One of the first habits I discuss with my coaching clients is intuitive or mindful eating. What is mindful eating? It’s the process of taking time and paying attention to what you are eating and why you are eating it.
Have you ever sat down for lunch or a snack in front of the tv and the next thing you know your food is all gone? That is not eating mindfully- that is mindless eating.
Eating mindfully involves sitting down, chewing your food, breathing, enjoying, and stopping before you are 100% full.
You might be wondering, do you really need to use your intuition to eat?
Isn't eating something that should come naturally? Yes, however due to being told various food "rules", yo-yo dieting, eating while distracted, using food as a tool for dealing with emotional issues, and having access to gigantic portion sizes, most people forget how to eat intuitively.
Because of our go-go-go lifestyle, most people inhale food. Combine that with emotional eating and the insane body standards our culture has placed on us, and it’s no wonder we don’t trust ourselves to just eat and are always looking for the next meal plan or diet.
Eating mindfully helps you to feel connected to your hunger cues and stop emotional eating. Here’s how to do it.
(p.s. Don’t try all 5 steps at once. Try one or two at each meal and think about how they work for you, then combine them!)
5 steps to eating mindfully:
Next time you open the pantry or fridge, or head to the vending machine or snack bar, or buy a muffin in line at Starbucks...ask yourself “am I hungry?” This might seem like an obvious question...duh I’m hungry...but often times we confuse thirst or boredom for hunger. Truly ask yourself and think about how you are feeling. Is your stomach growling? How long since your last meal? Are you just feeling tired? How long til your next meal? If you are truly hungry, grab a drink of water and your snack and enjoy! (also important to note: sometimes we simply eat because it’s “time” aka it’s noon, so time for lunch. Pay attention to how you feel more than the time!)
What am I feeling? If you aren’t necessarily hungry but are feeling sad, stressed, or anxious...consider this. Do you tend to eat when you are feeling this way? What could you do instead? Are you eating for comfort? Our emotions are SO tied to our food habits. Sometimes this comes from how we are raised (you did a good job, so you got an ice cream so now you reward yourself with food or maybe if you were sad your mom would make your favorite dinner or dessert)... consider how you usually react to these emotions, and consider an action you could replace it with. Even saying to yourself, I’ll wait 10 minutes and see how I feel can be very effective.
Breathe. When it is time for your next meal stop and BREATHE. I am SO guilty of sitting down and inhaling my food. Sometimes it’s because my daughter needs me, sometimes it’s just out of habit. In between each bite put down your fork and take a breath and slow down.
The 80% rule. This step takes a little more focus. You have to be in tune with your body AND eating slowly to really understand your fullness cues. As you are eating, focus on how you are feeling versus how much food is left on your plate. Stope when you are 80% full NOT when the plate is empty. Why? It takes your brain a while to catch up with your gut. By stopping when you are 80% full, you give your mind and stomach a chance to connect and chances are good about 15 minutes later you will feel 100% satisfied. If you usually go till 100% full or even 110% full, just slow down and scale back little by little.
Enjoy! When it comes time to eat, take the time to enjoy! Feel the food as you chew. Taste it. Pay attention to the texture and the smell. Regardless of if you are eating a healthy snack or a decadent dessert- enjoy without guilt or judgement.
If you need help eating mindfully or could use some guidance or accountability, check out my coaching packages here. I'm also currently offering 20 minute free sessions to work through a specific problem! To schedule a free call, click here.