It seems that most of us are constantly focusing on the diets or foods that will help us feel better, look better or lose weight instead of the way we feel during and after having eaten certain foods. When did we forget to listen to our bodies to know how much, when and what to eat?
We have let our food choices become controlled by exterior rules, advice and ideas, which has lead to us becoming less ‘mindful eaters’. We have become less aware of the physical effects of foods on our bodies, replacing this awareness with our concern about the consequences certain foods might have on our appearance.
Think back to your childhood. You probably were not concerned with the amounts or types of foods you ate. You simply ate until you had had enough and made sure not to eat anything that made your stomach turn. Of course, keeping in mind the (long-term) effects certain foods can have on our bodies. This knowledge should be a guide when it comes to choosing what and how much we eat.
There are some elements that explain why children tend to eat more mindfully:
- They do not restrict what they eat. They eat until they feel they have had enough.
- They do not force themselves to eat every 2-3 hours because someone told them it would help them lose weight.
- Most kids have a ‘healthy’ relationship with all foods (up until a certain age). I personally did not classify foods as ‘good for me’ or ‘bad for me’. I classified them as ‘delicious’, ‘not that yummy’ or ‘inedible’ (read: disgusting).
- Distractions during their meals are limited: no tv, no e-mails, no schoolwork, no computers etc.
There might be one or two of these that do not apply to you, but for most of us these are some of the elements that made eating a process that involved feeling rather than thinking.
Listening to the way my body feels while eating is something I have had to teach myself again. There was a time where my emotional state, the nature of my thoughts and other factors in my surroundings determined how much and what I ate. I am still trying to figure out what else I can do to become more mindful while eating.
Here are some of my tips to you:
- In the mornings, wait until you are actually hungry before eating. I am sure you have heard before that you should drink a glass of warm water or meditate before having breakfast. There might be some truth to this advice as it is best to avoid eating when our metabolisms are still inactive. Doing this might lead to overeating or under eating.
- Sit at a table when you eat and avoid any distractions (tv, computer, cellphone etc.). Ideally, eat at a different table than the one you have been working at.
- Take at least 20 minutes to finish eating your meal. This might not seem like much, but try to notice how little time you actually take to finish a meal.
- Wait about 10 minutes after you are done to observe how you feel before stuffing your face with more food. Do you feel full? Are you still hungry? If after 10 minutes you still feel hungry, have another (smaller) serving.
- If you are stressed around your mealtime, try to meditate instead of turning to food to make you feel better. Make this a rule-of-thumb: do not eat when stressed.
- Plan what you are going to eat the following few days to avoid binge eating at times where you know you will not listen to your body; how hungry you are and what you want to eat.
Try to become a more mindful eater by listening to the way your body feels when eating certain foods (taste, digestion, energy etc.) as well as to the most basic knowledge about macro and micro-nutrients (i.e. each and everyone of us requires a certain amount of fats, proteins and carbohydrates as well as vitamins and minerals). There is nothing wrong with wanting to find out more about the nutritional value of certain foods, but do not let this knowledge become more important than the feedback your body gives you.