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Wellness Monday: Cultivating Healthy Food Choices!

mindful eating

This week we are cultivating healthy food choices. First and foremost, let’s work on being more mindful of what you eat. Mindful eating is really just being fully aware of what you eat and choosing things intentionally rather than mindlessly. There are a lot of ways you can do this and everything we talk about this week could be classified as mindful eating.

But here are three basic tips to start eating more mindfully.

1️⃣ Eat when you are truly hungry.

Food is meant to be fuel for our bodies. Pay attention to true physical hunger cues and try to avoid emotional eating, eating out of boredom, or eating something just because it’s there. True hunger comes on gradually and creates a desire for a full, balanced meal (protein, carb, fat). However, emotional hunger comes on suddenly and is usually a craving for something specific (salty, crunchy, sweet, etc.)

2️⃣ Take your time to eat.

Simply slowing down is a great way to eat more intentionally and mindfully. When you rush your meals, you are more likely to overeat, it negatively impacts digestion and you can’t recognize satiety signals. Plus, you don’t get to appreciate and enjoy the food. Stop grabbing breakfast on the go, give yourself a true lunch break and sit down to enjoy a full, family dinner meal. And chew each bit at least 10 times!

3️⃣ Stop eating when you are nearly full.

When you take your time to eat, your stomach has more time to communicate with your brain when you are full. This is an important part of eating more intentionally. Rather than eating until you feel sick, stop when you start to feel the first sign of fullness; when you are about 80% full.  You will continue to feel full over the next few minutes and then you will feel satisfied, but not miserable.

Why are you eating?

  • Physical Reasons:  This means you need fuel, either to recover and repair after physical activity or to provide energy in your body for every day functions. This is the number one reason you should be eating, and the most purposeful of them all.

  • Emotional reasons. This is when you grab sweet, salty, or carb-heavy foods because you are feeling stressed, sad, anxious, lonely, etc. You may not always recognize the purpose behind it because you reach for things without thinking about it.

  • Recreational reasons. This is when you eat as part of entertainment or in a social setting, like a dinner party or going out with friends or a date night. This could also be when you want to try new foods or recipes just for fun. It can still serve the purpose of providing fuel, but the social and fun aspect is the priority.

It is important to know the purpose behind everything you eat, so you can be more intentional about your choices. It doesn’t mean you can’t ever enjoy food for fun or that you can’t grab some chips when you are feeling overwhelmed. But once you recognize your reasons for eating, you can have more control and self-discipline. Just always ask yourself — why am I eating this?   Or how is this serving me? If you are ok with the answer and how it fits in with your goals, then go for it. The goal is always to have balance. Within that balance it is important to take time to allow your senses to enjoy the food.  Part of eating mindfully is to slow down and enjoy the smell, feel, and taste of your food; to savor your food.

Shame never goes on the table!

Somewhere along the way (I blame diet culture), we started labeling foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ Along with that mentality, we learned that if we eat bad foods, we are bad. And if we eat good foods, we are good. This whole idea of tying our morality to what we eat creates a very unhealthy relationship with food. In addition to that social media influencers give conflicting information focusing on “good” and “bad” foods.

Release yourself from judgment based on what you eat. When we think of foods as bad, then when we eat those ‘bad’ foods, we feel guilt and shame. Guilt and shame do not belong on the table!  If you celebrate your birthday with friends while enjoying a piece of cake, you shouldn’t feel bad about that! Just enjoy it for what it is and move on with your life.  Allow yourself treats and special occasions and just have fun.

Otherwise, if you always restrict yourself from eating these ‘bad’ foods, then eventually you will reach a breaking point where you give in and end up binging uncontrollably or spiraling down into shame and other negative feelings and bringing into your identity. Food is nothing to fear, and you can absolutely take control and eat with intention. Just focus on balance and moderation — but not between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods. See it as balancing out the reasons for why you eat. You should primarily eat for fuel, which means fresh, whole foods that provide your body with healthy energy. Then it’s ok to eat for recreational or emotional reasons on occasion. Make it more about the purpose for why you’re eating than about the food itself and take shame off the table.  Take the time to cultivate healthy choices and remember that it is lifestyle of wellness and moments along the way do not destroy your efforts.


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