In part one of this three-part series, we talked about the benefits of cultivating a mindfulness habit and specifically how to incorporate mindfulness into movement and everyday activities.
Mindful and intuitive eating practices can help stabilize food behaviors and improve your relationship with food and your body.
Let’s explore the benefits and practice of both “Mindful Eating” and “Intuitive Eating” as ways to bring harmony to your relationship with food and your body.
Eating mindfully means paying attention to your actual eating experience without judgment. This practice can help you become aware of the reasons behind your hunger or why you’re searching through the cabinets.
- Are there emotions you’re avoiding?
- Is your pantry lacking in nutritious food?
- Are you bored?
- Are family or cultural traditions guiding your choices?
- Does your schedule make it difficult to eat healthily?
Mindful eating helps you become aware of and take control of your eating habits.
Intuitive eating expands beyond mindful eating, and connects the mind, body, and food while strengthening the relationship among all three elements. This approach includes respecting your body regardless of how you feel about its shape. No body shaming! When you practice intuitive eating, you eat for physical reasons rather than emotional reasons. You can rely on internal hunger and satiety cues to guide when, what, and how much you eat.
Mindful and intuitive eating practices are especially important for those who have suffered or are suffering from disordered eating patterns or who feel like food controls their life. It is a respectful and healthy way to reconnect with food while gaining a deeper understanding of your mind and body. Neither is a specific diet, but rather a mindset that requires you to trust your instincts and truly listen to your body. Mindful and intuitive eating means there’s no judgment, no social pressures, and no need to eat at certain times or certain amounts. Instead, these practices teach you to listen to how your body is feeling and allow you to make the best food choices for yourself.
Mindfulness practices take time and dedication to master. Hold the intention to work on a mindfulness habit every day, and forgive yourself when you don’t. Trust your instincts, your body’s instincts, and be patient with yourself. Enjoy the process of building a more reliable mind-body connection and improving your relationship with food. Food is supposed to be nourishing and healing, and should be looked at that way. And you deserve to feel nourished and healed after you eat.
Tips For Eating Mindfully
- Prepare your body to eat mindfully while you are preparing your food. Enjoy the colors, smells, and sounds, sparking the part of your brain that readies your body to accept nourishment, digest efficiently, and work with food optimally.
- Don’t be afraid to use your hands when cooking to experience the tactile aspect of food.
- Leave all electronics out of the way of your eating space and eyesight.
- Sit down when you eat.
- Develop a mealtime ritual. This may include setting the table, turning on some relaxing music to enjoy during preparation and the meal itself, or using candles.
Expanding Into Intuitive Eating
- Take a deep breath, center yourself, and give yourself permission to eat as much as you want and enjoy the food in front of you.
- Give thanks, pray, or say grace at this time, expressing gratitude for all of the people who had a hand in growing and making your food, including yourself.
- Be still and see if you can dedicate at least part of the meal to silent enjoyment of the food.
- Connect. When eating alone, connect to your mind and body. How does the food taste when you chew slowly and savor it? Pay attention to your body’s reaction to the food. This is where you will intuitively notice food that don’t make you feel good, perhaps even intolerances or identify foods that make you feel grounded and well-nourished.
- When eating a meal with family or friends, connect over the meal and talk about the food. Choose calm and pleasant topics for conversation. Experiencing stress while eating prevents proper digestion.
- Use all of your senses. What does the food look like? Is the food sizzling? Is the music you chose relaxing? What does the food smell like? What is the texture like? How does the food taste? Is it savory, or sweet?
- When eating take-out, try to identify ingredients and flavors and share this with your companions. This activity can be helpful for anyone looking to heal their relationship to food.
- Listen to your body and recognize when you have had enough to eat or if you want more. Honor those internal cues as natural and healthy. When you are mindful and take the time to enjoy and chew your food, you will naturally not eat as much. A significant intake of sugar and processed foods can disrupt the body’s natural fullness cues, so minimize those foods.
- If you find yourself eating uncontrollably, you may need to limit the amount of food you put on your plate at first.
- Wait 5-10 minutes before going for seconds to help your body become more attuned to hunger and fullness cues.
When practicing intuitive eating, don’t attempt to restrict your intake of foods or limit calories. Don’t be upset with yourself for craving foods that are “bad” or “unhealthy.” All bodies are worthy of love and life.
Shift your focus away from actions you think will change the way your body looks and focus on steps that will improve the way your body feels.
Now is a great time to bring some mindful attention to your relationship with food and your eating habits. Gain the ability to make new, more conscious choices when you apply mindfulness and intuitive eating practices. You will experience a deeper sense of nurturance from food when you connect it with your body and mind.
In part three of this series, we’ll address how mindfulness can help insomnia and other sleep issues.