In a world filled with distractions, fast-paced living, and a variety of foods easily at our fingertips, it’s easy to overlook the impact that our food choices have on our well-being, as well as our relationship with food. We have the privilege of many on-the-go options, we are excellent at multitasking (maybe too excellent at it?), and we don’t slow down and enjoy when we eat like you might find in say Europe or South America.
And maybe that’s why the concept of eating mindfully is so foreign. If you have heard that term but have no idea what it is or how to even do it, then this is for you.
Food is to be enjoyed, and if you struggle with your eating habits, then this blog is for you. In this post, we are going to dive into how to apply mindfulness to your eating habits and help you build a healthier relationship with food.
Please note that this blog post is not intended to serve as a plan of recovery for an eating disorder or highly disordered eating. It is always recommended to consult a licensed therapist or healthcare professional for appropriate guidance and support in such cases. Highly recommend Marina G. Gearhart, MA, LMHC, R-DMT if you are in the Boston area.
Minimize Distracted Eating
Have you ever devoured a meal without truly savoring it, only to feel unsatisfied or uncomfortably full later?
One of the most common roadblocks I see in my 1:1 clients is distracted eating, whether it be due to a rushed lunch break, eating while scrolling social media or watching TV, or getting caught up in a social setting at a meal.
When you’re not present with yourself and your body during meals, you miss out on crucial information about how your food choices impact your mood and energy levels. You miss the chance to notice your body’s hunger cues, how the food is making you feel, and you also miss the chance to enjoy it as much as you could!
A mindful approach urges you to be present in the moment, noticing the subtle nuances of each bite. Whether it’s the comfort of a warm bowl of soup or the energy boost from a balanced meal, mindful eating allows you to connect with the emotional and physical responses to your food.
Aim for Balanced Eating
The lack of mindfulness can manifest in extremes – either overindulgence or undereating. I often see both when I have conversations with clients about their nutrition habits. You might experience one or the other, or both at different times! Especially if you were raised to always clear your plate at dinnertime, you likely aren’t aware and weren’t even taught to be aware of your hunger cues and may have over- or under-ate without realizing it.
For me, I can have a tendency to be a very distracted eater when I go out with friends. This has turned into a problematic situation several times when I am so caught up in the conversation that I don’t eat enough, and the alcohol kicks in. A PROBLEMATIC SITUATION hahaha. For you, it might be when you are out with friends, you have a tendency to splurge and overeat! Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum in social situations, it’s important to repeatedly check in with your body as you eat so that you can look back on that meal and that social gathering and feel good (both mentally AND physically) about what you ate.
Eat FOR Your Body
I have personally done a lot of work on my relationship with food throughout the years. One of the steps I have taken is to take inventory after I eat how what I ate made me feel. I know if I’m being anxious and crabby and I eat something high in protein, it diminishes my irritable attitude, I feel less jittery, and my thoughts clear. And, I also know if I’m feeling that way and eat something high in carbs (like grabbing a handful of chips or crackers out of the kitchen), I will feel less jittery and perhaps even a little sleepy, and then will resume my crabbiness in less than an hour LOL.
So for me, I aim to eat what I know will make me feel good, because I care about how I feel, and I don’t mean emotionally. This goes beyond having aesthetic goals and it removes the emotional eating component for me. I stand in what I know RATIONALLY through experience through paying attention, and my number one priority is feeling my best in my body.
The only way I can do this (and the only way that my clients have learned this) is by PRACTICING this. If you breeze through your meals and never create room to pause, how can you have this valuable feedback from your body and begin to learn what makes you feel good inside your body?
Here are 3 things you can do to implement mindful eating starting today:
Minimize Distracted Eating: Create a designated space for meals, free from distractions like phones or television. This might not be possible at your workplace, but you can begin to implement this in your home. Being fully present during meals enhances your sensory experience and fosters a deeper connection with your food.
Be Aware of Hunger Cues: Take a moment to assess your hunger before each meal. Is it physical hunger or emotional craving? By understanding your body’s signals, you can make choices that truly satisfy your needs.
Take Inventory of Mood and Energy Levels: After a meal, reflect on how it made you feel. Did it boost your mood and energy, or did it leave you feeling sluggish? This reflection allows you to identify patterns and make informed choices for future meals.
You can do this! Go practice this with your meals today!