You’ve probably heard that increasing awareness around food choices and reasons for eating can help you achieve nutritional health goals. But, how we think about our food choices matters. Sometimes our thoughts add unnecessary stress to our efforts.
For example, we might admonish ourselves for an indulgent lunch, obsess over which calories prevented weight loss, or worry excessively about limited meal options on vacation. Our self-criticisms and unproductive ruminations can take the pleasure out of eating, and make it easy to get overwhelmed with the effort of trying to get each bite right.
Mindfulness can help with eating awareness, while offering alternatives to hyper- or harsh-focus around food choices. According to Mindful.org, “Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” Mindfulness asks us to keep an open, curious, and compassionate mindset as we grow our awareness.
Here are six mindfulness tips to help bring ease back into healthy eating:
- Noticing your hunger: Tuning into your body to notice physical hunger and satiety cues can guide your decisions around when to begin and end eating and choices around portion sizes.
- Savoring your food: Using all your senses and bringing your full awareness to food can help you truly enjoy each bite and slow down the eating process, which can also help with hunger cues. If indulging in a moderate treat, savoring it can help prevent feelings of deprivation.
- Non-judgmental awareness: Noticing and acknowledging your food choices as well as your responses to food (likes, dislikes, feeling sick, feeling energized) without the filters of evaluation can help reduce stress around dietary changes while informing food decisions.
- Investigate food cravings: Certain foods, textures, tastes, or smells can get stuck in your head. Getting curious about cravings, observing without judgement, your internal and external triggers for the cravings can help you prevent them. When cravings occur, meet them with kindness and patience to let them be, knowing with certainty they will pass in time.
- Meeting slips with self-compassion: Non-judgmental self-awareness and kindness towards our own struggles can help lessen the pressure to be perfect. When it becomes OK to make mistakes, you can find it easier to get back on track if you stray from your nutrition goals.
- Less stress can lead to less stress eating: Stress releases hormones like cortisol, which in turn can increase cravings for salty, sweet, and fried foods. Stress also disrupts our mental focus and decision-making, meaning we’re more likely to eat mindlessly. Mindfulness can help reduce stress, in general, which can bring some ease into making dietary changes.
Mindful eating brings awareness to food choices and the experience of eating, reconnecting us with our innate wisdom about hunger and satiety. If you would like to learn more about how to apply mindfulness around eating and other experiences throughout the end of this year, register for our webinar, Mindfulness Around the Holidays, on Tuesday, November 12, from 11 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.