An Introduction to Mindful Eating

{By Rebecca Florio}

mindfuleatingEating is such a part of our lives.

We eat to live, we eat for pleasure, and we eat for social reasons. But how much do we actually think about what we are eating?

Maybe you have put thought into what you eat, trying different diets, learning about healthy foods, or watching how much you eat. Maybe thinking about food and having to pay attention to carbs or fats is frustrating, and a bother. Maybe you feel like you will never be able to control your diet or appetite.

Is there any way we can be at peace with food?

Over my next few posts, I’d like to introduce you to the concept of Mindful Eating. Also called “intuitive” or “instinctive” eating, mindful eating practices give us the opportunity to enjoy food as the fuel for our lives without being controlled by what we put in our mouths.

Before we can learn mindful eating, we need to leave behind our diet mentality. Dieting is detrimental because it is based on deprivation and restriction. Diets tend to label foods (like sugar, bread, or butter) as “bad” or “prohibited” and then provide a list of “good” and “allowed” foods that we can eat. Instead of learning to listen to our bodies and honor our hunger, we deny our cravings and are driven by feelings of guilt.

We all know that diets are difficult to maintain. Usually a person meets their “goal” of losing 10 pounds or fitting into a dress, they go off the diet. Many people will never even reach their goal because the work to get there is too hard. Why are diets so difficult to follow? The answer is in the missing key of Satisfaction. Hunger is a physiological, healthy signal to eat and satisfaction is a physiological, healthy signal that we have eaten enough to meet our body’s needs. By creating rigid external rules telling us when we can eat, what we can eat, or how much we are allowed, dieting doesn’t take satisfaction into consideration. The result is that we still feel hungry and are more tempted to “let loose” and “splurge” when around forbidden foods. The backlash of dieting is often overeating and feeling out of control around food.

It’s a vicious cycle: Restriction -> Hunger -> Bingeing

And the result is that food becomes the enemy. Which is what we don’t want!

We need to recognize that the problem is not food, fat, or our bodies. The problem most of us have with eating is our thoughts or attitudes toward eating – our mindfulness or lack of mindfulness.

Mindful eating is based on principles of balance, intention, and attention. It acknowledges levels of hunger and fullness and knows when to begin and when to stop eating. It savors foods and eats slowly enough to notice taste, textures, and flavors. Most of all, mindful eating is about good health and eating to fuel our active lives. If we can learn to listen to our bodies and eat intuitively, we will find ourselves making nutritious choices and enjoying our foods more.

We’ll talk more about how to identify hunger, overcome bad eating habits and practically implement mindful eating practices.

But for now, identify areas of the “diet mentality” in your own approach to food. Do you feel guilty, anxious or frustrated about the way you are currently eating? Is eating a pleasant experience or is it a stressful or negative experience? In what ways do you want to change your current eating patterns? When you feel hungry, ask yourself these three questions – What do I want to eat? What do I need to eat? What do I have to eat?

Just asking questions is a good way to begin being more mindful. Eating is such an important part of our health so let’s give attention to what we are using to fuel our bodies. It’s one aspect of learning to “ glorify God in your body” (1 Cor 6:20)

Books and Resources on Mindful Eating:

–          Eating Mindfully by Susan Albers (http://www.eatingmindfully.com)

–          Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole, and Elyse Resch (http://www.intuitiveeating.org/

–          Mindless Eating by Brian Wasnick, (http://www.mindlesseating.org)

 

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