Let's take a look at some of the practices you can be doing to help support your mindful eating journey.
Mindful eating will help us shift from being controlled by food to being at
ease and comfortable with food and the act of eating mindfully. With mindful eating, we begin to develop kind awareness of our experiences. We become more tuned in to our physical cues to the messages our body is giving us and more in tune with the way we respond to these messages. As well as, we become more kind and aware about the feelings, the emotional attachments, we have with food.
Here are some recommendations.
You can practice awareness specifically of your physical cues of hunger. Start to become a detective or a sleuth and discover all of your unique physical cues around hunger. We all share some common ones like if we're really hungry we could be experiencing extreme thirst or growling in our bellies or if you get too
hungry you can even start to feel really low energy or "yucky" or even feeling hangry, where you're starting to get upset because you're so hungry.
Here's another way to increase your mindful eating practice. Tune in to your cravings. When you notice that you're craving something without first immediately responding to that craving, unpack it a little bit. See what you can discover about your cravings. When do they happen? What kinds of food do you crave? Is it an emotional craving? Time of day craving? Or, is it in response to something you're seeing? Could it be something like a nutrient your body is calling out for?
And then also, you can increase your mindful eating practice habits by becoming more aware of your personal experiences around food. Noticing when, what, how, and how much you tend to eat. Remember, eating habits are a perfect example to practice mindful eating. What do you do when you are preparing your food? Notice your behavior when planning food and notice what happens to your awareness when you actually sit down to take in the nutrients. Notice your eating habit.
And then also, one more place to practice becoming very aware of your mindful eating is what happens to the energy in your body after you eat? What do you do with the energy from the fuel you've had? Spend some time practicing noticing why do you eat? Spend some time really understanding your physical signs of hunger. Track and map, maybe journal write this out, what are your hunger cues? What are the triggers that you start to notice first in your body and then what cascades next?
Also, and you might want to write this down in a journal, think about your emotional triggered eating. You know, it can be really helpful to use the notes feature on your smartphone or to have a little pad of paper that you keep in the kitchen, for example, and once a day or twice a day, if you've been triggered to eat something due to your emotions, like you were lonely or you got frustrated or you were procrastinating, then go ahead and make note of it. This isn't about judging. We're simply trying to establish some data around our habits.
Same thing goes for any kind of environmental triggered eating. Now this might be something like happy hour after work or somebody's birthday party or celebration happens. So, place that into a note section for you to just keep track of and see what happens there. Remember, emotional eating is the use of food to regulate emotions. So, in other words, what you're attempting to do is manage your mood with food. And food meets one need best and that is nourishment of our physical body to live our life, to be able to function.
Eating when we're not hungry never meets our true needs, does it?
Mindful self-compassion is what will allow us to best take care of ourselves. Give yourself time to practice a mindful exercise that involves surveying your inner world. So, this is a time for you to pause and to remove distractions and to get quiet and check in with yourself. Allow yourself to be comfortable and to take a few breaths, in and out, to transition away from all the doing and turn into the moment of being. Letting your body fully relax. Noticing your breath coming and going.
And then, I want you to think about and tune in and notice how you're feeling, what you're thinking and you're doing this simply as an observer. Not getting pulled into the story, not needing any solutions, and not beating yourself up about anything, just observing your thoughts. Observe the observer. And so, when you do this, it allows you to check in with yourself and discover what you truly need. And once you know what you truly need then mindfulness allows you, encourages you, to proceed intentionally and with compassion towards yourself.
Here's another very helpful exercise you can do to practice mindfulness and mindful eating. Let me ask you a question. What would you love to do that your current relationship with food is preventing you from doing now? I want you to think about that and remember that this is not some far off goal. This is your intention for how you want to live your life each day.
Let yourself take some time and write about it. It can be helpful to just set a timer for 10 minutes, get a piece of paper or your journal or something comfortable to write with and on and brain dump. Let it out. Just freeform, keep your writing instrument moving and describe the life you look at. It doesn't have to be perfect. It doesn't have to be some goal or like thing that you're trying to get to, and you must get to. But what we want to do is unpack, what would you do right now that your current relationship with food is preventing you from doing now and when that timer goes off, you're done.
Because if you are a writer and this is easy, excellent. If you tend to balk or not necessarily want to do the writing, it might be a practice that's very worthwhile of your time. By setting a timer, it gives you a good boundary, it gives you a time limit so you feel like this is something I can accomplish and get on.
Here's another thing that is very helpful. Every day take five intentional breaths. Let yourself survey your inner world, your thoughts, and your mood. Five intentional breaths surveying inner world thoughts and mood. I also want you to practice being mindful throughout your day. Let yourself pause and take a few slow breaths. Notice your posture, your thoughts, your needs, your feelings, and
begin to notice what influences the actions you take.
And here's how you can attach this to things you are already doing. When you get out of bed in the morning you already put your feet on the floor. Pause. Check in with yourself. Notice your thoughts, your feelings, your needs, your posture, and then begin to notice what influences the actions you take. Are you putting forth an attitude of thankfulness or gratitude appreciation or are you ready to just push forward with no consideration of your body's needs?
You could also tie it into your mealtime. You're already eating during the day so before you eat, you could easily pause and check in. Take a few deep breaths. Or, before you sit down to answer emails. Before you sit down to watch TV. Before you go out for a walk.
See, there are already lots of things you do every day. So, when you tie it to something you're already doing, it will help you feel like it's less of something extra you need to be doing. And it folds seamlessly and makes everything else you do so much easier.
Develop a daily practice of noticing your physical hunger, any external triggers, and internal triggers. Remember to notice your eating habits and as often as possible, as many days as you can, write in your journal with a kind awareness, this is not a body-shaming or judgmental type of practice, just a simple awareness, why you are eating. Just note and record why you are eating.
Notice when you feel like eating. These are the physical cues: your thoughts, those are the internal triggers, feelings, again internal, and then the environmental external triggers. So, notice when you feel like eating. And also write down what you feel like eating when you're hungry or when you're triggered by emotions, thoughts, or the environment. Take note of what else you decide to do if you're not hungry and choose not to eat. Again, just jot these things down. If you decided to go for a walk or to read a book or to hang out with a friend or a loved one, take note of what else you decide to do if you're not hungry and chose not to eat.
Again, take note of how much you eat and notice how you feel after eating. Practice asking yourself before you eat, "How do I want to feel when I'm done eating?" Oh, that's such a good one. Notice where do you use your fuel. What happens after you're done eating?
Notice what happens when you're done eating. What kinds of activities are you allowed to do? What kind of things, functions, does your body perform when you're done eating?
Where do you spend your fuel?
And as a bonus, support yourself by researching mindfulness and resources that
specifically speak to you and your needs. Remember, above all this is a practice. Every day is a new opportunity. Every encounter you have with food is a new activity, a new opportunity to experience and practice mindful eating and mindfulness. Good luck.