by The Non-Obsessive Way of Eating Company 5 March 2018
This follows last week’s piece – Mindful Eating: the Back Story …
Adopting an eating style or Way of Eating (WOE), is not about going on a diet. Dieting is a blind alley. When you begin a “diet” the first thing you generally do is plan for when you are going to stop the dieting – in the main it is when you have reached your goal weight. When that day arrives – the diet is over. It has been hard work, there may have been a few lapses and false starts but now you feel great, you have achieved your goal weight, you have dropped that dress or trouser size and everyone says WOW!
However that is not the only thing that has been reached. You have also re-entered the real world and this brings risk for the dieter. Your guard is down. Things that you have missed are now on hand. It means the odd treat is now available as the diet is finished, you start to revisit those old, much-loved restaurants, and now that you have reached your goal weight, what does an extra drink at the birthday party or after works drinks hurt?
Sure, I was on a semi Low Carb semi Healthy Fat way of eating but after 6 months and a notable change in shape, and less weight on the scale, the extras were beginning to creep back in. A bit of bread here, the odd fruit juice or flavoured milk there, and just a bit bigger slice of cheese than I should. Admittedly I was enjoying eating those once restricted foods again and after having dropped 12 kgs, I didn’t really want to go back to square one and start the cycle all over again. What to do! During this time I had read a lot about nutrition, ways of dieting, research reports and food articles. One interesting article I had come across contained an interesting piece about Mindful Eating. This described a way of eating that was not a diet but a way of life. One that increased your awareness of what and how you ate while also getting you to think before having something to eat.
Hmmm well you are constantly thinking when on a diet too – thinking about food, thinking about your body weight, thinking about your controlled eating and always the thought that if you cut back a bit more, the diet would be over quicker! You are also practicing awareness a great deal of the time too by measuring your food, counting calories, watching the clock or simply thinking – did I eat too much today? And back to thinking again!
However mindful eating is much more than simple reactive thinking and working from meal to meal. Mindful eating is being “mindful” of your body’s signals before, during and after eating. It is practicing a way of eating that will make you more aware of the real pleasure you can get from “guilt free eating” in general. By being self aware you are able to tune into your body’s needs and with this naturally eat less, without the need to diet.
On reflection, part of my problem with food was due to the fact that I used to eat because it was “time” to eat – it was breakfast “time”, lunch “time”, dinner “time” or snack “time” – not because I was hungry. I was eating through habit and the fact that everyone else was eating at these times too. Eating this way often leads to over eating, but by becoming mindful and listening to your bodies signals, you will develop an awareness of when you are actually hungry. You will also become aware of how you eat and more importantly, when you need to stop eating. Practicing mindful eating is about considerate eating and eating what you take pleasure in. There are no restricted foods, no calorie counting or measuring out, only a constrained, educated eating of the foods that you enjoy. It is about changing the way that you view food and maintaining the gains you have made after having possibly been on a restrictive type diet. It can be used as a maintenance tool as well. In truth I do not think of meal “times” any more, but think in terms of 1st meal, 2nd meal and possibly a snack at some stage.
When you experience hunger, it is not only the physical cravings for food at play, but also the emotional and psychological triggers that tempt your taste buds. As well, many of us practice mindless eating – snacking while watching TV, eating tit-bits while preparing dinner or finishing breakfast and not remembering what we ate because we were engrossed in Facebook. The essence of mindful eating is being able to step back and decide if you are really hungry or not, and if so how hungry, and then taking pleasure in what we eat.
If you’re working on health goals, mindful eating will help you prioritising the foods you need and make you aware of the foods that you should restrict in quantity. If you have had a high protein meal in the morning, if you think it through, you may decide to balance this out with vegetarian fare in the evening.
Mindful eating is also about making the time to enjoy the odd treat rather than being super strict all the time. But don’t splurge – simply enjoy. Take time with the treat and savour it! Listen to your body and become familiar with the feeling of satiety – then stop eating. Knowing that you can have a further taster in another day or two, without guilt, is empowering. I have experienced the problem when on a diet of coming across “that” treat I had denied myself just too over indulge because I may as well because it’s here now. With the thought of having broken the diet, I may as well have a decent scoff and start fresh in the morning. However there’s that feeling of failure – again.
Next … adopting Mindful Eating as a way of life
Check in at Towards A Non-Obsessive Way of Eating to view my opinion piece, The Weekly Short Piece, containing observations, tips and debate on nutrition, food and eating that will inform your health.