What does it mean to eat mindfully?



Mindfulness, and mindful eating, just like Intuitive Eating is a huge buzzword right now.


As a society, we are beginning to recognize that for many of us, we have been living life go-go-go, in a fog of sorts, going through the motions of life as quickly as possible- and it's not for the better. Chronic disease is on the rise, stress and anxiety are through the roof and unhappiness at an all-time high. We're realizing it's time to take a step back and look at the big picture: where did we go wrong?


Mindfulness, by definition is simply the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.

It's about focusing on the present moment, rather than stressing about the future or dwelling on the past-- being IN your body and acknowledging and accepting your feelings- inside and out.


That can be a TALL order, I know. But that's why mindfulness isn't a destination, it's a practice, of becoming more present in our everyday lives.




How often do we go through the motions with our eating-- whether we are mindlessly following a particular diet plan because we think it's good for us-- without checking in as to whether it IS serving our bodies, or just eating whatever is around because we don't seem to have time to check in?


Mindfulness can be applied to eating by simply becoming more aware of our bodies and meals and how they change in response to the practice of eating.


How often do we go through the motions with our eating-- whether we are mindlessly following a particular diet plan because we think it's good for us-- without checking in as to whether it IS serving our bodies, or just eating whatever is around because we don't seem to have time to check in?

What mindful eating IS:


Mindful eating is applying the concepts of mindfulness to the practice of eating.


For many women, mindfulness is the key to tuning back IN to your body and making choices that TRULY serve you.


The Center for Mindful Eating defines it as such:

  • 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.

  • Using all your senses in choosing to eat food that is both satisfying to you and nourishing to your body.

  • Acknowledging responses to food (likes, dislikes or neutral) without judgment.

  • Becoming aware of physical hunger and satiety cues to guide your decisions to begin and end eating.

Sounds a lot like Intuitive Eating, right? (It IS, and we'll go more into this in a minute). But the key here is to allow yourself to become more aware of food in different ways. -What is my body telling me about what I'd like to eat? -What sounds satisfying right now? -What will satisfy my tastebuds and nourish my body?


It's also mindfully acknowledging responses to foods (without judgment):

- How did that food feel in my body?

- Did I enjoy that meal?

It also involves getting in touch with hunger and fullness, just like with Intuitive Eating, to guide your decisions about when to eat and not eat (rather than relying on an outside source).


What mindful eating ISN'T:


It can be really easy when you're on your journey to being more mindful around your eating to take the concept of mindfulness around food and create a rule around it. Every meal MUST be eaten mindfully or else. If I'm not fully present with my meal, I'm not eating intuitively.


If you are a mama, you're probably laughing because this is SO not the case most of the time. If you've got tiny humans to feed, eating mindfully can sound like a bad joke.


But it doesn't have to-- it doesn't have to sound impossible and it doesn't need to turn into a rule.


Mindful eating is not:

- the opposite of mindless eating- it is more nuanced that that! - being completely present at each and every meal, eating in silence, without any distractions

- careful eating (i.e. 'I'm being more mindful about my food choices' as an excuse for restriction/dieting)

- obsessing over whether the food you ate is 'good for you' or 'bad for you' (there is a difference between mindful and mind-full eating. It's about awareness, not obsessing)

- eating slowly and consciously and then leaving the table and forgetting about your body (mindfulness goes beyond the actual eating experience).



Mindful Eating vs. Intuitive Eating


Many women I work with assume mindful eating and intuitive eating are the same thing.


This is not then case, but mindfulness and Intuitive Eating DO go hand-in-hand: it's all about creating more AWARENESS around the food you're eating so you can make choices and honor your body in a way that serves you.


It's all about creating more AWARENESS around the food you're eating so you can make choices and honor your body in a way that serves you.

Mindful Eating is much more focused on the eating experience immediately before, during and after. It overlaps quite a bit with Intuitive Eating in that you are tuning better in to your body's sensations (interoceptive awareness) and paying attention to how foods are feeling in your body, during and after eating- in order to determine what truly feels good in terms of hunger, fullness, satiety and digestion. Neither are plans for weight loss but apply tools and practices to tune into our bodies better to make choices that serve us, and only us. Mindful eating is PART of the broader practice of Intuitive Eating and a necessary practice to becoming a more Intuitive Eater.


Evelyn Tribole wrote a fabulously simple article about the difference between Intuitive Eating and Mindful eating. You can find that here.




How to begin a more mindful eating practice:


There are three main steps to mindful eating I share with my clients:

1. Tune in

2. Slow Down

3. Check in


1. Tune in.


Tune into your body throughout the day. Ask yourself: - How does my body feel right now? Am I feeling any obvious hunger- growling stomach, gnawing feeling, stomachache or stomach emptiness? Or, am I feeling subtle signs of hunger like low energy, fatigue or headache?


Tune into your body before meals. Ask yourself the same questions as above to judge your hunger levels. How hungry are you. It's also important to ask: - What type of food sounds good to me right now? What do I feel will feel good in my body?


2. Slow Down


When you're ready to enjoy your meal, enjoy it with as few distractions as possible. I know this can be easier said than done for mamas, but it's important especially in the beginning stages of becoming an Intuitive Eater. Choose at least one meal you can be less-distracted at. And then...


Slow down. Take time to enjoy your food! Take one bite, recognize the flavors and textures of the food, how pleasant or unpleasant it feels, chew, swallow and move onto the next. Begin to notice how the next bite feels, and the next. We talk more about tuning into the sensations of eating in The Supermama Society.


3. Check in

The Pause is one of the most powerful mindful eating tools. This practice is simple for most. Practice pausing in the middle of your meal- every meal, and noticing how your body feels. Is it pleasant or unpleasant? Are you beginning to get full? Are you still desiring more food, whether you are still hungry or not (fullness is not just the absence of hunger)? Are you feeling restricted, is this food satisfying, both physically and emotionally?


It's important to also pause after a meal and check in with your body. How did that food make you feel physically? Are you full, over full or still hungry? 10-30 minutes later: Are you bloated and tired or energized? How did that food make you feel mentally/emotionally? Are you satisfied, or wanting more? Though this only scratches the surface of mindful eating, starting with these three steps can truly help you tune into the eating experience and begin to recognize what is serving you, and what isn't. The only way to create lasting change in our health is to find what works for YOU. This requires tuning in, without judgment and allowing yourself to become aware and comfortable with the sensations in your body. It might seem foreign at first- but trust that your relationship with your body is one of the most important ones you'll ever develop!


And further, becoming more mindful of eating takes the STRESS out of eating! When you are asking YOUR body what it wants and actively learning what works for YOU, there is no stressing about following a particular plan or eating at a specific time- it's about what feels good in your body, and THAT is some freedom, right there.


Do you want more tools and tactics for eating mindfully and taking the stress out of mama life?

JOIN ME and my friend Alyssa of Integrative Wellness, RI for a FREE Live Webinar at 11am Friday July 12th over on Facebook all about how to stress less, by doing less! We'll talk about techniques for stress, how to stress less when it comes to food and so much more. Click the image below to be notified when we start!





Kristin Dovbniak

Welcome!

I'm Kris! Founder of Healthy Balanced Mama, I'm a holistic health coach, certified intuitive eating counselor, trained chef, and mama of two, and I'm here to guide busy moms like you in stressing less and finding freedom with food through balanced eating and simplified routines around meal planning, meal prep, grocery shopping and cooking with confidence.

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