I know I talk a lot about my struggles with living in the moment and with intuitive eating (also known as mindful eating), which kind of go hand and hand, but I realized I may need to introduce or reintroduce the intuitive eating concept. So here’s a little snapshot of what I’ve learned about along the way.
Intuitive eating is a new way to look at our relationship with food, not a fad diet. It’s foundation lies in the fact that if you listen to your hunger and fullness levels, you will again return food to exactly what it’s meant to provide – fuel for our bodies vs comfort for all the uncomfortable things we have to deal with on the day to day – thus removing the need to ever diet again. Although intuitive eating is really about being able to eat whatever you want, whenever you want, that does not mean that you can eat an entire supersized fast food meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner and maintain a healthy weight. It just frees you from the mentality that food is the enemy and makes you look inside yourself to address what you are trying to quiet within yourself through food.
It’s a definite mind shift and one that I have yet to fully conquer, which is why I’ve decided to revisit what I’ve learned about intuitive eating and share what I’ve chosen to get me back on the intuitive eating track.
Any time you want to eat – ask yourself – Why are you eating?
- Is it because you’re truly experiencing hunger pains, or is it merely because it’s lunch time;
- you’re at a party/meeting with food everywhere;
- or your trying to soothe yourself because you’re tired, bored, etc.
If you’re coming from the dieting mindset, you’re used to having a menu that tells you what to eat and when to eat it. Eating because you’re hungry is generally not something you have to think about when you’re dieting because let’s face it, we’re always hungry and thinking about food. So having to make the hunger and fullness determination can seem a bit confusing at first. I know it was for me, which is where Pipps Tips Hunger Scale helped tremendously. It gave me something to check in with as I decided whether I was truly hungry and then once I decided I was, it gave me something to keep me from feeling stuffed after a meal.
Are you being mindful of what you’re eating?
If you’ve ever eaten in a car or in front of a computer or TV screen, then you’ve experienced what I and over eaters everywhere experience, unconscious eating. That’s when you scarf down your food without ever looking at it or savoring it and end up feeling gypped when you realize it’s gone. I am the queen of multitasking while doing everything in my life, so focusing only on eating is a challenge for me. That’s why taking time out of your day, couch, car, desk, etc., to eat at a table, without distractions, is considered the best option in helping you remain mindful of what you’re eating.
Are you eating everything off a plate?
Studies have shown that when we’re able to see how much we’ve eaten off our plate, it helps our mind in deciding just how full or hungry we are, which is why we should never eat anything out of a box or bag. I know anytime I eat out of a bag I over eat without fail.
So I am in the process of making sure I always place all my food in pre-measured, portion control bags/containers, or on a plate, following the 50-80 Rule from mindfuleating.org (which I had completely forgotten about).
Here are the deets of the 50-80 Rule:
- When you serve yourself, make sure you only cover 50% of your plate (bowl, cup, etc.), leaving 50% of your plate exposed. Don’t worry, you can go back for as many helpings of food as you like. This is done to help make the visual connection your mind needs to determine your hunger/fullness levels, while encouraging you to eat your food slowly, mindfully, savoring every last bite.
- If you find that you’re still hungry and need to go back for seconds, you’re welcome to. However this time you will only cover 20% of your plate with food, leaving 80% of your plate exposed. Again, eat slowly and mindfully, savoring every bite.
- Still hungry? Guess what? You can go back for thirds, fourths, etc. All you have to do is follow the “80” Rule for these servings and eat them slowly and attentively, making sure you stop when you feel comfortably full. (If you’re using Pipps Tips Hunger Scale, decide what number or feeling you want to be at when you’re done with your meal, before you begin to eat it. Keeping that number/feeling in mind as you eat will hopefully keep you from feeling stuffed at the end of the meal and may help you get used to eating to that fullness level every time you eat.) This should help wonders with my need to eat everything off my plate since I grew up being told I should to keep from being wasteful.
- Saving room for dessert? No worries, just switch to a smaller plate (like a dessert plate) and follow the “80” Rule here too.
Are you eating the best part of your meal first?
I don’t know about you but I’m definitely one who always feels the need to delay gratitification, in a lot of things in my life. If you’ve ever bought shoes, jewelry, clothes, candles, etc and decided to save them for a special occasion rather than using them the next day, you know exactly what I mean. It’s definitely something we need to stop doing, even when dealing with food. Who knew? It seems that when you eat the best part of your meal first, it helps keep you from overeating. So if the steak or baked potato is what you really want to eat off your plate, eat that first and see if you still want the other items on your plate.
Once you decide which food you want to eat, chew it slowly and allow your senses to really taste and enjoy every part of your meal. Until I started this exercise, I never knew how much I really enjoyed the texture of food. So much so that sometimes wanting the texture made me eat beyond my fullness level – crazy! I’ve also found that really savoring food has made me realize that some of the foods I crave often don’t taste as good as I remember. I’m not saying that you’ll no longer enjoy all the foods you crave, but you may find that you can let some of them go in lieu of other tasty foods.
Are you done with your meal?
Since according to mindfuleating.org it takes about 20 minutes for our food to begin to work its way into our system, I’ve made it my goal to have every meal last at least 25 minutes vs. the 10-15 minutes they last now (unconscious eating and waiting until I’m starving have played a big role in those numbers). Then once I’ve reached the fullness level I set for myself at the beginning of the meal, I stop eating. I get up, take my plate to the sink and put away any leftovers. I now need to make this same adjustment when I’m at a party or gathering because studies show that when we have food in front of us, we tend to eat it regardless if we’re really hungry or not. Who hasn’t experienced that? And with the Holidays around the corner and the kitchen being the corner stone of all gatherings, it’s definitely something I need to work on.
The beauty of a mind shift toward intuitive eating is that it’s ok to take it one meal at a time, which I totally do.
What mindful, intuitive eating habits help you maintain a healthy weight?