How often have you read that you should eat mindfully? What does that actually mean?
If you’re into mindfulness, you might think that ‘mindful eating’ is all about “eating slowly and without distraction.” That is certainly one way to look at it but I also want to share my take on it…
One of the things that comes up all the time for my clients is non-hunger eating, or eating even though you’re not actually hungry.
Can you relate?
Do you ever eat for comfort, due to stress, out of boredom, in secret or because you’re upset about something? The most obvious side effect of eating when you're not hungry is overeating and the weight gain that comes with eating more than what you need. The consequences, however stretch far beyond problems with weight. They go right to the soul of who we are due to the emotions that often accompany emotional eating and which often leave you with a feeling of emptiness, shame and guilt.
What is mindful eating?
What mindful eating is truly about is eating with intention and attention.
Eating with the intention of caring for yourself by fuelling and nourishing your body
Eating with the attention necessary for acknowledging, appreciating and truly enjoying your food and how it affects your body.
Being aware of your physical and emotional cues to eat.
Recognising what triggers you to eat when you're not hungry.
Learning how to meet your emotional needs or reward yourself without food.
Choosing food that will nourish your body.
I find many people who struggle with food and overeating are often in react mode, mindlessly reacting to their unconscious triggers, thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness increases your awareness of these patterns and triggers without judgment and creates space between your triggers and your actions.
Challenge your Thoughts: Whenever you notice you feel like eating, pause to ask the question, “am I really hungry?”. From this point you can observe your thoughts and proactively choose how to respond, rather than unconsciously reacting to a thought. This empowers you to break old responsive, unconscious or habitual chain reactions and discover options that better serve you.
I can tell you that before I got out of this trap myself, I was surprised to discover that I often didn't eat because I was truly hungry. I often ate because it felt good, because it was offered to me and because it was something to do - as a form of entertainment as well as procrastination! What are your reasons?
It’s TIME to eat (lunch, dinner, etc.)
You’re offered food
You’re sad and looking for comfort
You're putting something off
You’re happy and want to celebrate
You see something you fancy
You’re upset and need a treat
Or is it something else ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
This exercise will give you a valuable insight into why you are choosing to eat.
Your Body Knows
You were born knowing exactly how much to eat. Hunger is your body's way of telling you that you need fuel. By reconnecting with your instinctive signals, you can manage your eating without restrictive dieting or obsessing over every bite of food you put in your mouth. Proper hunger is your natural guide, but you need to be able to distinguish this from the non-food triggers.
To break out of the pattern of eating on autopilot, get into the habit of asking yourself, "am I hungry?" every time you feel like eating. This simple but powerful question will help you recognise the difference between an urge to eat caused by the physical need for food and an urge to eat caused by cravings, an emotional need or a mental or visual trigger.