Is Mindful Eating Right for Me?
The most frequently asked question I get asked is “will mindful eating work for me?” While I would love to give a blanket YES!!! Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Mindful eating can be a solution to many health problems, and recently it has gotten some attention in the media as the “best thing ever” but the reality is that mindfulness and mindful eating are rarely a simple or quick solution. Your journey is unique and will likely benefit from mindfulness strategies, but how, what, and to what degree you adopt mindful eating is up to you and your goals.
What is mindful eating
Mindful eating is the practice of increasing your awareness to your body and to the cues that you can get through mindfulness. Then using that awareness to make informed decisions. For instance, you might learn through practicing awareness that you are consistently hungry at 3pm. When you expand on that information you might also learn that you skip lunch most workdays to try and get ahead at work. Now armed with that information you can make the choice to continue to skip lunch and be hangry by 4pm or take 20 minutes and eat some lunch.
It sounds simple, but in today’s busy world there is a lot of noise that can interfere with hearing your body’s signals. We have become so used to powering through and ignoring the signs our body gives us, that mindfulness takes consistent and intentional work.
Practicing mindful eating means slowing down and paying attention even when you feel like you don’t have the time. The rewards are worth it though! Five minutes of mindfulness means less stress eating, less stress eating means better choices, better choices means weight loss, glucose control, less indigestion, and so much more. Once you get in the habit, like anything, it becomes second nature.
What mindful eating is not
As I mentioned above, mindful eating has gained popularity and while that makes me do a little happy dance in my chair right now, I’m also worried. Like anything that becomes popular, mindful eating is at risk of becoming another diet plan. We need to be diligent in protecting the practice so that it remains true to the intention of remaining present and not another method of restriction or arbitrary rules in search of weight loss. While many people will notice their weight levels out with the practice of mindfulness it isn’t due to restriction, rules, or planning. Weight loss happens because most people are triggered to eat by stress, commercials, habits, or any one of hundreds of reasons besides hunger and when you shine a light on those habits you eat less, you make different choices, and the result is often weight loss because you’re no longer over indulging or soothing emotions with empty calories.
Not only is mindful eating not a diet, but it’s also not a plan filled with rules and guidelines. Every person will have their own mindfulness journey and it will be different for everyone. That’s the beauty of mindful eating, it meets you where you are today and there are no expectations other than observing without judgement.
Mindful eating isn’t complicated, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy. In fact, it would be easier to get a meal plan and follow it exactly than it is to let go of judgement and food rules. Our relationship with food is complicated and we are taught from an early age that there are good foods and bad foods, right ways to eat and wrong ways to eat. These ideas form our very food identity and mindful eating challenges those ideas with the concept that there are no bad foods or food rules.
How to be successful
Those who are the most successful have someone to guide them. Learning new habits, new patterns of thought, and letting go of judgement can be challenging. The very idea that you can trust yourself around food is often a lot to take in. Having someone to guide, support, and keep you focused is the key to success.
Here is what you can expect when beginning your mindful eating journey:
Learn to observe your habits & relationship with food
Set an intention or goal
Use the evidence-based protocols for developing an action plan
Practice, practice, practice
What results are you going to see?
I have personally seen mindfulness and mindful eating work for much more than weight loss. Mindful eating can help with clinical conditions like diabetes and high cholesterol, it can also be successful in weight management, disordered eating, and digestive conditions. As there is no downside to mindfulness it truly is a practice for everyone.
It’s easy to get started. I recommend my clients begin with learning to understand, feel, and identify hunger signals. It begins with the question: “Why am I eating this?” the answer may surprise you. Sometimes you may be feeling physical hunger, others it might be a trigger that you didn’t realize, and occasionally you might be trying to fill some void other than hunger- like boredom. This first step of observing and awareness may last days or weeks, and will likely be repeated over and over with each new goal.
It’s important to be completely open and honest and be willing to let go- whatever the answer. It’s also important to understand that any answer to the question: “Why am I eating this?” is a good answer. The answer “I’m bored” is as valid a reason to eat as “I’m starving.” Getting started is as simple as deciding that there is a better way to eat healthy.
Begin your mindful eating practice right now with this free workbook.
Have questions? Comment below or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org