What is Mindful Eating?

mindful eatingMindful Eating is a term that gets bandied about a lot in the self-help industry. Health and wellness professionals will talk about it like you’re supposed to already know what it is. Mindful eating is really just about being intentional about what you eat, how much you eat and if you are really hungry when you eat. Mindful eaters are in touch with their emotions and eat for the ‘right’ reasons – because they’re physically hungry. They also eat until they are full, but not uncomfortably so.

What is this mindful eating magic you speak of?

Truthfully, the way most practitioners talk about mindful eating is like it’s so special and magic. It makes many people feel intimidated. You would think you have to be the Dalai Lama sitting high in a mountain top in India, Tibet or Nepal, contemplating the mysteries of the universe and every grain of rice that’s about to go into your mouth.

NOPE. So not true. Anyone can practice mindful eating. You don’t have to have special knowledge. You can start today. Yes. I’m speaking the truth.

1st Step – Awareness

Yes, create awareness about food and mood. Knowing what mood you are in when you’re eating is an important indicator if you’re a mindful or emotional eater. Mindful eaters eat when they are physically hungry. The rest of us eat for a variety of different reasons, usually emotional. Learning to distinguish what emotions you are feeling when your desire to eat hits you is a great first step to becoming a mindful eater.

Wait – what if I can’t figure out the difference between food and mood?

That’s okay. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is your journey to going from mindless eater to mindful eater. Be curious about the process and understand that it is a process. You’ll get there if you want to. It’s not an insurmountable goal.

2nd Step – Am I hungry?

This is a serious question. When you mindfully eat, you do so because your body is ready to eat. The human body tends to want to eat about every 3-4 hours. You will usually get signs that your body is hungry before you get into “HANGRY” mode. (You know that strange Snickers commercial series. It’s actually true. You are NOT you when you’re “HANGRY”.)

You will feel your stomach grumble and slightly protest that you are hungry. Your saliva will increase in preparation for food. There will be other signs and signals depending on your body’s needs and functionality. Basically food is needed every 3-4 hours. If you wait longer than 4 hours between meals, you are risking eating at a point past hunger and this can lead to an unwanted binge. Learning to check in with your body and seeing where you are on the hunger scale can be very helpful. (We’ll get more into the hunger scale in the future. I promise)

3rd Step – What Should I Eat?

If you are eating for physical hunger, this question is much easier to answer. You won’t just look for the quickest, most convenient thing to eat. You will want to make a healthy choice. Your body knows what it needs. Remember when you were a child and you ate when you wanted and pretty much what you wanted. Well, mindful eating is a lot like that. You become sort of child-like in your relationship with food.

I find that when I really listen to my body I crave nuts, seeds or veggies. Yeah, I actually like kale and quinoa better than cookies and processed foods. My body feels better after eating them and so does my mind. However, if you really want the cookies, go for them. No one is stopping you or policing your food choices. There are no good or bad foods. There are just foods that like us back or don’t like us back. The trick is to eat more of these in a given period than the others. Mindful eating is a great balancing act and one you can play around with. Find out what works for you.

4th – Eat Until Full

This part of mindful eating can be really hard to figure out. We want to overeat as a society. Yup. It’s not a great fact of life in North America in the 21st Century. We are members of the clean your plate club. Why? Some of us got messages as children that we needed to eat everything up because people were starving far away. Well, yes there are people starving, but it doesn’t help you to eat more food than you want to eat.

You will know you are full when you feel satisfied or satiated. Your stomach will not need any more food and you won’t feel uncomfortable. Your meal will energize and sustain you, not make your body complain with symptoms of gluttony.

Mindful eating is basically a process. It’s one that you can customize to fit your life. It talks about eating because you are physically, not mentally, hungry and allows you to decide what to eat and when. It’s not a system that’s rooted in guilt or reward but rather what the body needs when it needs it. Mindful eaters are not better eaters; they just understand their bodies better.

Want to learn how to become a mindful eater? Great! Contact me at 512-484-7634 and we will have a free intro session. I’d love to work with you.

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