When you think of the term mindful eating, what is it that you think of? Most of my clients say that it means knowing when to stop eating, or eating without distractions. While both these things *can* be true, this is only a small fraction of what mindful eating actually is.
Mindful eating is so much more than distraction-free and knowing when you’re full. It’s finding enjoyment in your food and in the moment. Mindful eating is being present, finding the positives in your food prep and consumption, and savoring the moment.
Mindful Eating vs. Dieting
When you diet, your reaction to food is “no”. It may start out that you’re just cutting back on calories or portions or carbs. Or you may just be avoiding certain foods. But eventually, you end up feeling guilty every time you eat.
You’ll also start to feel stressed about meal times. You know you’ll be hungry (which you lie to yourself about and say that it’s wrong to be hungry), you know you’ll have to eat and inevitably eat. But the idea of coming up with something that will satisfy you without making you feel guilty is paralyzing.
You feel paralyzed to make a decision and so you don’t make any decisions until you finally end up eating something that will make you feel icky and sluggish like fast food. This then paralyzes your motivation.
If you learn to use mindful eating instead of restrictions, you’ll pay attention your hunger cues, and choose foods that you really want. You choose nourishing foods that are satisfying and enjoyable. And then you don’t feel the need to “binge” or buy fast food. Because you’re satisfied.
Mealtimes won’t stress you out because you know that you’ll be able to choose anything that will satisfy you.
Transitioning from Calorie Counting to Mindful Eating
This transition is such a life changing thing. Imagine never having to count another calorie and not worrying about your weight.
So many of my clients are fearful when they start this. They think “well I can’t lose weight while I’m counting my calories, so if I stop, then I’ll gain weight”. While I understand this thought process, it does not have to be true. If you stop counting calories AND drastically change the way you’re eating by overcompensating for everything that you wished you could have had before, then you probably will. But at this point, calorie counting is just an obsession and a crutch for most of my clients. And usually they’ve been doing it so long, trying to eat low calorie just to see those numbers, that they just end up bingeing and overdoing the calories in the long run, which adds to their lack of results.
So my first step with my clients is to show them what they need to eat for more energy, faster metabolisms, and to feel satisfied. This usually means that they need to plan for more meals and snacks or more food at their meals and snacks. This makes them feel really anxious in the beginning, but then they see that they’re not bingeing later, so it evens out AND increases their metabolism.
Becoming a Mindful Eater
Learning what you need in your every day diet is just the first step. This allows us to stop calorie counting, without the weight gain. But there is a lot more that goes into eating mindfully. In order to be a mindful eater, you need to be able to savor your food, especially your indulgent food. You also need to be able to find and focus on the benefits to both the preparation and consumption of your food. You need to know your likes and dislikes well, and you need to be able to eat when you’re hungry without guilt and stop when you’re satisfied.
Being a mindful eater also means letting go of perfection. Just because you eat mindfully, doesn’t mean that you’ll NEVER over-indulge or NEVER just grab something on the go. You’re still human and life is still life, so you’ll still do these things. But being mindful means that you won’t judge yourself for these things and you’ll just move on and come right back to it.
Mindful Eating Tools & Tips
1. Hunger Fullness Scale
This is a 1-10 scale. 1 on the scale is ravenously hungry and 10 on the scale is stuffed like a turkey on Thanksgiving. The idea here is that neither a 1 or a 10 are very comfortable, so you want to avoid getting to either. Eat before you get to a 1 and stop before you get to a 10. Ideally, you’ll always between a 3 and a 7
2. Don’t forbid yourself from going to the candy jar at work.
Instead, try to ask yourself to wait until you can sit down and really enjoy it. Take a break and enjoy and savor the candy, instead of munching on it in the middle of the stressful work situation.
3. Switch from a calorie counting and macro tracking journal to a Mindful Eating Journal.
This is a great way to transition from food journaling. It allows you to still see what you’re eating, without the obsessive-ness that comes with calorie counting. Keeping this type of journal allows you to see patterns and make adjustments more easily. For instance, if you notice that you’re always at 1 on the hunger-fullness scale by lunchtime, you can add a morning snack or add food to breakfast. Or if you notice that you’re stress eating at 3pm every day, you can plan a nourishing and satisfying snack for this time, or plan a break to sit down and enjoy a piece of candy.
4. Find ways to enjoy the moment surrounding your food.
Let go of the idea that you have to sit and eat distraction-free. Eating is not JUST about fuel. It’s also about enjoyment. Family dinners, nights out with your friends, and yes even sitting in front of the TV watching your favorite shows while savoring your favorite ice cream. This also means finding the enjoyment in food prep. Pour yourself a glass of wine and have Alexa play your favorite music while you cook. Get yourself excited to go grocery shopping by looking for new favorite products and food items. Even simply focusing on the benefits that prepping ahead of time can have, will help you enjoy your food more and take less stress out of your week.
Never Diet Again
If enjoying your food again and feeling from restrictions sounds great to you, I would love to help you! My program is called the Never Diet Again Lifestyle Transformation. If you’re local and have insurance, a good chunk of it is paid for!