Loving your body involves developing a healthy relationship with food. This means checking-in and asking what your body really needs now. What would fuel it to perform at its best? What makes your mind, body and soul feel good?
One way to be more in-tune with your body is through mindful eating. We acknowledge ‘mindful eating’ is a popular buzz term on social media these days, but what does it actually mean?
Basically, it’s just connecting and listening to the signals from your body. We can get so caught up in our heads that we ignore signals being sent from our body. We can often let rules, habits and social norms override the messages that our body is trying to send to us.
For example, we tend to finish a meal at a restaurant because it was served to us, not because we were hungry enough to eat it all. Or we eat the Tim Tams every night because they’re in the cupboard, not because we genuinely feel like one. Or we serve ourselves the same portion of dinner every night, regardless of how hungry we feel.
But if we actually take a moment to connect with our hunger signals and the emotions we feel in relation to food, we can become much more discerning with our choices.
1. Think about your hunger
Connecting with your physical signs of hunger can help you differentiate when you’re eating due to real hunger, or if it’s related to a habit or emotion instead.
Our ‘Hangry Scale’ can be a good place to start. Before having a meal, check in with your body and see where you rate on the scale. If you have no physical signs of hunger, it may be that you’re eating for another reason, like out of habit, boredom or stress. If this is the case, take a moment to think of an alternative way to cope with that emotion, such as taking a walk outside, doing 10 minutes of meditation or even trying a crossword/Sudoku puzzle.
You can also use the ‘Hangry Scale’ as you’re eating to decide when you should stop. Remember it’s ok to leave food on your plate, despite what your parents told you. But next time, try serving yourself a smaller portion to begin with and go back for seconds if you’re still hungry.
Finally, check in with the scale after you’ve finished eating. Are you sitting above the comfort zone of >7? If so, what could you change next time? Perhaps this means choosing between an entrée or dessert (rather than both), or taking some food home in a doggy bag.
2. Think about the food
When you’re eating, take the time to actually focus on what’s on the plate in front of you. This involves thinking about where the food has come from and the people involved in getting it to your plate. Smell the food and look at the different colours and shapes that you can see. When you’re eating, take the time to chew and taste your food. Think about the flavour, texture and feel of the food in your mouth.
Most importantly, slow down.
3. Think about your environment
Avoid distractions when you’re eating so you can focus all your attention to your meal. This means turning off the TV, putting away your phone or moving away from your desk. Meals are best enjoyed in the company of others.
4. Remove the labels and rules
Try to stop thinking of certain foods as ‘good’, ‘bad’ or ‘treat’. Instead, see them for what they really are – edible substances that vary in their balance of macronutrients. Some foods should be enjoyed every day, and others less often. Removing the labels can remove the guilt often associated when you feel you’ve eaten a ‘bad’ food, and stop you from becoming emotionally dependent on food by using it as a reward.
Also, don’t make yourself feel guilty for enjoying the foods you love. Enjoy it when you’re having it and move on afterwards. Focus on what your next healthy choice will be, rather than dwelling on what you’ve eaten in the past.
Our final pearl of wisdom…
Most importantly, stop fad dieting – it’s just a bitch-slap to your body. Instead, start listening to your body and become more in-tune with your feelings of hunger and fullness. Take the time to think about what you’re eating and turn your focus to your food. Food should no longer be the enemy.