Mindful Eating: How To Have A Healthier Relationship With Food

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Mindful Eating: How To Do It

BY AMANDA HALE

We’re constantly bombarded by messages about how and what we should be eating. There are so many rules.

Could mindful eating free you from the diet cycle?

Could mindful eating free you from dieting?

Eat carbs, but not too many. Steer clear of sugar. Eat fruit and vegetables, but don’t eat too much fruit because it’s too high in sugar. Eat protein, but avoid eating a lot of red meat. Don’t eat fats, but make sure you eat healthy fats.

It’s confusing, not to mention restricting.

Add to that our tendency to snack as a way to cure boredom and it’s no wonder we’ve stopped listening to our bodies and lost touch with our natural appetite.

Stripping away diets and rules to connect with your natural eating pattern can be a slow and challenging process, but it’s how to build a healthy relationship with food and your body. Here’s 5 tops to help you eat with awareness.

Tip #1: Know Your Hunger Signals

If you’re used to using external cues to prompt eating – following a specific diet plan, eating according to the clock – you might find it difficult to recognize true hunger. Before you eat, start to pay more attention to your physical sensations, especially around your mouth and stomach. You may notice other body signs such as difficulty concentrating, irritability or a drop in your energy levels. With practice, you’ll be more attuned to your body’s internal hunger signals.

Tip #2: Know Why You’re Eating

After increasing your awareness of hunger signals, start to be curious and collect information about those occasions when you’re eating in the absence of physical hunger. Common reasons for non-hungry eating include confusing hunger and thirst, in response to emotions, habit, accessibility or boredom.

Tip #3: Eat When You’re Hungry

Some non-hungry eating is an important part of normal eating, but if you’re doing a large amount of non-hungry eating or if this pattern of eating dominates your eating habits it might be helpful to consider other options. For example, if you’re eating to cope with distress look at how you can cope without turning to food.

Tip #4: Hit The Pause Button

Eating with awareness is a core skill in reshaping healthy eating practices. If you eat on autopilot, build awareness by pausing and asking yourself these questions:

• I can have it if I want it, but do I really want it?
• Am I physically hungry?
• What kind of food do I feel like?

Tip #5: Change Your Eating Behaviour

You can also build eating awareness by changing your eating behaviour. Instead of eating in front of the television, take time to enjoy your food and eat in the absence of other distractions – this will help you to tune into other sensations like fullness as well. Instead of rushing through your meals, put your cutlery down between each bite and focus on the flavor and texture of your food.

Above everything else though, remember to be patient. After years of being out of tune with your body’s signals eating with awareness can be a slow process, but one that will help you to have a more positive relationship with your body and a healthier relationship with food.

Amanda Hale is a registered psychologist and a Doctor of Psychology (Clinical) Candidate at the Australian National University. She enjoys working with children, adolescents and adults, and specialises in anxiety, depression, eating disorders, weight management and interpersonal and adjustment difficulties.


 

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