Mindful Eating

Have you heard of it? Do you practice it, have you tried it?

I didn’t know this, but was alerted by this post at Upbeet.ca, (a wonderful blog by fellow dietitian Melissa Baker) that today, January 28 2016 is the inaugural Mindful Eating Day.

According to The Center for Mindful Eating, mindful eating is:

Mindful Eating is allowing yourself to become aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities that are available through food selection and preparation by respecting your own inner wisdom. By using all your senses in choosing to eat food that is both satisfying to you and nourishing to your body, acknowledging your responses to food (likes, dislikes or neutral) without judgment, and becoming aware of physical hunger and satiety cues to guide your decisions to begin and end eating you can change your relationship to food.

Mindful eating is near and dear to me, I first discovered this idea when I was nineteen and coming off several years (it felt like a lifetime at that point) of chronic dieting, and looking for a better way to think about and manage how I eat.

Mindful eating is about recreating your relationship to food. It is about paying attention to what you eat, without judgement. Being without judgement around food is a challenging task, because it is counterculture to our current North American Chronic Dieting mindset.

Instead of asking yourself;

“Will this make me fat?” “How good is this food for me?” “I must make sure to only eat x number of calories/carbs/grams of fat” “I am so bad, I can’t believe I ate that”

You have to ask yourself:

“Do I like this?” “Why am I eating this?” “How full am I?” “Do I want more?” “What else is going on while I eat?”

When it comes to healthy eating we aren’t used to asking ourselves those kind of questions. We think calories, carbs, fat, and protein, iron, calcium, vitamin C. But mindful eating is about the entire experience of food and eating. It is about pleasure, and enjoyment around food.

Mindful eating is also about giving time and space to food and eating; no distractions, no eating as a task secondary to work or the TV or whatever else you might often do while eating. Some might call mindful eating a meditation around food; because to truly answer the questions mentioned before you have to be paying attention to what you are eating.

A person’s relationship to food is often the step that gets missed when we discuss healthy eating, and it’s a shame. I would argue it might be one of the most vital steps to healthy eating. When we learn to feed our bodies what we’re asking for, and listen to our bodies own intuitive hungers, we get much better at feeding ourselves in the way we need to be fed.

While Mindful Eating was my gateway to this way of rethinking my relationship with food, it is by no means the only way. Other methods include Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, as well as Ellyn Satter’s Eating Relationship and definition of normal eating.

Find the way that works for you, and today try to find the time and space to be mindful around the foods you eat and ask yourself those questions.