Learn how to eat mindfully to help create a more balanced lifestyle!
*This article may be triggering for those who have or are recovering from an eating disorder/or disordered eating. Please consult a dietician, nutritionist, or your doctor if you have/had disordered eating.
Have you attempted every fad diet with the hopes of getting lean and toned, and magically see your weight drop instantly? Does it fail every time? Do you get upset when you don’t see results and then fall back into the same unhealthy habits?
You are not alone. Many people who have a goal to lose weight and eat healthier fall under the trap of following misinformation about how they can get quick and fast weight loss results. More often than not, the diet information that is provided is always unsustainable and sets up too great of an expectation that makes you feel like a failure if you don’t achieve the goal you wanted. None of these “quick fixes” give you vital information on how to create a more healthier and balanced lifestyle with tips that are easy to incorporate into your routine and meals that are satisfying and do not exclude foods that we love and enjoy.
Recently, more fitness influencers, trainers, and dieticians are talking about Intuitive Eating. It’s the practice of being in control of your food choices, and not allowing the opinions of others - whether that be your family, friends, social media, or diet books - to make those choices for you. Intuitive eating promotes positive body image and a healthier relationship with food.
It also promotes being mindful of your hunger cues. To put it simply, there are two main types of hunger: physical, where your body sends signals to your stomach, mouth, or brain telling you that it is hungry and needs fuel, and emotional, where you crave certain foods when feeling strong emotions such as sadness, anger, stress, or happiness. Eating mindfully helps bring awareness when you feel physical hunger, and how to feel satisfied with your meal once you’ve finished eating.
Here are five tips on how to practice mindful eating and how to incorporate it into your lifestyle:
Understand your hunger cues
Sometimes you feel physical hunger in your belly. Sometimes you feel hunger when you can smell something delicious. And sometimes you don’t feel physically hungry, but you do feel like you want to eat food. Having a good understanding of when you’re hungry, and what makes you hungry is an important tool for mindful eating. You’ll need to develop an awareness of your body, mind, and emotional state of being. When starting out, try to be aware of what times you start to feel physically hungry and eat during those times. When we listen to our bodies, and fuel them when they ask us to, we can develop a better mind/body connection and help our bodies instead of hurting it.
Honor your cravings
When trying to live a more balanced lifestyle, it’s important to have everything in moderation. When you incorporate more whole foods into your everyday eating, you eliminate a lot of the processed foods that contain refined sugars and carbs. However, wanting and desiring these foods is normal, and you should always eat these kinds of foods when you want them. If you are craving a donut rather than a breakfast smoothie, eat it! And if you are craving fries instead of a side salad at dinner, eat that too! A good rule of thumb is following the 80/20 rule; 80% of your day or week (depending on your lifestyle) try eating whole foods with good nutritional value, and 20% of the time eat ice cream, pizza, burgers, or anything else that might be more processed than whole foods.
Don’t label foods as “good” or “bad”
It’s important to never label foods as being “good” or “bad.” And you should never think that you can “only eat healthy food” and can “never eat junk food.” This creates a negative relationship when it comes to food that can make us fall into a binge/restrict cycle of eating. There is no such thing as “good” foods or “bad” foods when it comes to a healthy diet. There are foods that are more nutritious and less nutritious, but our relationship with food really determines how we eat and make our food choices. To practice this, always allow yourself to eat what you want, when you want it. When we tell ourselves that we cannot eat a certain food because it’s “bad” we tend to crave it more and go into a binge cycle where we can’t stop eating it. What we really can do to help ourselves from this is to allow ourselves to have as much as we want, stop when we feel satisfied and go about our day. This way of eating will help you to mindfully acknowledge what you want to eat, and give you the chance to enjoy that food to the fullest.
Make your meals satisfying
Make sure that when you are eating, you limit the distractions around you so that you can fully enjoy your meal. Instead of eating in front of the T.V., take a moment to sit at the table and pay attention to the taste, texture, smell, and satisfaction you get from each bite. This will help you to fully enjoy your meal and it also prolongs your time eating the meal. Another way to make your meal more satisfying is making sure you are having a balanced meal of protein, carbs, and fats. Meeting these essential macronutrients at each meal will keep you more satisfied for a longer period of time, and will limit the desire for snacking mindlessly. Try to fill ¼ of your plate with whole grains (such as brown rice, quinoa, or farro), ¼ with 4 oz. of protein (such as salmon, chicken, or tofu), and half of your plate with vegetables (broccoli, string beans, or salad). This combination will help keep you feeling satisfied for a long time, and will fuel your body with the proper nutrition it needs.
Trust your body
If you are trying to lose weight, lead a healthier lifestyle, or get more fit, remember that one cookie will not destroy all of your hard work. Your body is so smart and works hard to keep you active, moving, breathing, and it is important to trust your body to keep doing what it does best: living. Your weight will fluctuate after eating more processed food, and you may experience some bloating, but this will not last forever, and it is not because you did something wrong by eating a slice of pizza. The very fact that our bodies can move the same way after eating a slice of pizza or a salad full of veggies goes to show that we should feel the freedom to eat whatever we want, when we want it! So trust your body, love your body, and enjoy all foods in moderation, without guilt, and without fear!