Mindful eating – Techniques for a healthy relationship with food

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Ryan Day Coaching

You’re sitting on the couch, binge-watching your favorite show, and suddenly you realize you’ve demolished an entire purple bag of Doritos without even noticing.

Okay, maybe not the purple Doritos exactly (although those are the premier Dorito flavor, and I won’t hear otherwise).  

But you know what I’m talking about – you start snacking on something, and before long you’ve eaten an entire thing of Ben and Jerry’s or two rows of Oreos.

These foods are literally designed to make you do exactly that, so don’t feel bad.   There are ways to avoid this though, and that’s what we’re here to discuss today.  

Welcome to “mindful eating”, where you won’t lose your snacks to interdimensional snacking voids.

And no, mindful eating isn’t some ridiculous, woo-woo practice reserved for hardcore yogis and monks.  It’s something all of us can use.

At its core, mindful eating is about being present and fully engaged while you eat. It’s a conscious awareness of what, why, and how you eat.

Everybody (including me) has a tendency to multitask while eating or to inhale meals in a hurry, and this is where the concept of mindfulness can be a game-changer for your health and well-being.

This is a practice that’s close to my heart because it completely changed my relationship with food and allowed me to slow down and start appreciating food as the fuel it’s meant to be.  

So, let’s explore why mindful eating is important and how we can easily incorporate it into our lives.

Why Does Mindful Eating Matter?

Improved Digestion: When you’re truly present during meals, your body can prepare much better to digest the food you’re feeding it, which means you’ll probably experience fewer digestive issues like bloating or discomfort.

Better Food Choices: Mindful eating encourages you to listen to your body’s hunger and fullness cues, which helps dramatically with making healthier food choices and avoiding overeating.

Weight Management: Studies have shown that mindful eating can support weight management by reducing emotional eating and helping you tune in to your body’s actual hunger signals.

Enhanced Enjoyment: Savoring each bite and paying attention to flavors and textures can make your meals so much more enjoyable. Food becomes an experience, not just fuel!  This one sounds ridiculous, but I swear it’s true.

Practical Mindful Eating Techniques

Now, let’s get practical. Here are some techniques to help you incorporate mindful eating into your daily routine:

SLOW. DOWN.

Let’s start with the art of slowing down. Instead of inhaling your meals like you’re competing in the Food Olympics, take your time.

Put your fork down between bites, chew slowly, and really taste your food.

Your digestive system was not meant to chew a piece of food three times and swallow it.  By chewing your food slowly and not immediately rushing for the next bite, you give your stomach time to tell the brain, “hey, I’m getting full down here!”

Your mom was right when she said to chew your food – do it.

Eat with Awareness

During mealtime, focus on your food. Turn off the TV, put your phone down, and focus on the food in front of you.

I know, this sounds like crazy talk.  Eating without scrolling instagram?!  Are you kidding me?!  

Seriously.  Put down the phone, and notice the colors, textures, and aromas of your food. This alone will cut down on distractions and eliminate overeating.

Listen to Your Body

We have gotten so bad at this as humans.  We accept chronic fatigue, terrible digestion, and tiredness as if it’s normal.  I am here to tell you that this is common, but it’s so far from normal.  I’ll get off my soap box, but expect an entire newsletter on this down the road.  

Anyway, back to the technique.  Before you pile on seconds, have a chat with your tummy. Ask if it’s truly hungry or just bored.

Sometimes, it turns out you’re not actually hungry; you’re just having an existential crisis over a bag of cookies.  

Remember the Oreos I mentioned earlier?  My guess is you were just bored (not actually hungry) when you ate two rows of those babies.  

Embrace Mindful Snacking

Snacks.  I have a love-hate relationship with snacks. They’re so good, but man it’s so easy to go overboard.  

When it comes to munching between meals, choose wisely.

Opt for snacks that fuel you rather than turn you into a snack zombie hunting for the nearest vending machine.

Think nuts, a high quality yogurt or protein shake, a piece of fruit, some hard-boiled eggs.  

And pay attention to your portions when snacking.  After all, this is a snack, so don’t turn it into an 800-calorie meal of almonds.  

Control your portion and go for something that won’t leave you regretting your life choices afterward.

Recognize Emotional Eating

This is a tough one because it takes some self-awareness.  

Try to become aware of emotional eating triggers. Are you eating because you’re stressed, overwhelmed, or sad? Or are you actually hungry?

Before you go to grab one of those “unhealthy” foods, think about why you’re doing it.  

Mindful eating can help you acknowledge these emotions without defaulting to food.

Eat Foods You Enjoy & Give Yourself Some Grace

Cutting out all the foods you love is a surefire way to fail at reaching your health goals.  

99% of the time this is what happens – You eat nothing but healthy food for two weeks.  

Then you decide to have just a few bites of ice cream, and before you know it, the whole container is gone.  

Then the next day you feel bad about yourself and decide, “well, I guess I failed so I’m just going to continue eating poorly like I was.”  And just like that, you throw all your progress out the window.

I’m telling you right now – DO NOT deprive yourself of the foods you love.  Just enjoy them mindfully.  

Savor that piece of chocolate.  Eat a slice of cake.  Have some purple doritos.  And do it without guilt.  But know when enough is enough.  

And you know what?  You’re not going to be perfect.  

You’re going to have those days or nights when you go a little bit overboard on something that you know you probably shouldn’t.  

BIG. DEAL.  

You’re a human!  You’re not going to be perfect all the time.  Cut yourself some slack, and get back on track.  

Mindful eating is a process that causes you to continuously learn more and more about yourself, and the more you try, the more you’ll succeed.  

It’s not about becoming a food guru overnight, but about enhancing your relationship with food.

Give it a try, and let me know what you think.