Mindful eating: what is it and how do I do it?
Three years ago, when I was tired of counting Weight Watchers points and couldn’t stomach the thought of trying another diet, I heard about something called mindful eating. So I started Googling what mindful eating was. I started reading about others who were following this new lifestyle that didn’t require me to count or measure my food.
I was instantly hooked. But to be totally honest, a little afraid at the same time. I used Weight Watchers for over five years. I wondered if I moved to this new mindful eating, would I gain a bunch of weight? Would I just want to eat junk food all the time? Would I want ALL THE CARBS?
Turns out our body is pretty incredible and intuitive. Sure, the first month or so, I did want all the carbs. But then my body started to balance out. It started to crave greens and fresh fruits. It wanted protein to keep me full. It wanted home made food instead of processed. It knew what it needed, and I listened to it.
This is the first step of mindful eating.
Mindful Eating: Step 1 – Listen to your cravings
Listen to what your body is telling you it’s craving. Our body will start to give us cues on what exactly it is that it needs. Sometimes we do need carbs, sometimes we need extra protein. Sometimes we just need a little bit of sugar to satisfy our sweet tooth.
We need to start to listen to those cravings and find the best ways to satisfy them. This likely seems very counter-intuitive to everything you’ve probably heard before when it comes to a traditional diet. Diets like to restrict at least some sort of food group. When in actuality, if you’re eating whole, natural foods, there shouldn’t be a reason to eliminate anything.
Mindful Eating: Step 2 – Listen to your hunger and fullness cues
Mindful eating really comes down to actually listening to your inner voice. Are you hungry? Are you full? What are you craving?
In the simplest of explanations, that’s what mindful eating really centers on. The reason I didn’t gain a whole bunch of weight when I moved over to mindful eating was because I really paid more attention to when I was hungry, what I was hungry for, and when I was full.
The idea is that you’re only eating when you’re hungry, rather than at set times of the day. All of our bodies are different. Some people may not be hungry right away in the morning. Some people may be ravenous at 4:30 pm. If your body is telling you it’s hungry, it’s time to eat.
Now here’s where the tricky part comes in. Stopping your eating. We’ve all become so conditioned to very large portions. We may be full, but think, “there’s only two bites left, I might as well just finish it.” Here’s where you have to tell yourself no! Your body is already saying it’s full. Don’t make it uncomfortable by continuing to feed it.
If you struggle with portion control, give these cute containers a go. They’ve been instrumental in getting me to healthy portion sizes and help keep me from over eating.
Mindful Eating: Step 3 – Don’t feel guilty
This third step is critical. We’ve become so conditioned to “eat this, don’t eat that. That’s bad for you. This is good for you.” When in reality, there should be no “good” or “bad” foods.
There are foods that are more nutritious for you. There are foods that are going to fuel your body better than others. But I am a firm believer that if you want to make mindful eating work, you need to focus on not feeling guilty.
“Eat what you love, love what you eat” is the title of the first book I picked up when I started eating mindfully. Michelle May, M.D. talks about truly enjoying and savoring what it is you’re eating.
Don’t feel guilty for eating that cookie you really wanted, but savor it. Enjoy every single bite of it. Think of its texture, of the sweetness, of the flavor combinations. This way you are being more mindful of what it is you’re eating, and taking your time, so that you can sense those fullness cues we talked about earlier.
Mindful Eating: Step 4 – Journaling
When I first started eating mindfully I picked up a journal. I was so used to tracking literally everything I ate while on Weight Watchers that I felt like I still needed some sort of system to hold myself accountable with this new found eating habit.
The journal was perfect because it focused more on how eating certain foods made me feel rather than tracking how much I ate. How did my stomach feel after that egg breakfast? What thoughts did I have around eating a brownie at lunch?
I created the Mindful Eating Journal for you to be able to start to do the same. Let’s break the diet habits. Let’s learn to eat mindfully together and focus more on quality ingredients that work well for our bodies and no longer eliminating or restricting our eating habits.
The journal is a re-printable 30 day journal that will allow you to keep a pulse on how it is you feel after each meal. Are you getting enough water in each day? Are you exercising? Are you doing something good for yourself each day? The journal will help prompt you for all of these.
It also goes more in-depth about how to eat mindfully, and how to make sure it’s serving you and your lifestyle. So pick it up today, and start living a healthier and happier life when it comes to food!