“Mindful Eating replaces self-criticism with self-nurturing
it replaces shame with respect for your own inner wisdom.”
Eating is a pleasurable activity that’s meant to satisfy our hunger and fuel our body. Yet in our food abundant, diet obsessed culture eating has become complex, confusing and guilt-inducing. There is a new fad diet every week and self proclaimed health gurus are preaching advice that is not only based on myths, but also at times downright dangerous.
If weight loss diets worked, everyone would already be “thin”. Instead those of us unfortunate to have gone on one or numerous weight loss diets are more likely to have poorer physical and mental health, experience body dissatisfaction and develop disordered eating such as binge eating, or an eating disorder.
Mindful eating is a mindfulness-based practice with profound implications and applications for resolving problematic eating behaviours and developing self care practices that support optimal health.
Mindful eating is based on the ancient practice of mindfulness which can simply be defined as paying attention to the present moment on purpose and without any judgement. Growing evidence is suggesting that the practice of mindfulness can improve many aspects of physical and psychological well-being, including anxiety, depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, chronic pain, immune function, blood pressure, cortisol levels, and cognitive functioning. It has also shown improvements in self-regulation, decision making, emotional resilience and other attributes that support optimal well-being.
So what about mindful eating?
Mindful eating is associated with increased physical activity, increased fruit and vegetable intake, improved nutrient intake, decreased food cravings, less impulsive eating, reduced calorie consumption, healthier snack choices and less emotional eating. Studies on mindfulness training in diabetes treatment show improved dietary intake, and improved glyceamic control. Furthermore mindfulness has been proven to reduce disordered eating, particularly binge eating.
When we use mindfulness around food and eating we become more intuitive in our eating habits and have a more positive relationship with food. We eat with intention and attention. With the intention of caring and supporting ourselves and with the attention necessary for noticing the effect food has on our body and mind.
It’s not simply about slowing down around food, it’s also bout how our thoughts and feelings form our eating habits and behaviours. It encompasses the entire process of eating starting from why am I eating?
Mindful eating aims to:
- Cultivate awareness of physical and emotional cues
- Recognition of non-hunger triggers for eating
- Learn to meet non-hunger needs in more effective ways than eating
- Choosing food for both enjoyment and nourishment
- Eating for both satisfaction and satiety
- Using the energy consumed in enjoyable and healthful ways
We often eat as a reaction to unrecognized triggers, thoughts and feelings. For example, you may go to the movies and smell the popcorn and instantly buy and eat some even if you are not actually hungry – that is simply a habit that we have formed over time. Mindfulness increases awareness of these patterns and creates space between triggers and and actions – we are then able to choose what we feel is the best choice for us.
Mindful eating empowers individuals to break free from old automatic habits and discover options that work better for them. It puts us behind the wheel, helping us feel in charge our choices around food and eating.
Eating intuitively involves trusting your body to let you know when to eat, what to eat and how much to eat, rather than letting external influences dictate these things (which is what happens when you are following any restrictive diet). No more strict diet rules, no deprivations, only awesome tools you can incorporate into your life right now.
If you are ready to dive in and would like to become more intuitive in your eating join us for an upcoming Mindful Eating Program!
This article was adapted from Mindful Eating: A practical Approach to Optimal Eating and Health.