I have talked a lot about making better choices and being more informed about what foods you eat.
But have you noticed I have never suggested that you track every calorie or categorized foods as “never-eat foods?”
That’s because I subscribe to this idea of mindfulness. In this case, I have been writing about mindful eating.
But what does it mean to be mindful when it comes to eating? Well let’s look closer at this eating philosophy and whether it is for everyone.
What is mindful eating?
Mindfulness is a philosophy you can use for many parts of your life, not just food. Mindfulness has been used to help people find better work-life balance or manage stress through meditation.
So what does it mean to be a mindful eater?
It is not a diet, it is a lifestyle.
When we talk about weight loss or just maintaining a healthy weight, it has become quite apparent that dieting isn’t a long-term solution. There is a reason fad dieting isn’t going to lead to long-term health success. It’s a FAD. It’s not meant to be forever.
I think of mindful eating as a way to help categorize foods in my mind to build healthier meals. What I mean by that is understanding the health of different foods so that I know what foods are “everyday,” “often,” “sometimes,” and “rarely.”
So instead of counting calories, I understand which foods should dominate my diet and what health portion size looks like.
Here is my break down:
- “Everyday”- Fruits, vegetables, high-fiber grains
- “Often”- Nuts, avocados, coconut products (plant-based sources of fat), yogurt
- “Sometimes”- Lean meats, dried fruits, cheese, cereals
- “Rarely”- Fried foods, meats high in saturated fat, cookies, cakes, etc (all those things you would call junk that are high in fat, salt, and sugar)
The point here is that no foods are off limits, but that there are some that you should have less or more of.
What about portion control?
Eventually you should able to listen to your body and understand when you are full. But sometimes it is hard to stop eating when something is just so tasty, so we need to be reminded of some basic measures of portion control.
Here are some easy ways to remember portion sizes for some foods:
- Meat (3oz) → deck of cards
- Cheese (1oz) → 4 dice
- Ice Cream (½ cup) → tennis ball
- Vegetables/rice (1 cup) → Baseball
- Butter (1 teaspoon) → tip of your thumb
- Pancake → compact disc
- Bagel → hockey puck
- Baked Potato → computer mouse
- 2 Tablespoons peanut butter → ping pong ball
There are many more I can list, but you can translate these serving sizes into other foods.
Why should you try it?
Everyone has different needs when it comes to managing their diet. Obviously mindful eating may not be for everyone, but there are a few things that eating mindfully has shown to help manage. Some of the following issues can be managed with mindful eating:
Avoid Overeating and Binging
Usually when you are dieting and denying yourself foods or not eating often enough you can find yourself binge eating or overeating. By being mindful of how often you eat and not making any foods completely off limits through mindfulness, you can prevent this.
Conscious eating is also about planning ahead. Meal planning for your week will help lessen stress and make it easier to eat healthier. Often, we find ourselves eating poorly when we are stressed and in a time crunch.
Long-term weight loss and maintenance is best achieved when making an entire lifestyle change. Mindful eating is about changing the way you think about eating and learning good habits, instead of following some strict diet with weird rules and calorie counting. Anything that is a fad will become too hard to follow forever. And that doesn’t make for long-term health.
How do you practice eating mindfully?
There are some basic guidelines that can help you be more mindful.
Here are some tips to practice being a mindful eater:
- When it’s time to eat, be in the moment. Limit distractions
- There is more to healthy eating habits that just what is on your plate. When you are eating in front of the TV or not focused on your meal, you tend to overeat.
- Slowwwww down
- Try not to treat your meal time like it is a race. You will end up eating too much and may end up with a stomach ache.
- When eating out, ask for a to-go box when your meal arrives
- Most restaurant portion sizes are HUGE and you can easily make a second meal of it. Consider packing away half the meal in a box before you even start eating so ensure you don’t overeat.
- Differentiate emotional eating and actual hunger
- Did you just eat an hour ago but you now are craving more food? Reflect on whether this is real hunger, boredom, or eating some feelings of stress or sadness. You want to make sure you are only eating when you are actually hungry.
- Be in the mindset that no one is perfect
- Don’t expect yourself to eat perfect all the time. No one is judging you but yourself. Cut yourself some flack, there are not foods that are off limits, just foods that you should eat more or less often.
- Don’t skip meals
- Skipping meals is only going to lead to you binging later. Set yourself up for success by making eating a priority. This doesn’t mean a rigorous schedule, but being aware of when you should be eating to prevent you from waiting until you are starving.
Resources for getting started
Not a nutritionist? Want to learn more about mindful eating? There are some other great resources you can use to become more intuitive when it comes to healthy eating.
There is The Center for Mindful Eating, where you can read blog posts and sign up for free webinars! There are a multitude of great books that also preach mindful eating! Psychology Today has a great list of these books, since much of the mindful diet is about what you think.
And of course, other than this blog, there are plenty of other bloggers that talk about mindful eating. Some of my favorites are:
Have any questions about mindful eating? Or got some tips and tricks you can share with me? I would love to hear from you on Twitter or Facebook! And don’t forget, if you learned something, don’t keep it to yourself 😉
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