Eating mindfully is a total buzz phrase right now. But what does it really mean? And particularly what does it really mean for those of us who have busy lives?!
That’s the first misconception. “Eating mindfully” conjures up someone at a Yoga retreat eating one meal during the course of 2 hours. Either that or it seems like an insanely vague concept. What does mindful eating mean for those of us who don’t have time to contemplate a raisin for five minutes? (Btw, if you don’t know about the raisin mindfulness exercise, check it out here).
Eating mindfully can be exactly what some folks need to finally feel that they have a healthier relationship with food. Below we’ll detail some strategies we use with our Weighted Plate clients. We hope these clarify some of the confusion surrounding this vague topic as well as allow you to feel empowered in starting your own mindful eating practice.
Eat slowly. Eating slowly can be a great first step when it comes to learning how to be mindful around your nutrition. Are you tasting the food? Or are you shoveling it into your mouth and literally missing it. Making sure you chew sufficiently can also help with eating slowly, as it can help you taste and savor the textures and flavors. By eating slowly, you’re also giving your body time to listen to fullness cues.
When eating, eat. If you’re eating dinner in front of the TV every night, you’re not allowing your brain to process this meal. You’re not allowing your brain to process how much you’re eating, where the food came from, what the food tastes like… the list continues. Eating while distracted is a recipe for poor digestion and definitely overconsumption.
You decide when and how much. If you’re not hungry at noon, why would you eat at noon? Because it’s “lunchtime” and you “should?” I call BS on that. Learn to listen to what your body is telling you, not what everyone else in your office does. And remember that our ancestors definitely did not adhere to breakfast time, lunch time, and dinner time on a regimented schedule. Find what works for you. Even if other people think it’s weird. Oh, and PS-- even if someone “bakes something for you”-- you still don’t have to eat it in that moment. Only you are in control of what you eat, when, and how much.
Imperfect consistency over being inconsistently perfect. It’s far more important what you do 95% of the time than the other 5%. Trying to use willpower to be “good” all of the time will do nothing but lead to being inconsistently perfect. We want to aim for imperfection consistently so that we can feel 100% in our power and confident that this is a lifestyle, not a quick fix. You don’t want to aim for perfection and always “fail.” But that’s what happens when you aim for perfection, since it’s not a real thing. So aim for imperfection instead. Let’s say you’re obsessed with Oreos. Biggest guilty pleasure. But you never let yourself buy or eat them. Except when you drink… then you eat an entire sleeve. What if, on a random day when you happen to crave an Oreo at 4pm, you buy a small package? Start sprinkling in those foods every once in a while. Imagine what can happen when you never feel deprived? Aiming for imperfect consistency will create a lifestyle that feels effortless rather than one where you are constantly trying to find your way “back on track.”
“There will always be pizza.” This is one of my favorite things to say to clients. A lot of times when someone starts restricting in any capacity, they start to feel so unbelievably sad and deprived. It’s almost as if they’ve lost a family member. “What?! I can NEVER eat Doritos again?! I’m heartbroken!” But remember this: you can make or buy whatever you want, whenever you want it. Literally. We are all adult humans here. Having a scarcity mindset that you’re NEVER going to be able to eat a certain food again or that you can only have your favorite cake on your birthday only sets yourself up for failure with moderation and balance. If you’re always feeling like you “can’t” have or “are not allowed” to have something, then you will absolutely struggle with mindfulness. Instead, try using mindfulness to remember that you can eat whatever you want whenever you want it.
But don't I have to be on a zen retreat to do all of this?
Eating as mindfully as someone may do while on a retreat may not be realistic for many of us on a daily basis. Nor may our spouses and friends want to spend three hours at the dinner table with us each night, either! So let’s introduce some informal mindful eating that can be implemented into our daily lives, no matter how busy.
If you can’t bring these tips around with you everywhere, here’s a quick table for reference to distinguish between MIND-LESS and MIND-FUL eating.