If you were to talk to a family member, friend, neighbour and local business owner, they would likely all have unique stories as to the types of foods they eat, the times of the day they eat and what drives them to make the food choices they do. For some people, their eating habits can be frustrating when they get in the way of their health goals. Sometimes we don't understand why we do the things that what we do. I believe that mindful and intuitive eating skills are the key to understanding and then changing eating habits.
Some of the influences on our eating habits:
Taste and enjoyment
Comfort / emotional / seeking to escape pain
Learned habits from upbringing
Social influence or pressure
Health or illness
What is Mindful Eating?
Mindful eating is about bringing awareness to your interactions with food and while you're eating. The aim is to pay closer attention to your physical sensations, thoughts, emotions, feelings, eating habits and triggers/cues to eat. From traditional mindfulness practice, bring curiosity to the moment to better understand yourself and your environment, without judgement on yourself or food. Initially while learning and practising, you'll need to put in the effort, but over time, mindful eating will become more instinctual.
Benefits of Mindful Eating:
Be more aware of your eating habits and prompts to eat, so you can develop new skills e.g. slowing your eating, reducing distractions, eating more aligned with your body's physical cues rather than emotions and learned behaviours etc;
Use your different senses (sight, smell, touch, taste) to better engage with your food and be more satisfied after eating the foods you enjoy. Sometimes when we're not satisfied after eating, we want to eat more even if we're feeling full, or crave specific foods, therefore being satisfied may result in eating less;
Improve digestion especially ifyou chew your food more thoroughly and focus more on your eating experience rather than other distractions;
Be more curious with less judgement and more compassion for how you're feeling around food;
Be less reactive with food (e.g. comfort eating, binge eating), by allowing yourself time to consider what's going on for you.
What is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive Eating is ultimately about listening to and trusting your body to tell you when, what and how much food to eat at any given time (considering we need different amounts of energy on different days and at different times depending on activity, sleep, stress, temperature, menstrual cycle etc). With the premise that we are the experts of our own bodies, we can learn to differentiate between physical, emotional and other triggers of hunger, appetite and fullness.
On the surface, intuitive eating may sound simple, but it can be quite complex. "Eat when you're hungry and stop when you're full” may sound like a no-brainer, but when you have a history of chronic dieting or rigid 'healthy eating' rules, it's actually difficult. Difficulty comes from a number of things need to be in place, including the ability to trust your body and have less judgement on yourself and all foods.