Rediscovering Mindful & Intuitive Eating

frau genießt das aroma einer leckeren suppe

By Selva Wohlgemuth

Today our eating habits are defined by many rules. Rules that we have learned throughout our lives or have even implemented ourselves. But have these rules made eating any easier, healthier, or more enjoyable?

Food rules generally start at a young age. Well-meaning parents encouraging their children to finish their plates or eat their vegetables first. Then as teenagers and young adults, beauty and fitness magazines bombard us with messages on how to lose weight fast and what to eat or not to eat. And now with so much information at our fingertips and constant marketing promising foods or diets that will make you younger, healthier, and leaner, it is hard to make our own judgments. No wonder we have built a whirlwind of anxiety around healthy eating. With external forces influencing our eating patterns more than our own hunger cues, it is hard to define balanced and nutritious eating for ourselves. In the end we are left with a lack of trust and confidence in our own ability to govern when and how much we should eat. Luckily we all possess the ability to eat intuitively. However, we have to uncover the many layers of rules, traditions, and even emotions that have rooted deep into our eating beliefs.

Since the holidays are just around the corner, approaching this topic yourself, can help make the next few months ones that promote the wellbeing of your body, mind, and soul.

Here are some questions to ponder:
• How has your eating style formed you?
• Do you remember how it first developed?
• Can you envision your daily triggers?
• What and perhaps who has influenced these rules?

Ultimately, the goal is to eat a nutritionally balanced diet using biological hunger cues, which not only nourishes the body but also nourishes the soul. Using mindful and intuitive eating techniques allows for enhanced digestion, reduced stress, and overall better body image. Implementing mindful eating strategies can increase your well-being without even changing the foods you eat. By simply slowing down and being present, you will eat less, feel better, and have more energy.

So what is mindful eating exactly? It is all about listening to your body’s hunger and satiety cues. The first big question you should ask yourself is “how am I eating?” Do you eat fast, slow, or on the go? Do you eat alone or with others? Do you eat when you are sad, happy, bored, or anxious? Do you continue to eat when you are already pleasantly full? Do you skip meals often? And do you even enjoy the foods you eat?

In today’s day and age, it is quite common that we are eating on the go, eating very fast, eating when we are anxious or sad, and skipping meals replacing them with coffee. All of these do not contribute to mindful and intuitive eating. Nor do they help with eating in moderation. We are moving too fast to listen to our bodies!

With the holidays comes stress, emotions, and even anxiety. Implementing some of the tips below can help make this holiday season one of joy, self love, and mental and physical health. Be kind to yourself in more ways than one.

• Take time to enjoy your meal—sit down for each meal, chew more slowly, breathe, and enjoy the flavors of your food.
• Try to eat away from the TV or computer—share the meal with a friend, co-worker, or family member.
• Choose foods that are pleasing as well as nourishing! Just because kale is a nutrient rich doesn’t mean that you need to eat it for every meal. If you don’t like kale, and prefer mixed greens, great! Eat what you like!
• Assess your hunger. Eat until you are satisfied, not “stuffed”.
• Try to ditch the diet mentality—holding on to the hope that a new and better diet may help you lose weight quickly will prevent you from rediscovering intuitive eating. Learn to listen to yourself and not the diet books and magazines.
• Quiet the food police—try to avoid giving foods bad or good labels based on their calorie content, and challenge your psyche with positive phrases in place of negative.
• Respect your health—it is what you eat consistently that will make you gain weight or cause nutrient deficiencies. Stressing over one snack, meal, or even day will not impact your health in the long run. Making healthy choices a lifestyle instead of a “need to do”, will allow you to experience freedom and enjoyment in indulgences.

It takes time to relearn the innate ability of your body to guide your eating patterns. Hopefully by implementing these tips into your lifestyle you will learn to trust and listen to your body’s intuitive cues. Not only will this help you reduce food associated guilt or emotional distress, but it will also help you find pleasure in eating. Mindful and intuitive eating is a lifestyle that can help lead you along a path to feeling physically and mentally healthy.

Selva Wohlgemuth, MS, RDN is the owner of Happy Belly Nutrition, a private practice located in the heart of Bellingham. With a graduate degree from Bastyr University, Selva is able to help clients work towards their unique health goals integrating functional and holistic nutrition therapy. Visit her website for more information. Selva is also a skilled cook, writer, and photographer, sharing evidence based nutrition information via her food blog .