How to Change Your Relationship with Food Through Mindful Eating
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After a long day at work, you may find yourself mindlessly eating in front of the television, barely registering the taste of your food. While indulging in occasional comfort food is okay, practicing mindful eating can help you derive more profound pleasure from your meals and improve your overall relationship with food. Registered dietitian Rachael Hartley, RD, L.D., an accredited intuitive eater and author of "Gentle Nutrition," explains the benefits of mindful eating and how it differs from intuitive eating, giving tips on how to practice this mindfulness at the dinner table.
Mindful eating involves being aware of the sensory aspects of food, such as taste, smell, and texture, and observing your thoughts and bodily experiences, such as hunger and satiety levels, and how they make you feel. As the name suggests, mindful eating is derived from mindfulness. This practice involves checking in with your thoughts, feelings, environment, and body gently in a non-judgmental way throughout the day. This attention-based practice originated in Hindu and Buddhist cultures centuries ago and is all about being kind and considerate of yourself. Mindful eating is a non-judgmental training where thoughts, emotions, and senses are noted but not judged.
Mindful Eating vs. Intuitive Eating: What Sets Them Apart?
Mindful eating is not a punishment, and it is not a diet. Like meditation, it is simply a practice of paying attention. Not judging what comes up for you when you try to eat mindfully. Mindful eating is about non-judgmental consciousness. On the contrary, it encourages curiosity about what arises.
Mindful eating and intuitive eating are often confused, but they are two distinct practices with some similarities. Mindful eating involves being fully present and attentive to the sensory experience of eating. On the other hand, intuitive eating is a lifestyle and philosophy that rejects traditional diet culture and instead promotes self-trust and body awareness when it comes to eating.
Intuitive eating was founded by registered dietitians Evelyn Tribole, R.D.N., and Elyse Resch, R.D.N., in 1995 and includes ten principles that address various issues related to body image, movement, and nutrition. It encourages individuals to reject the idea of good or bad foods and prioritize pleasure and satisfaction in food choices. This approach allows individuals to reconnect with their innate hunger and fullness signals, leading to a more positive relationship with food and improved overall well-being.
On the other hand, mindful eating is more about being aware of the sensory aspects of food, such as taste, smell, and texture, and observing one's thoughts and bodily experiences, such as hunger and satiety levels, and how they make one feel. Mindful eating is derived from the practice of mindfulness, which involves checking in with one's thoughts, feelings, environment, and body in a gentle, non-judgmental way throughout the day.
While both practices share the value of being non-judgmental and centered around paying attention to one's body and surroundings, they differ in their primary focus. Mindful eating is more about being present in the moment and savoring the sensory experience of eating, while intuitive eating focuses on trusting one's body and honoring its needs. By understanding the differences between these two practices, individuals can choose the best approach for developing a healthier relationship with food.
What are the Benefits of Mindful Eating?
1. Mindful Eating Can Help Improve Digestive Health
Mindful eating, among other mindfulness practices, has been shown to help reduce the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). IBS, a gastrointestinal disorder, is characterized by uncomfortable symptoms such as excessive gas, abdominal pain, and cramps.
According to a review of psychological interventions, broader mindfulness practices may help individuals with IBS to notice and accept their discomfort rather than suffer psychological distress when the symptoms arise. While it is not a complete cure for IBS, it may be helpful for some.
2. Mindful Eating Can Help Treat Eating Disorders
Mindful eating can also benefit individuals struggling with eating disorders, such as binge-eating disorder. Although further research is required, a study discovered that individuals with binge-eating disorders who participated in a mindfulness-based cognitive therapy approach experienced improved self-awareness and food behaviors.
The study, published in the "The Journal of Treatment & Prevention," examined the effects of a Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) approach on 30 women with binge eating disorder. According to the study, 16 participants who completed the program reported an improvement in their self-awareness and food behaviors due to their mindfulness practice.
3. Mindful Eating Promotes a Positive Relationship with Food
Mindful eating encourages individuals to reject the notion of "good" or "bad" foods and instead prioritize pleasure and satisfaction in food choices. This approach allows individuals to reconnect with their innate hunger and fullness signals, leading to a healthier relationship with food and overall well-being. Enjoyment is often overlooked as an essential aspect of healthy eating, but mindful eating can help make eating a more pleasurable experience.
When you practice mindful eating, you pay attention to the sensory experience of eating and savor the tastes and textures of your food. Adopting mindful eating can assist in cultivating a more fulfilling connection with food and minimizing the tendency to resort to food as a means of coping.
How to Practice Mindful Eating: Tips and Techniques
Unlike diet culture, which is riddled with rules and shame. Mindful eating is a champion of self-compassion and enjoyment of eating well, allowing for life to happen without rigid rules or guilt. Practicing mindful eating involves being present at the moment, paying attention to the sensory experience of food, and observing your thoughts and bodily experiences.
It would be best if you sometimes ate at the table or snack while your children screamed in the background. Another way to practice mindful eating is by taking a few deep breaths before a meal and consciously savoring each bite of food during the meal, paying attention to the tastes and textures of what you're eating.
1. Slow down and Savor Your Meals
Slowing down and savoring your meals can significantly impact your relationship with food. When we rush through meals or eat while distracted, such as scrolling through social media or watching TV, we are less likely to pay attention to our body's hunger and fullness signals. We may need to appreciate the tastes and textures of our food thoroughly.
By taking the time to appreciate your food's sensory experience, you can enhance your enjoyment of eating and develop a deeper connection with your body's needs. For example, you may notice that certain foods leave you feeling more satisfied or energized, while others may leave you feeling sluggish or bloated.
2. Listen to Your Body
A fundamental principle of mindful eating is being attentive to your body's signals and recognizing hunger and fullness cues. Practicing mindfulness throughout the eating process by tuning in to your thoughts, feelings, and bodily experiences can foster a deeper connection with your body and its needs.
By doing so, you can make more intentional food choices and reduce the likelihood of overeating or using food to cope with emotions. Ultimately, this can lead to a better understanding of your body's needs and enable you to make conscious decisions about what you eat.
By incorporating these tips into your daily routine, you can begin to cultivate a healthier relationship with food and improve your overall well-being. Mindful eating is not a quick fix but a long-term approach to developing a more conscious and healthy relationship with food. To learn more about mindful eating, check out resources like "The Center for Mindful Eating" and "Mindful Eating Programs and Training."
The Power of Mindful Eating in Changing Your Relationship with Food
Mindful eating can be transformative in how you relate to food. Tune in to your senses and thoughts to appreciate food and cultivate a positive relationship with it. Mindful eating has been shown to alleviate symptoms of conditions such as I.B.S. and binge-eating disorder while also promoting a more pleasurable eating experience.
It's important to note that mindful eating is not a diet or a quick-fix solution. Instead, it is a practice that requires patience, self-compassion, and a willingness to let go of external rules and restrictions. Incorporating mindfulness into your eating habits can cultivate a more positive relationship with food rooted in pleasure and self-care.
Keep in mind that there is no universal way of practicing mindful eating. Experimentation is key to finding what works best for you. You might find that taking a few deep breaths before a meal helps you become more present, or you may enjoy savoring each bite and noticing the tastes and textures of your food.
No matter the method, every tiny moment of mindfulness can significantly impact your relationship with food and overall well-being. So why not give mindful eating a try? Start small, be kind to yourself, and enjoy the journey of discovering a more joyful and fulfilling relationship with food.