Mindful eating… what does that mean? Being aware of what we are eating, how much we are eating, and when we are full. Another large part of being mindful with eating is acknowledging how food can impact how we feel.
Start by taking a closer look at the opinions and feelings you attach to certain foods. For example, do you think of a doughnut as an evil enemy sent to tempt and destroy you? Do you picture good health when you see an apple?
Resist labeling foods as good or bad. This gives food too much power and influence over your thoughts. It is true that some foods are better for your body (and blood sugar) than others, but no single food determines your overall health or well-being.
Don’t tell yourself you must make healthy choices only from this point on. Saying you will never eat a certain food for the rest of your life is unrealistic. Doing so will only make you crave that specific food more.
Food cravings originate in the parts of the brain that manage feelings of pleasure and reward. There are a few different potential causes for a food craving to be triggered. The first is an imbalance of hormones, like serotonin or leptin, which can cause a craving. The absence of essential nutrients can also prompt the brain to crave certain foods.
The endorphins that are released into the body after you’ve eaten can also trigger a craving. Food doesn’t just impact and satisfy us physically, but emotionally as well. Cravings can then become driven by emotion, especially if you are eating for comfort.
Emotions and food are closely tied, yet we rarely connect how we feel with what/when we eat. Certain foods make you happy… literally! In the same turn, stressful situations can trigger the desire to eat.
“Going on a diet” can really max out stress levels. Dieting triggers an increase in stress hormones like cortisol, which has been linked to weight gain. This is part of why it is so hard to lose weight, and keep it off. Traditional “dieting” is actually far more likely to cause weight gain than weight loss.
When stressed, bored, or anxious, we are more likely to fall victim to emotional eating. It can be a truly vicious cycle! The key to living your best health is not through “dieting” but through a commitment to a healthier lifestyle.
To help develop a more positive relationship with food, start by cooking more meals at home. If you are a drive-thru devotee, it likely seems a little daunting to plan and prepare meals at home, but it really is quite simple!
Try assigning one type of recipe for each night of the week to get you started. For example, Meatless Mondays (Veggie Stir-fry one week and Vegetable Lasagna the next) and Taco Tuesdays (beef tacos one week and chicken or shrimp the next.) Relish the opportunity to be creative. Relish… get it? It’s a food pun!
Speaking of creativity, take some of your favorite recipes and turn them healthy. We are far more likely to choose foods we like; we want food to taste good! Trust us, healthy and delicious are not mutually exclusive.
For example, cauliflower is a diamond in the rough when it comes to hacking your favorite indulgent foods. Forget about the pasty, bland cauliflower you may have known; open your eyes (and your mouth) to its potential.
What would you give to enjoy some fried rice, pizza, or macaroni and cheese right now? Try this recipe for Cauliflower Fried Rice. For “pizza crust” use your food processor to get the cauliflower very fine, then mix with cheese, eggs and spices. Top with your favorite sauce, meats and veggies, for a pizza that is high in fiber, low in carbs, and out of this world! Not to mention the cauliflower in this recipe for Almost Mac-N-Cheese that is sure to be a family favorite!
Now don’t go eating three bowls of Almost Mac-N-Cheese… (trust us, you’ll want to.) Portion control is another crucial part of mindful eating. Science has confirmed that when humans are presented with more food, we consume more food.
This phenomenon has been dubbed by some as the ‘portion size effect.’ Believe it or not, when portion sizes are doubled, individuals consume an average of 35% more food! Pre-portioning can help you avoid the trap of overeating.
Picture this – you’re on the couch watching television eating popcorn. It’s true that popcorn is a tasty, low-glycemic snack for diabetics. That doesn’t mean you can eat the entire bag. By portioning the popcorn into a smaller bag or bowl, you can watch and snack without fear of overeating.
Speaking of television, removing distractions while eating is another way to trick yourself into more mindful eating. By sitting down and really focusing on your actual meal, you can truly enjoy it. You’ll also feel full faster because you are taking the time to chew each bite. This allows you to feel when you’ve had enough. Ta-dah! Mindful eating at its best.
While it may sound complicated, mindful eating is all about acknowledging the true enjoyment of food. It’s an experience, it fuels us body and soul. Food should make us feel happy, not guilty. By implementing mindful eating strategies, that happiness is not only possible, but inevitable!