If you’ve come from a history of dieting – which you probably have if you’re reading this – you’ll know what it’s like to feel as though food has a hold on you – probably particular types of food. As a way to try to remedy this, you’ve probably attempted to control your eating by restricting food and labelling it as good or bad, healthy or unhealthy as a way to get yourself to eat more of the one category and less of the other. Part of this way of engaging with food requires you to take your cues for eating based on an outcome you’re trying to control (usually it’s your weight; sometimes it’s health). This means you will often override your hunger signals (thinking it’s good to be hungry because it means you’re in control and maybe losing weight) and then you will typically override your fullness signals (as a reaction to the mental and physical deprivation you’ve subjected yourself to). You deny your appetite and your pleasure signals.
At some point you might come to the realisation that your attempts to control have resulted in being totally out of control around food but you might be a bit lost as to what to do instead. It’s been so long and you don’t know how else to eat or engage with food.
In this post, I want to introduce you to the benefits of Intuitive Eating and Mindful Eating as a way to heal your relationship with food, so it becomes second nature again.
What is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive Eating is really about relearning how to trust your body to guide you with your eating. This means getting back into a dialogue with your body so you can listen to and honour its signals: for food, water, movement and rest. But it’s not just about the body – Intuitive Eating involves managing your mind too – because if you’ve been dieting for years, you’ll have internalised the Diet Police – rules picked up or made up, about what, when and how much to eat and exercise; as well as harsh criticisms about your body and how you should look… all these messages need to be recognised and challenged.
What is Mindful Eating?
Mindfulness is a practice of being aware in the present moment, without judgement. It’s essentially about acceptance and awareness. If you’re paying attention to your current eating experience, you’ll be aware of:
- your thoughts (about the food, your body, or in fact anything else)
- your physical feelings
- your emotional feelings
- your hunger level
- your point of satisfaction
- the taste of the food
- the smell of it
- how it looks
You can overeat and be mindful. You can even binge and be mindful. The difference is that you’re doing it with awareness. And when you have awareness, your choices open up to you. When your awareness is lacking, and you’re on autopilot, then choices don’t seem to be that available.
The benefits of eating mindfully and intuitively
If you decide to banish diets from your life, and embrace intuitive and mindful eating, you won’t look back.
No more guilt!
When you truly give yourself unconditional permission to eat what you want, when you want, your cravings will radically reduce and will be more physically based, rather than as a reaction to restriction or deprivation.
No more crazies!
You won’t be thinking about food from the time you open your eyes in the morning to the time you close them again at night. You’ll wake up with other things to think about, not whether you’ll fit into your clothes today, or berating yourself for how you ate yesterday – or worried about how you’ll eat today.
You’ll think about food mostly when you’re hungry, or when you need to do the grocery shopping. Occasionally at other times your attention will be grabbed by thoughts of food, but you’ll have enough practice and experience at witnessing the thought, and letting it go, for it not to be anything more than fleeting.
And when you do sometimes eat for reasons other than hunger, you’ll let it go because you’ll know that everyone overeats and it’s no big deal. You’ll know that making it a big deal is what fuels it. You’ll move on quickly without restricting to make up for the deadly sin of eating beyond your satisfaction cues.
No more bingeing!
Can you see that when you’re not forbidding any foods, not going hungry, not restricting or counting – but rather, eating a variety of foods according to your hunger and satisfaction cues and accepting yourself as you are, that you will at the very least, radically reduce, and likely stop bingeing altogether?
Let your body find its stable weight
With a consistent practice of mindful and intuitive eating, your body will settle at a weight it is happiest at. That’s a weight which doesn’t take inordinate amounts of energy and mental focus to sustain. It’s a weight that allows you to feel at peace with food. You might not feel emotionally happy at this weight – and that will mostly be because: a) the world isn’t kind to bigger bodies and you may still face sizeism and/ or b) your body doesn’t fit the current beauty standards. Still, body image improves when the body is stable – changes to our bodies (weight or other things, like ageing, scarring, marring etc.) can destabilise body image. A stable weight supports body image healing work, regardless of size.
Energy for other things
With less energy expended on thinking and worrying about your body, weight and food, you’ll be freed up to create, participate in and enjoy life! I
As you disentangle yourself from the grip of diet mentality, you’ll find more enjoyment in life. Instead of making yourself go to the gym to do a hard workout, when you’re dog-tired, you might choose a hot bath, or a yoga class – or going to a movie with a friend. You might look at a restaurant menu with real curiosity about the options, rather than look for the option with the least carbs or calories.
You’ll loosen up.
Become more flexible in your thinking and behaviour.
THE QUALITY OF YOUR WHOLE LIFE WILL IMPROVE.
There’s so much to gain!
Mindful eating is a very simple practice which has the potential to revolutionise our relationships with food. Come and learn all about it in this practical class: Stress Less With Mindful Eating.