I have been sitting with a lot of people lately discussing nutrition and I am finding that a lot of people are struggling with very similar things when it comes to food. I have found that many of us are stress / emotional eaters. We turn to food to make us feel better. I have also learned that a lot of people eat out of habit, being unprepared or boredom, and often times don’t even realize that they are consuming as much food as they actually are.
I have talked to a lot of these people about the importance of becoming more mindful when eating. By doing this we can create a balanced and healthy relationship with food.
So...What is Mindful Eating?
In short, mindful eating is being aware and being present about how and what you eat. When eating mindfully we are paying close attention to our body’s cues for both hunger and fullness as well as understanding that the food we eat should not only meet your hunger needs, but also nourish your body. We are also paying attention to the process of eating and savoring the food we put into our mouth.
When practicing mindful eating it is also important to understand your emotional triggers, feelings that you have that make you want to eat, or maybe not want to eat. It is also important to adopt a mindset where you do not judge or regret the things you have eaten.
What are cues for Mindless Eating?
Now that we understand what mindful eating should look like, here are some key triggers to look for to determine if you are mindlessly eating. Here we are looking for eating that is triggered by emotions rather than actual physical hunger as well as eating that is done in a habitual way (ie. I always eat candy while I am working, or I always eat chips while I am watching television at night).
Other mindless eating triggers include skipping meals, grazing on food rather than eating a whole meal, ignoring hunger cues because you are busy, eating everything on your plate even if you are full, eating for comfort, eating as if in a trance (like in front of the tv) and feeling as if you have no control over your eating.
7 ways to become more mindful:
- Awareness – Be sure to tune into your senses. Notice your environment when you are eating. What are you doing? Where are you? What is happening around you? Notice your food before you eat it. What does it look like? Smell like? Taste like?
- Observation – Try stepping outside of yourself and “watch” as if you were watching yourself on television. Notice how you are eating. Do you take big bites, small bites, eat really fast, take unconscious handfuls of food at a time? Beyond food, notice how you react to situations and how those reactions relate to food. What feelings trigger your eating?
- Being in the moment – When eating, always try to be present in the moment. Truly feel and experience what is happening. If you are eating, try to just eat. Try not to multitask. Don’t think about past or future decisions, focus on the decisions happening now and remember every time you eat is a new opportunity to make a good decision.
- Letting go – Stop holding on to feelings that urge you to eat or not to eat. Learn to let go of a craving or urge without responding to it. The more times you work through a craving without giving in, the easier this will become and the less frequent it will become. Try to find something else to distract yourself from the craving.
- Minding your environment – Start to notice things in your environment that trigger you to eat (the presence of food, the commercials that advertise chocolate to soothe stress?). Try your best to avoid these things, or learn to respond in a more positive way to these triggers. Keep temptation far away (not in your house) and not easily accessible.
- Being nonjudgmental – Try your best to let go of the word “guilty” when it comes to food. Speak kindly and positively to yourself. Make a decision and notice what you have chosen to do, but don’t judge. If you are unhappy with the decisions you are making, reflect and make the choice to make a positive change. It’s never too late to start over.
- Acceptance – Try your best to be all right with the way things are right now. Allow yourself to make changes as fast or as slowly as you want. Listen to your body. Love your body for what it can do now; be excited for what is has the potential to do in the future. Stop comparing yourself to others as we all have our own struggles.
Being mindful of our eating can help us to be less reactive to stress and reduce our emotional eating. It helps us be more in tune with our bodies so we can stop eating when we are full and allows us to become more aware of poor choices, or habits we have formed. It also helps promote a positive relationship with food. Look at the way you eat and make choices based on your goals. Ask yourself, is this choice getting me closer to my goal, or farther away. Try to let go of food labels like “good food”, “bad food” or saying things like “I am on a diet”. Eating well should just be a way of life, not something you commit to for a few weeks at a time. Think about eating foods that will power your body to do what you are asking it to do.
Want to get more in tune with what you are eating? Try tracking your food on My Fitness Pal. Understanding the number of calories, carbs, protein and fat you are eating daily will give you a better guide on how to make proper decisions for your body.
Some other strategies for success include:
- Planning ahead, choose foods that will give you energy to get through your day
- Snack smart, include protein whenever possible!
- Stay present
- Be aware of portion size
- Recognize heart hunger vs. stomach hunger
- Choose wisely
- Drink lots of water (at least ½ of your BW in ounces per day)
- Accept your genes, understand that some things are unavoidable
- Have a positive attitude towards your body and your food choices
- Surround yourself with good role models and people who support your goals
- Keep a food and mood journal
- Track your macros
When you are unsuccessful, or make a poor choice, think progress not perfection. Remember you are in charge of what you decide in this moment. Next time make a choice that will make you proud. Find true comfort and a lifestyle you can live with, not just temporary momentary pleasure. There is always time for a fresh start; it’s never too late to make a change. Be sure to keep your goals realistic but motivational!
Take Aways from this should include:
- Try to observe what and how you eat
- Take mindful bites
- Quiz yourself before you eat – why am I eating this?
- Be in the moment
- Remove distractions
- Categorize less
- Identify the origin of hunger
- Speak compassionately and honestly to yourself
- Start a food diary / use My Fitness Pal
- Track your macros (either on your own, or hire a coach to help you).
If you want more information, or a personalized nutrition program for yourself contact Melissa@crossfitboomtown.com to set up a consultation.