A few weeks ago I wrote about mindful eating and how while I feel learning how to foster more presence and awareness when eating is important, it’s not the whole answer.
Because I know the topic of mindful eating is incredibly perplexing to anyone who feels like they can’t do anything but eat standing up, really fast when no one is watching – I decided to ask my tribe for their personal questions on this topic.
I got quite a number of very interesting questions which I’m going to answer in a few posts. But let’s dive into the first 2 questions I received.
How do you stop yourself from ignoring your food thoughts?
For example- I might want to buy a frozen coke- not because I’m thirsty, not because I necessarily want it, but just because it’s a habit. Once I’ve had the thought it’s so hard to then stop myself. I try to be mindful and ask myself do I really want this?
The short answer to this question is that trying to ignore your food thoughts is your (perpetuating) problem. It’s not the solution or the ‘desired’ end outcome.
In other words, the more you try to stop yourself from thinking about the food, the more food will control and perseverate your thoughts.
Which goes to say that the more you try not to think about eating a cupcake or a piece of bread, the more you’re likely to land head first into the bread basket at the next restaurant you go to and/or woof down a few cupcakes without even realising. It’s called rebellious eating which is backed by science.
You will have a much better chance at ‘managing’ your frozen coke ‘habit’ when you stop trying to mess with what your body wants and acknowledge that wanting the frozen coke is a good enough reason in and of itself to have it.
Rule of thumb: You don’t always need to be physically hungry to have permission to eat. A desire to want something just ‘because’ is good enough. More on that here.
What tips do you have to make mindful eating a regular ongoing action? How can I be conscious at every meal etc?
Mindful eating doesn’t need to include sitting at a well prepared table, chewing your food 20 times and observing your food so closely in some trance like state that you feel ‘one’ with it. Eating mindfully is in part what you ‘do’ physically speaking, as much as it is about ‘how’ you feel emotionally about food (i.e. what you’re saying to yourself when you eat, enjoyment etc).
Because I care more about ‘how’ you eat, rather than what you eat, here are a few tips that I think more health professionals and coaches in this areas need to be educating their clients about when it comes to mindful eating:
- Eat what you want to eat- News flash: Food is meant to be enjoyed. Therefore, instead of thinking that your cravings are ‘bad’ and should be ‘ignored’, stop trying to fight what it is you want to eat and open your mind up to the fact that you have every right to eat what you want, even if the reason is “Just because”. It will be a much more enjoyable meal…promise. If this idea that eating what you want is actually going to help you out in the long run is new to you, then read here and here.
2. Understand it’s ok to eat ‘just because’- A pitfall I commonly see when it comes to mindful eating is women thinking they ‘should’ only eat when they feel physical hunger cues. Nope.
I’m of the opinion that another significant reason why people fall into the ‘feeling crazy around food’ zone is because they only eat when hungry and fall into this rigid view that food only serves the purpose of satisfying physical hunger. In other words they lose the connection with eating for enjoyment and eating within the context- despite physical hunger. For example eating birthday cake for the celebration and purpose of it, despite whether you’re hungry or not. The best thing you can do for yourself is to understand that it’s ‘ok’ to eat to feel good- without further emotional attachment necessary.
3. Start listening to your body in ways other than eating- Part of learning to listen to your body is about giving yourself permission across the board that you are worthy of self pleasure, despite what the ‘masses’ do , ‘suggest’, think you ‘should’ do. Giving yourself permission to trust your instincts and do whatever it is that makes you feel physically, emotionally and spiritually well and good is incredibly liberating, empowering and self compassionate.
Start by listening to your body when it comes to exercise, going out, planning out your weekend. Do you fancy a sleep in instead of hitting the gym? Perhaps going for a walk is what your body is trying to communicate vs a run? Give yourself permission to relax on the couch rather than going out on a Saturday night if you’re just not ‘feeling’ it. Give yourself permission to eat the chocolate vs a teaspoon of peanut butter.
4. Understand and start to feel the difference between eating for emotional pleasure vs eating for emotional comfort. There’s a difference between eating because you want to, and eating because you want to suppress pain, discomfort, joy etc. Learn to tune into your bodies cues- your dash to the fridge might be quicker, your thoughts might be more panicked, your heart might be beating faster when you’re at the fridge deciding what to eat to suppress emotions vs how your body feels when you’re at the fridge deciding what to eat ‘just because’. Learn what your body cues are as the first step.
Want help to finally work this out? If now is your time then I’d love to see if we are a good fit for a coaching series. Click here to read up on my rates and current availability.
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