MINDFUL, INTUITIVE EATING
Struggling to keep on top of your diet? Had one bad day and let everything slip entirely? Does one glass of wine turn into four on a regular basis? Since the 1990’s, researchers have been developing the concept of “mindful eating” or “intuitive eating.” This is essentially about making a conscious decision to eat when we’re physiologically hungry, and not to feed an emotional need. The concept removes heavy restrictions on your food choices, and instead allows you to eat all foods in moderation.
The emotional relationship with food is common. We often use food to counteract negative emotions because they release serotonin and endorphins; feel-good chemicals in our body. But that short lived experience can open the flood gates to much more of an emotional rollercoaster, and weight gain.
The idea of “mindful” or “intuitive” eating requires you to be far more in the present; to understand hunger, satiety and hydration, but more importantly emotional stressors and mental state.
This concept doesn’t support a ‘diet mentality’ and the restrictions which come with a traditional weight-loss plan; instead encouraging you to practice more introspection on what works for you - tuning out the latest fad diets and what may work for someone else - supporting a healthy lifestyle. This can be a far more sustainable approach to weight management, working to suit your way of life, however it should be approached with caution!
Getting carried away with this idea of having no-limits does have its drawbacks if the mindful element does not come hand-in-hand with your eating habits. A lack of restriction and direction can lead to over-indulgence, with potential weight gain just around the corner!
If you want to enjoy calorie dense food or alcohol then go for it, but you must be thinking about how else you might balance out the day so that you live a lifestyle of moderation. This could be planning ‘calorie-light’ meals for the rest of the day, for example. It is not wrong to eat what you enjoy, but knowing when to stop and how to monitor your intake must become a new habit.
Research into mindfulness supports the notion that eating only when we’re hungry will reduce the likelihood of binge eating or weight gain due to there being fewer surplus calories. Mindful eating can be a sustainable approach to weight maintenance when compared to other concepts, but it mustn’t be misinterpreted as a free-for-all approach with no limits. It leaves obsessiveness at the door and lets you practice developing your introspection for the benefit of a healthy body.
To be mindful about your nutritional intake, try these tips;
Write it down
What you ate and how you felt before
How you felt after – did the food make you feel anxious? Sluggish? Energetic? Satisfied?
This doesn’t need to be every single day. Do it for a week, or whenever you remember. You can refer back to it and start adapting your diet around what food makes you feel great.
Eat mindfully - without distractions.
Although it seems productive to eat whilst working, try and make the effort to take 15 minutes out of your lunch break to eat with a colleague, away from your desk or screen - you’ll eat slower, enjoy the food more and feel more satisfied as a result.
Know your Goals
If your relationship with food is unhealthy and unsustainable, then intuitive eating could be really beneficial. However, if weight loss is your goal then it could be a case of taking a stricter approach.
Know the importance of your goals and how serious you are about achieving them. Goals require hard work, so break it down into smaller goals (i.e change one thing per week or month) and assess from there. Food should be enjoyable and support your lifestyle.