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. This is eating even though you’re not actually hungry.
Does that resonate with you? Do you ever eat for comfort, due to stress, out of boredom, in secret or because you’re upset about something? The consequences stretch far beyond problems with weight. They go right to the soul, and have you feeling incomplete, wrong, guilty and ashamed.
In my book, mindful eating is with intention and attention.
- Eating with the intention of caring for yourself.
- Eating with the attention necessary for noticing and enjoying your food and how it affects your body.
- Being aware of your physical and emotional cues.
- Recognising your non-hunger triggers.
- Learning to meet your needs or reward yourself without food.
- Choosing food to nourish your body.
I find many people who struggle with food react mindlessly to their unrecognised triggers, thoughts, and feelings. Mindfulness increases your awareness of these patterns and triggers without judgment, and creates space between your triggers and your actions.
HOW TO EAT MINDFULLY
- Whenever you notice you feel like eating, pause to ask the question: “Am I hungry?” You are then able to observe your thoughts and choose how you will respond. This gives you response-ability and empowers you to break old automatic or habitual chain reactions and discover options that work better for you.
- Exercise: think back to the last time you ate:
- Did you look at your watch for your cue or to see whether it was time to eat?
- Did you have an appointment maybe?
- Or perhaps you walked past a shop window and THEN decided you really needed a cake just like the one you saw in the window.
Think of the last time you ate. What were your reasons for eating?
- It was TIME to eat (lunch, dinner, etc.)
- You were offered food
- You were sad and needed to be comforted
- You were angry
- You were bored
- You were happy and wanted to celebrate
- You saw something you fancied
- You were upset and needed a treat
- Other –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
This exercise will give you a valuable insight into why you are choosing to eat.
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 in 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 from an urge to eat caused by ‘head hunger’ or non-hunger eating.