In modern day society, eating has become a more mindless act for various reasons. Distractions (such as smartphones, televisions, computers), multitasking and our overall fast-paced society have pulled attention away from mealtime behaviors that support appropriate nourishment. It is also important to acknowledge that in this year of crisis, food intake as a coping mechanism can be a trauma response; this can occur consciously and subconsciously. Mindfulness can be one part of the solution for each of these listed scenarios that impact many individuals.
Applying mindfulness in life, especially surrounding nutrition, is one strategy that can help people achieve eating competence. When initiating mindful eating, the newfound cognizance and self-reflection can indirectly yield physical health benefits as the improved relationship with food progresses.
Our registered dietitians provide some tips to help you get started on the path to mindful eating:
- First and foremost, give yourself permission to eat. Diet culture is overly restrictive, questionable in long term efficacy and often backfires down a road of disordered eating. Acknowledge that food consumption is normal and so is variety in foods.
- Listen to when your body is telling you to eat. While hunger can be subjective, honoring its presence rebuilds trust with food and makes eating more matter of fact over time. Most people feel biological hunger every 3 to 6 hours. Allow for this approximate timeframe to create structure yet flexibility throughout your day; It has been shown to decrease late night snacking that can result from being too restrictive prior in the day.
- Before eating, pause and ask yourself, “am I truly hungry?” If so, proceed. Self-reflection is helpful as one becomes more in tune with mealtime behaviors. Pay attention to commonalities surrounding your eating experience. Do you notice any patterns such as boredom, stress, or fatigue when you turn towards eating? It is recommended to explore the root cause of these emotions. Find kind ways to comfort, nurture and resolve your issues. Anxiety, loneliness and boredom are examples of emotions humans experience throughout life. Dealing with the source of the emotion is beneficial and allows for more accuracy in determining true hunger. This may be best explored in therapy with a behavioral health specialist/therapist. Talk with your doctor for a referral.
- When true hunger occurs, studies show that sitting down at a table is best for both the mind and body. Appropriate food regulation and more relaxation are common wins.
- While taking bites, optimize your time and pay attention to all aspects of your food. Slow down and taste it, smell it and enjoy it!
- Having “forbidden foods” at meals and snacks makes them ordinary foods to eat in ordinary ways. Unless medically contraindicated, this encourages an appropriate and realistic consumption throughout the lifespan. Lowering overly restricted foods from the pedestal they often sit on encourages inner wisdom to take over on a case by case basis.
- Not “making yourself” eat fruits and vegetables over time can turn them into foods to eat for pleasure versus a forced, unenjoyable bite. Curiosity, fun and excitement work with kids and can work with adults too. Create a shopping list that has variety and try out interesting recipes that incorporate a variety of foods including produce. Consider periodically using Pinterest, Youtube, etc. to find a recipe that sounds interesting with a vegetable you have never tried. The approach and mindset can really make a difference with getting in those fruits and vegetables.
- Mindful eating isn’t something that is mastered, but rather a continual practice. Build upon your experiences and notice yourself grow.
These recommendations are some strategies that can help set the stage for a lifetime of not only healthy eating, but a better relationship with food. To learn more about how to apply mindful eating within your unique health profile, contact nutrition services at 630−286−5090 to schedule an in person or virtual appointment. Our registered dietitians can help guide you on your nutrition journey.