How to Be a Mindful Eater Today
Updated: Dec 2, 2020
So, you have heard the buzz phrase “mindful eating” about a hundred times and you just want to know what the heck it is, how the heck you do it, and why you would invest your energy in it anyway. Will mindful eating make you lose weight? Will it help you feel empowered in your lifestyle choices? Will it fix a bad hair day? Very likely for the first two, probably not for the hair day- sorry.
Mindful eating is basically becoming aware of your food choices and the associated outcomes of those choices. It means that instead of plowing your way through the entire stash of Girl Scout Cookies you eat a few and appreciate that you only have them for a short time each year, it means that you enjoy the way the cookie tastes, crunches, makes you feel, and you only eat what you need to be satisfied. Mindful eating is also realizing that if you eat the entire box of cookies the pleasure of eating them will be short lived, and you might even have a belly ache. Mindful eating means seeing choices from all of the angles.
Some of the reason that mindful eating has become such a draw is that it gives you back the feeling of control. There are no diet plans, recipe swaps, or counting of anything. You decide what you eat and when.
Mindful eating allows for any types of foods, any eating patterns, and any special dietary restrictions. There are no special foods to buy, menus to plan, or calories to count. The only thing you need to do is pay attention.
It is possible to tap into your physiological reaction to food- a crash after too many carbs, an energy burst following a nourishing snack, or even an increase in blood pressure after a salty meal. Over time it is possible to identify when you are hungry and what you are hungry for. Imagine if you only ate foods that made you feel good and in the amounts that gave you energy and kept you in a good weight range.
It’s possible to take the science of nutrition and combine it with the philosophy of mindfulness. You can use the knowledge of how certain foods nourish and use that to identify triggers and hunger levels. For example, fiber containing foods can help you feel full whereas starchy foods tend to burn off quickly. You can use this information to plan meals that help you feel more full, thereby eating less overall. To learn more about macros and mindful eating check out my free mini course!
Not everyone is cut out to be a mindful eater. There is a definitive lack of structure that is both scary and overwhelming to some. Since you are trying to learn how choices affect you, it seems counter intuitive at first to eat based on what you want. As a diet-prone culture we seek out the most complex and restrictive eating patterns, limiting whole categories of foods in favor of cutting a few calories to shed some pounds.
However, doesn’t it make more sense to honor those cravings and desires and trust that our bodies know what we need to thrive in life? Unfortunately, modern living doesn’t always support thriving and living a healthy life. We have fast food on every corner, and we live in places that are not always conducive to walking or daily activity. Cooking is a competitive sport and creating tasty food is the top prize. It’s not always easy to tell the difference between nutrition needs and food desires.
Become a Mindful Eater Today
Fortunately, you can train yourself in the art of awareness. Over time you can learn to tell the difference between eating for actual true hunger and eating as a reaction to a trigger. Here are three things that you can do right now to be a more mindful eater.
Cultivate awareness- stop and breathe. This is your mindful eating superpower. Before you plow into your falafel take a few moments to pause and breathe. About 5-10 rounds of breath should do it. Close your eyes. Put down your fork and simply breathe long, deep breaths.
Learn to identify hunger- eat when you are hungry, don’t eat when you aren’t. Sounds simple, but there are so many confounding factors at play here. A scheduled lunch hour that doesn’t match your actual hunger. Waking up late and running out the door to work without any breakfast. A commercial that just begs you to get that fast food. Learn to ask the question: Am I hungry?
Forgive yourself for all the choices. Good or bad, let that sh*t go. Clearly there was a reason you made that choice, there is no reason to beat yourself up. Cultivating awareness helps you to make different choices later.
Keep in mind that even though you can begin t be a mindful eater today it takes time to make new habits. Take it slowly and go easy on yourself, before you know it you will be wondering why you waited so long to get started.