Ahh January 1st, the day the madness of the next fad diet arrives – keto, gluten-free, low calorie starvation teas, juicing and clean eating we have seen them all.
Fad diets are not sustainable and we need to stop falling for them. Most people tend to be all systems go for a few weeks but it takes such incredible will power and determination to stick to this new rigid and alien routine. These diets can cause us to become more obsessed with food, we tend to crave everything we are not allowed and feel guilty. That inevitable feeling of failure is so harmful to your mindset. It feeds into the limiting beliefs of a fixed mindset.
January is a time for fresh and new beginnings. Make this decade your best one yet. Change your mindset and consequently change your behaviours and you will be guaranteed to boost your happiness and wellbeing.
A mindful and instinctive approach to eating could not be more natural.
As babies, we are born knowing how to recognise hunger, when to eat and stop when we are full—but our culture distorts these cues. We get so confused by mixed messages in this marketing and media fuelled world that we end up having a distorted relationship with food. This can emerge as harboured feelings of guilt and shame about our eating behaviours aswell as creating new “trends” such orthorexia (a compulsive preoccupation or obsession with dietary purity).
Restricting food doesn’t work.
Exercising without changing our diets isn’t effective either. Mindful and intuitive eating can be the solution. Not only does it improve our realty ship with food it is also associated with increased optimism, psychological hardiness, and greater motivation to exercise for pleasure, a recent review of 24 studies found.
So what is instinctive mindful eating ?
Simply, it is bringing an awareness to the present moment and specifically when we are eating.
How? Allowing space for thoughts to come and go in our mind by pausing, breathing, mini and long meditations.
Why? Pausing, breathing and checking in allows our brain a moment to be present and aware of what and how we are feeling and how we are acting. When we are aware we are then in control and capable of making decisions that are right for us.
A key tenant of mindful eating is there is no guilt; food holds no moral value – food is just food.
People are tired of feeling at war with their own bodies. Instinctive and mindful eating is the most simple yet transformative back to basics guidance you will read.
Unlike dieting, which tends to be about restricting ourselves and trying to override our bodies’ instincts, intuitive eating is about self-compassion and trusting our bodies.
Some of the main principles include :
Tuning into our inner wisdom
This means learning to retrain our body to become more in tune with our interoceptive awareness. Listening to our bodily cues of hunger and fullness. I help people learn how to move away from the external cues telling them what, when, and how much to eat, and get in touch with their internal cues telling them what, when, and how much to eat.
The next level up from this then is to introduce an awareness and appreciation of satiety. This is that feeling of satisfaction that a food can bring us. When we are satisfied that mindless searching and grazing for the food we really wants stops.
If you don’t love it, don’t eat it and if you love it, savour it.
Choose to eat the foods you love – you will get an incredible amount of satisfaction and contentment from just eating that food you really love. It will stop you continually mindlessly eating other foods just to get that real feeling of satisfaction you need. Think quality over quantity ALWAYS.
Nutrition has become such a complex minefield. Let’s just strip it back to basic gentle nutrition. In 2019 Canada launched a new food guide. It is brilliantly simple and lauded as one of the best in the world. At each meal have half your plate full of fruit and vegetables, one quarter is lean proteins (about 2/3rds should be plant sources and the others 1/3 from animals) and the last quarter is carbohydrates of the complex and wholegrain variety. As an example of implementing this in reality think of during a lunch out with friends enjoy and savour that piece of cake. But between client appointments during the workday, choose energy-boosting carrots and hummus. The key: while there is a nutritional difference to these foods, there is not a moral difference. To boost nutrition, think about what foods you can add rather than subtract.
Cook with Umami
Cooking from scratch allows us to become fully engaged with all the multi-sensory aspects of food even before we eat. It increases our enjoyment and satisfaction with the food. Umami is the fifth taste sense which describes a delicious savouriness we get from food. By including techniques and ingredients that heighten the sense of umami from our foods we will increase our satiety, resulting in us eating less mindlessly.
Eat when you are hungry
By tuning in to our natural hunger levels we will learn to trust our bodily instincts. Our body will tell us when we are hungry and when we need more energy. Simple.
Now, to bring some real life perspective to this conversation there are so many occasions where we want to eat when we are not hungry. And that is OK. Food bring huge social connection, bonding and sharing. I cannot think of anything better than sitting down to a lovely meal with great people. When this opportunity arises the key here is to take a moment to savour the experience. The setting, the people, the food. Take a few moments to appreciate the multi-sensory nature of the food, the aromas, the colours, the textures, the flavours. Savour every moment. This is proven to increase your satisfaction and satiety levels. Your brain is registering and acknowledging the eating experiences and will crave food less often as a result.
If hunger is not the problem food is not the solution
When we reach for food we check in on our huger levels. If we are not hungry and we still want food we need to take a moment, pause, tune in to our self awareness and recognise the triggers for why we might want to eat. So many of our mindless eating occasions are triggered by emotions, stress, tiredness and procrastination.
If you think always keeping several balls in the air makes you more productive, you might want to reconsider. Multitasking might give you the illusion that you are getting more done and being more efficient. But in reality, your attention is divided, you are distracted and your brain does not fully process the act of eating.
One way to do that is to literally slow down each individual activity you do and focus on only one task at a time. For example, if you are eating, actually sit down to have a meal, eat slowly, and do nothing else. Put away the electronic devices, turn off the TV, remove all other distractions, and just eat. Also, try to be more present and savour the good in life. It is very easy to get caught up in all the negativity in your life. Often, positive experiences quickly pass you by without being fully felt or appreciated.
After self awareness, self care is vital. It is important to realise that when you put yourself first, everyone else benefits. When we nourish our body, our mind and our souls we feel internally satisfied and content. That desire to graze, to eat mindlessly to satisfy whatever need in lacking for us will decrease and your overall happiness and wellbeing will increase. Self care has three aspects of body kindness: love, connection, and care. It can include mindful practices like mediation, social support, distraction, a positive mindset full of gratitude. We need to reject diet mentality and foods and adopt some body positive behaviours. Unlike dieting, which tends to be about restricting ourselves and trying to override our bodies’ instincts, intuitive eating is about self-compassion and trusting our bodies.
Patience and Gratitude
Don’t expect to drop all your food and weight baggage right away; the timing is different for everyone who explores mindful and instinctive eating. Many people fear that without food rules, they will immediately gain weight. And you might, if you were seriously restrictive before – but you may lose weight if you habitually kept eating after you were full. Either way, it’s OK. When you tune in to your instincts and you learn to trust your own body it will find its own natural rhythm.
Introduce this new way of instinctive eating into your life gradually. Incorporating new habits into your morning or evening routines. The brain usually takes 21 days to rewire and forge a new habit. Sometimes, it can take longer than that. So be patient and consistent. And remember : THATS OK!
To change your mindset and your eating behaviours in a real and sustainable way this January book in now for a group or private session.