Finding a healthy relationship with food can be challenging. Enter: mindful eating. Restrictive dieting and calorie counting works for some people, but many find it is an unreliable and uncomfortable way to lose or maintain weight. Instead, learning to eat more mindfully and re-adjusting your relationship with food and your body may be more effective.
While it seems simple that reducing calorie intake and increasing activity and calorie output should lead to weight loss, it is rarely that simple.
- Dieting is naturally restrictive, which makes you feel unsatisfied. This can lead to frustration and binges.
- Dieting actually increases the brain’s sensitivity to stress. You are then more susceptible to overeating calorie-dense or nutrient-devoid foods as a coping mechanism.
- There is a genetic component to body composition and habitus.
- You cannot rely on willpower to lose weight. (Willpower is finite.)
What is intuitive eating?
Being mindful or intuitive means being more aware of your body and its needs in the moment. You can broadly interpret this to include awareness of your moods, sensations, hunger, thirst, and emotions. In terms of eating, being intuitive is all about listening to your body about what you need to eat to be satisfied and healthy. Mindful eating is a way to heal your relationship with food.
Mindful and intuitive eating practices are not diets. They are mindsets that require you to trust your natural instincts and listen to your body’s natural hunger and fullness cues. In these practices, there is no room for outside influences like social pressures to eat or not eat certain foods. There is no directive to eat or not eat specific amounts of food at specific times. Instead, these practices teach you to listen to how your body is feeling and allow you to make food choices for yourself without judgement.
Being Mindful about Hunger
Those who promote intuitive eating believe the body has a natural ability to regulate food intake; to communicate what you need to eat and what you don’t. The difficulty is tapping into that instinct. Part of listening to your body also means ignoring or not responding to all the messages that signal you to eat more than you need. These messages can come from stress or a bad day, a food advertisement, or just your daily habits that are tough to break!
Simply deciding to be more mindful is a little abstract. It takes time and practice. Begin to understand when an urge to eat is because of hunger and when it is an emotional response. Begin to notice fullness clues and react to them. Fine-tune your sense of how eating certain foods in various amounts makes you feel, physically and emotionally.
What Does Mindful Eating Look Like?
Someone who is eating based on intuition is practicing specific skills: eating more slowly, taking smaller bites, and chewing more fully, for instance. To be mindful when eating, you must also avoid distractions: no TV or phone. You’ll be paying attention to all your senses while eating, and find a more pleasurable experience as you reflect on what you eat, how much you eat, and how it makes you feel.
Does mindful eating work for weight loss?
- Mindfulness-based eating strategies proved to be most useful in managing emotional eating, binge eating, and eating in response to external triggers.
- Mindful eating is effective for specific populations, such as women trying to lose postpartum weight. This may be an easier and better fit for a busy dieter’s life.
Click below for my Mindful Eating Tips to heal your relationship with food-
The more you build awareness around eating and emotions, you can begin to make some practical changes. Replace emotional eating with other activities and develop new habits. For example, if you reach for sweets when stressed, go for a walk or take a soothing bath instead.
Intuitive eating can work, but it requires practice, patience, and time. Mindful eating is a healthy way to approach your relationship with food.
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