I’m a big fan of mindful and intuitive eating; but what exactly is it and how do we go about it?
Can you think of a time when you were eating your lunch/dinner/chips/chocolate/salad and all of a sudden, your food was finished? You’d eaten it all but hadn’t really noticed; in fact, you still felt hungry. Chances are, when you were eating your chosen meal or snack, you were also distracted by something (often the TV!). So simply, mindful eating is about ‘being in the moment’; it focusses much more on how you are eating than what you are eating. By slowing down, savouring and really noticing our food, we are able to enjoy it more as well as realising when we’ve had enough and when we want more.
Eating mindfully also encourages you to listen to what your body is telling you, both prior to and after eating. It increases your ability to detect when you are hungry and identify what it is that you feel like eating. Do you want a meal or just a snack? Something sweet or savoury? Hot or cold? Take a moment, be mindful and choose to eat what it is you really feel like. After you’ve savoured your meal/snack, think about how it makes you feel. Did you like it, was it tasty? Did it give you energy (both immediately but also sustains that energy for 1-3 hours) or did it make you feel sluggish? Did it leave you feeling satisfied, or are you still hungry or overly full? Did it nourish your mind as well as your body? By noticing how you feel after the meal, you’ll learn what sorts of food make you feel good.
Mindful eating acknowledges that your body and your mind will desire a variety of foods. What is satisfying for you on one day, might not be on another. It’s vital that we eat a diet which nourishes our body and supports good physical, mental and emotion health.
The amount of food your body needs will change from day to day, week to week. As you become more in tune with your hunger/fullness signals, you’ll find that there will be days that you eat more (maybe because you’ve been more active) and there’ll be days when you’ll eat less (maybe if you’re having a lazy Sunday). This will maximise your energy (because you won’t be restricting food when you’re actually hungry) whilst also avoiding eating to to the point of feeling uncomfortably full.
Tips on how to eat mindfully
- Slow down; chew your food; put the fork down between mouthfuls
- Savour your food – notice the taste, texture, smell
- Limit distractions; turn off the TV or computer
- Listen to your body’s hunger and fullness signals (avoid becoming overly hungry or overly full)
- Take a moment before you eat to think about what you really feel like
- Notice how the food makes you feel after you’ve eaten it
Mindful eating takes time. Be patient. It won’t provide you with a quick fix like many fad diets will (which we all know also result in a quick reversal of those results) but mindful eating is achievable, it’s sustainable and it’s designed to optimise your physical and mental health.
Mindful eating is not a diet, nor is it a means of weight loss. Check out this great post of when mindful eating goes rogue.
Some people may need extra support when shifting to mindful and intuitive eating – you can read more here.
“Normal eating is going to the table hungry and eating until you are satisfied. It is being able to choose food you like and eat it and truly get enough of it—not just stop eating because you think you should. Normal eating is being able to give some thought to your food selection so you get nutritious food, but not being so wary and restrictive that you miss out on enjoyable food. Normal eating is giving yourself permission to eat sometimes because you are happy, sad or bored, or just because it feels good. Normal eating is mostly three meals a day, or four or five, or it can be choosing to munch along the way. It is leaving some cookies on the plate because you know you can have some again tomorrow, or it is eating more now because they taste so wonderful. Normal eating is overeating at times, feeling stuffed and uncomfortable. And it can be undereating at times and wishing you had more. Normal eating is trusting your body to make up for your mistakes in eating. Normal eating takes up some of your time and attention, but keeps its place as only one important area of your life. In short, normal eating is flexible. It varies in response to your hunger, your schedule, your proximity to food and your feelings.” – Ellyn Satter (www.ellynsatter.com)