We’ve likely all gone through stages where the foods we consume aren’t good for us. Plain and simple. The worst part, at least for me, is how this unhealthy eating makes me feel, mentally and physically. You’d think that this would be reason enough to be more conscious with consumption, but once we get on a bad food bender, it can be hard to break away.
Having a positive relationship with food allows you to stay on a heathier course and to be the version of yourself that you strive to be. One thing to remember, and it’s something that I have learned as I have become an even more active person, is that food is fuel. Your body needs food to survive. Just like your car will most certainly break down if you don’t fill up the tank, your body will not perform as it should if you don’t fuel it properly. I’d love to say that all it takes to be a mindful eater is to only eat foods that you know are healthy, but that is ambiguous and we’re only human. It’s easier to be mindful when you have real, substantial steps that you can take to practice a healthier lifestyle.
I’ve found the following tips to be exceptionally helpful in making myself a more mindful eater.
Four tips for mindful eating.
1. Eat when you are hungry.
At first, executing this stressed me out. Nobody likes the feeling of hunger, so waiting until I felt that way sounded almost as un-fun as shopping with no money. I decided to look at it positively and to see it as a way to enhance my mind-body connection. It is also a very simple and age-old concept that becomes complicated when temptation and boredom rear their heads onto your plate.
Think of it this way: if you’re at the beach with friends and you’re busy swimming, playing volleyball, talking, reading … you’re unlikely to stop to snack amidst the fun. It’s once you’re done with all of this activity that you’ll feel hungry and that is exactly when you should eat. You’ve moved your body, you’ve rested a bit and now it’s time to refuel. You’re feeling happy and healthy, and it’s likely that at this time you’ll be motivated to grab some fruit salad because, hey, you just had a great day on the beach and why not have a delicious and healthy snack?
On the other side of the coin, imagine that you’re sitting at your desk and it’s a slow day at the office. You’re bored and rather than staring into nothingness, you decide to go get a snack. You’re not hungry because it’s only 10:00am and you had a good breakfast only a few short hours ago, but the only plausible thing you can do for some semblance of joy while at your desk is eat. You have a bag of chips from the vending machine because it’s all that’s available and then you feel kind of crappy because it wasn’t that satisfying.
Listening to your body and allowing it to say, “hey, I could use a good source of energy right now, please eat something yummy soon” let’s you consciously think about what you’d like to eat, rather than just grabbing whatever is closest because it is habit to do so.
2. Drink more water.
Half the time that I groan like a tired toddler who needs a diaper change, whining that I’m hungry, I’m actually just thirsty. When I grab a glass of water, I am satisfied and I have not ruined my appetite with a snack. Rather, I have hydrated myself and helped fuel my body in another way that it needs to be fueled.
3. Pack your lunch.
This has multiple benefits, and it’s one of the easiest ways that I have made myself into a more mindful eater. It has made my grocery shopping a more thoughtful experience, which has helped my wallet and my waistline. It sounds like simple psychology, but planning your meals ahead of time allows you to be more conscious of what you are going to be eating.
I’ve found that since starting this practice, rather than throwing a mash of snacks into my carriage, I take my time and grab enough fruits, veggies, and salad and sandwich fixings for a week’s worth of food. It’s easier to think, “Okay, I will buy five nectarines and enough salad mix for lunch every day, and I’ll grab enough fish and vegetables for dinner each night” than to navigate deciding which snacks to pack when all that’s filling your cabinets is a big bag of chips and a box of cookies.
4. Adopt the motto: everything in moderation.
It’s wonderful to eat healthy and fuel your body with whole foods. What’s not wonderful is allowing this practice to control your life. If you dedicate yourself to cooking your meals and eating as much from-the-Earth as possible, it’s okay to eat the brownie you’re offered at your friend’s birthday party.
Feeling as though you can’t have something that’s not necessarily “good” for you every once in a while may actually be good for you.
It will allow you to have a balance, and balance is key when working towards having a good relationship with food. Don’t allow a once-in-a-while treat to derail you mentally, because it’s certainly not going to harm you physically. A donut to ease yourself into Monday will not undo the efforts of your Sunday long run. Enjoy these treats and you’ll rid yourself of the stresses that can ride on the backs of meal time if you let them get to you. Eat food that tastes good and is good for you most of the time, but allow yourself an indulgence. After all, you probably deserve it!