If your appetite for food feels out of control, know that ‘love’ isn’t the real problem. Here’s how to slow it down, and reconnect with mindful eating.
“My problem is that I just love food too much!”
Does this sound like something you’d say? While I can understand the concern within that statement, I respectfully disagree. In fact, loving food and enjoying your eating experiences is never a problem.
In fact, maybe the goal is to love food more.
That might sound crazy, especially if you feel like you really do love food too much. But consider this – if you love something, wouldn’t you want to nurture it, spend time with it, slow down and savor it? Love wouldn’t encourage you to consistently numb yourself with food, or push yourself to the point of uncomfortably stuffed as you eat.
Eating past fullness or coping with uncomfortable emotions with food from time to time is completely normal. But if it’s happening consistently – or even more than you’d like – love isn’t likely the true motivating force.
Because of a variety of factors (with diets, food rules, and body image issues being a large majority), we are incredibly disconnected from food and our bodies. We spend more time thinking and talking about food than we actually do cooking and eating it.
So instead of trying to go out of your way to avoid food, the answers to your issues may actually be found in being more connected to food.
Some may call this mindful eating.
Mindful eating is the practice of bringing conscious awareness to your food choices and your body’s intuitive signals, while engaging all your senses to make the experience satisfying and nourishing to both your body and mind.
Anecdotally, we see this kind of eating experience being practiced regularly in other countries with noted benefits to their overall health. In our busy and hectic lifestyle, we rarely make time to approach food in this way. Here are the steps to get started.
1. Practice slowing down.
For true psychological and physiological satisfaction, it’s important to realize you are eating. Take some deep breaths before eating, helping you approach meals with intention and connection.
As you eat, focus your attention on the food. If you find your mind wandering to responsibilities, work. or judgments about the food, gently bring your attention back to how the food tastes, smells, feels, looks and sounds (if applicable). This will allow you to truly enjoy your food while providing the opportunity to listen to hunger, fullness, and satisfaction.
2. Check in with your hunger.
Are you eating often enough? Each body process functions best when given consistent and regular nutrition. It’s easy to forget, lose track of time or avoid eating.
Stress actually suppresses hunger signals, so a busy workday can leave you exhausted and ravenous once you finally slow down. You can likely anticipate hunger every two to four hours, depending on a snack vs a meal. Practice checking in on hunger within that time frame, being prepared with foods in case you need it. Anticipating and meeting your own needs in that way will build more trust and confidence with food.
3. Journal your food patterns.
The type of journals I recommend is not about counting calories or keep track of points; it’s about helping you sort through your food patterns, behaviors, and beliefs. Start by writing down your answers to this question: Why do you eat and how do you feel about what you eat?
Food journals can create an opportunity to pause and check-in, assess intentions, and reflect on past situations. They aren’t for everyone, so only use them if they feel helpful.
4. Don’t distract yourself.
Are you eating in the car? At your desk? While answering emails? Over the sink? While it’s probably not realistic to expect yourself to sit down with zero distractions for every meal, take every opportunity to make your mealtime a separate event from work or life. You will find greater self-trust and eating competence as you truly allow yourself to just eat.
5. Eat what you want.
Yes, that’s right – anything you want! That part will always and forever be up to you. A mindful eating practice also includes noticing how you feel as you eat, and adapting to your emotional situations without swinging to the extremes.
Mindful eating has the potential to help you create more positive experiences with food, which will increase confidence and decrease fear in your everyday choices. Most importantly, it will help you realize that you can still love and enjoy food while still respecting and trusting your body.
Adapted from the original post.
HEADER IMAGE: WARANYA MOOLDEE
Emily Fonnesbeck, RD, CD, CLT is a Utah-based private practice Registered Dietitian. Instead of creating unnecessary restrictions, Emily focuses on helping individuals become confident and in charge of their own well-being through Intuitive Eating and Mindful Living. She is a strong believer and advocate for helping people become capable individuals who are confident in taking care of themselves. Make a visit and read more from Emily.