drop.
Fuel your body with healthy choices, most of the time. Eating unhealthy, overly processed foods or fast food is probably going to cause your body to feel tired and sluggish. Choose foods for your body that are going to supply you with energy and make you feel good. That being said, no one’s diet is going to be 100% perfect – you can indulge in some unhealthy choices occasionally without feeling guilty. Think of the 80/20 rule: 80% of your choices should be healthy, while 20% can be a bit more flexible in terms of the not-so-healthy stuff.
Evaluate emotions. This is actually quite hard if you’re not used to doing it. If you feel hungry, evaluate whether you are physically hungry or whether it is coming from a mental need: Are you bored? Are you upset? Food won’t fix any of these. It may provide a temporary level of satisfaction, but it won’t fix the underlying problem.
Take a break for meals. Put down the cell phone, close the computer, turn off the television, and sit down. Focus on your meal. With each bite, take satisfaction in the delicious tastes you have put on your plate. Eat slowly and mindfully, enjoying your meal until you feel satisfied. This means you are no longer hungry but you also are not stuffed or bloated – you should feel comfortably satisfied.
Share with us - which tip will you use to eat more mindfully?