Intuitive Mindful Eating: Tips for Creating a Lasting Mindful Eating Habit

Mindful eating, intuitive eating, and mindful eating are terms used to describe a way of eating that uses internal cues about hunger, appetite, and satiety to guide our relationship with food. Being in tune and being able to listen to our body allows us to know what and when we need to eat. The focus is on learning to eat in a mindful way that helps our bodies feel and function well. Dieting, restricting, counting calories or fat grams, and focusing on weight are NOT components of mindful eating. Mindful eaters eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. They eat the food they are hungry for. There is no list of “good” and “bad” foods.

In short, mindful eating is the way that people who have a healthy relationship with food, who don’t struggle with weight, and who don’t diet, have been eating all along.

When presented with mindful eating, people often panic. “If there are no rules, I will eat all day.” In the short term, some people do eat more, but eating mindfully is not eating with abandon. Eating mindfully is eating mindfully, being aware of the present moment; be aware of hunger and satiety; being aware of your appetite and what you are really hungry for. Mindful or intuitive eating involves learning to be aware of the difference between hunger and other eating cues, such as painful emotions, boredom, or tiredness.

The secret:

The secret to success with mindful or intuitive eating is this: you must remember or relearn how to eat mindfully, without shame, guilt, fear, and paying special attention to your body and what it needs and wants. Doing this also requires learning what to do when what your body and mind need and want are No food. You must learn to respectfully listen to your body and learn to nourish your body and spirit without food when food is not what is needed.

The essentials:

Since 1995, I have worked with people to help them break unhealthy cycles of dieting, restriction, bingeing, and overeating by establishing conscious or mindful eating habits. There are two essential components to creating a lasting mindful eating habit.

1. A conscious recording practice

The goal of mindful eating is to stop obsessing over food/diet and to stop going on autopilot with eating/eating. To be successful, you’ll need to create a consistent method of checking in: staying connected to yourself and what you feel and need so that you can respond to these needs and desires and avoid emotional eating. You will need to find a practice that works for you and fits your personality and strengths. If the practice you choose doesn’t suit you, you won’t stick with it.

This can be something you do every day when you get up in the morning or before a meal or when you get home from work. The only requirements are that it be done consistently and that it be something that helps you focus inward, without distractions. It is often helpful to have some ways to do conscious check-ins at various times of the day.

Examples of possible conscious records: mindful meditation, journaling or freewriting, walking or running, prayer or contemplative time.

Often people start with writing. It may help to write about whatever is on your mind for fifteen minutes each morning. Especially in the beginning, it’s helpful to keep an emotion/food log, noting how you feel and how hungry you are before you eat. The writing process slows you down and forces you to think, to be attentive, to what you eat.

2. A support system

It is very important to have people (or one person) supporting and encouraging your belief system about not dieting. Your support system should honor your goals, celebrate your successes, and help you hold yourself accountable for being the person you want to be. Your support system can help you be consistent with your mindful practice. Your followers know that you are No your weight or your clothing size. They are there for you when you doubt yourself or your path and when you run into obstacles or find yourself in a place or feeling where you don’t know what to do. They can help you discover that do when you know you’re not hungry but feel like eating.

People create this support system in a variety of places. Your support may be available from friends you already have. Sometimes, however, the dieting mindset is so ingrained in our families or social circles that it might be helpful to step outside of your current life for support. A group, online message board, or intuitive eating class can go a long way.

Sometimes people choose to work with someone individually. As a Personal Trainer, I work with individuals to help them successfully break out of a dieting mindset, to develop meaningful mindfulness-checking strategies that honor and utilize their particular strengths. We work together to get you through the scary parts of giving up calorie counting and weighing. In some situations, a therapist can help you move beyond emotional eating. If you find the emotions behind your food overwhelming or the diet feels out of control, you should consider working with a therapist who specializes in these issues.

Remember: mindful eating is about putting your relationship with food into perspective. When we do it successfully, we discover that it means developing new ways of taking care of ourselves. without resorting to food or diet. It’s a challenge, but the rewards are enormous. Developing mindful registration practices and a strong support system will create a strong foundation for success.

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