Stop Dieting and Start Mindful Eating - A Guide to Eating with Intention

When you practice mindful eating and learn to eat with intention, you can heal your relationship with food and slow down to really enjoy your meals.  Mindful eating is a powerful practice that can transform the way you look at food.

The act of being mindful helps to bring your awareness into play.  Mindful eating can be incorporating all or only some of the ideas below. Take for example…

I used to rush to get my food down, eat all the less exciting parts like veggies first, then scarf down all the carbs and protein.  All this left me with was an overly full stomach and no more food. I used to justify this behavior in that I’m just making sure to eat my food before it gets cold.  

What a silly reason to make myself uncomfortable.  

Eating, for me, used to all about getting the food on my plate, in me.  I used to believe that eating was such an inconvenience and that if I could just take a pill to get all my nutrients I would.   Even if I had spent the time to make sure that the spices were just right or after carefully peeling my veggies.

But I wasn’t ready to commit to eating my meals in silence.  So mindful eating didn’t feel like it was in the books for me.  Meditating while eating my food… no thanks!

Mindful eating is not meditating though.  Mindful eating is an all encompassment of the act of using awareness to pay attention to the ingredients, the preparation, and the impact your meals have.  That part I can get behind. I already pay attention to the ingredients in my food, I try to be aware of the sugar I’m consuming, and I follow a vegan diet.  So paying more attention to my food shouldn’t be hard, right?

So I tried mindful eating a few times and you know what I found?

Paying attention works but only if you can keep coming back to it.  It’s not sustainable to try to eat every meal in silence or even chew every bite 40 times.  

But… mindful eating works.  I didn’t lose any weight and I never had any wild epiphanies about the way I eat.  Instead, I still eat in front of the TV or with my phone in hand but sometimes I catch myself.  I notice that I am starting to eat too fast so I take a couple of bites to count the number of times I need to chew my food.  I stop myself at the grocery store from picking up food that I know contributes to environmental or health issues. I take time to smell all my food while it cooks.  

I let cooking and consuming food be more than just the act of getting nutrients.  I pay attention to the food I’m eating and enjoy eating.

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What is Mindful Eating

Mindful eating is the act of eating without distractions and slowing down to enjoy your food.  Mindful eating is a practice similar to mindfulness meditation in that you are taking time to observe an experience.  While encompassing yourself and the food that you are eating, mindful eating can actually include what impact your food has in the world.  Like where the ingredients came from, how the ingredients got to you, or who grew the food. While mindful eating can be rather complex and have many different layers, learning how to apply it for every meal doesn’t have to be.

Instead, it can be paying attention to how the food tastes, the textures, and the way it smells.  Paying attention to how you feel along the way is also important. Your body and mind connect through food when practicing mindful eating.  

How to

Mindful eating can actually start when you are preparing and cooking food.  You should pay attention to how everything feels as you are cutting and preparing your ingredients.  Does anything have an immediate smell?

What about once you start cooking it?  What do you smell?

Once you have finished cooking your meal and you are ready to eat, portion yourself off a smaller portion than you would normally have.  Before you sit down, make sure that there are no immediate distractions. Along with not sitting in front of the television, you should also ditch your phone.  

Take a moment or two before digging in to express gratitude for your meal, the attention it took to prepare it, and the journey that the food took before it got to you.  

Take your first bite and chew thoroughly.  Chewing your food 30-40 times would be best.  While chewing take time to note any flavors and textures that you notice.  Is it sweet? Is it spicy? Is it crunchy or soft?

Take your time to finish the remainder of your food, all the while noting what aspects you come across.  

If you are eating with others it might seem a little weird to sit in complete silence while you eat, in this case, dedicate a few minutes or a few bites to a more aware eating approach before talking with your table mates.  Remember to check in with yourself periodically, in this case, to not get too sucked into your old eating habits.

As you begin to near the end of your meal, it is important to check in with yourself and your body.  How did the food make you feel? Was it food that made you happy? Why or why not? How does the food make you feel physically?  Do you feel energized? Was it food that made your body happy but not your mind? Or vice versa? Are you satisfied or looking for more?  

Mindful eating does not have to be a complex project to complete for every meal.  It can be adopted into your normal food practices to help you strengthen your relationship to food.  

By practicing the whole act of mindful eating you can learn through awareness where your relationship with food suffers.  From this, you can then adopt small pieces of mindful eating into your everyday practice.

By taking the time to acknowledge where your relationship with food is you can begin to heal it.  If you find yourself rushing through meals, mindful eating can teach you to make healthier food choices and make eating more of a ritual than a chore.  

You have the ability to rework your relationship with food by paying more attention to the food you eat, where it comes from, and how it makes you feel.  Your mind is your most powerful tool in making the right choices for your body and the world. Mindful eating gives you the awareness needed to see the changes you need to make.  

When you take time to slow down and connect with yourself and your food, you can create a connection that fosters a healthy relationship.  Mindful eating can transform how you look at and enjoy your food. When you eat with intention you not only feel better but are more aware and more likely to make good food choices.  


How to Say Goodbye to your Sweet Tooth and All Things Sugar

It would be pretty hard to argue that sweets are not most people’s favorite food or that the cookies going missing was not your fault.  

Your sweet indulgence might just not be a late night treat but it also might be why you can’t wake up in the morning.  For most of us we wouldn’t think twice about the white granules we dump graciously into our coffee but its sugary sweetness hides a dark secret.  

Sugar is known to cause tooth decay and poor gum health, along with increasing the risk of obesity and heart disease.  Sugar can also speed up the aging process and ruin your skin. Along with worsening eczema and promoting acne, gut flora is also damaged when consuming sugar.  Sugar can cause a whole lot of problems and when left unchecked can really screw up your life.

The average American consumes 152 pounds of sugar is one year.  That would be around 6 cups per week, whereas the daily recommended amount is 13.3 teaspoons daily.  

Sugar is sweet but its effects are definitely not.  Read on to find out 8 ways you can work to reduce your sugar consumption.

1. Eat Regularly

When you haven’t eaten enough food, it’s really easy to jump on the first snack you see.  By eating enough and having healthy snacks, you are less likely to experience sugar cravings.  

2. Drink Enough Water

Staying hydrated helps to reduce food cravings because our brains frequently mistake thirst for hunger.  As well having water with you at all times can prevent you from grabbing a pop or sugar-filled drink when you become thirsty.  

3. Eat Fresh Produce

With fresh produce, you will never need to read a nutritional label as this is the food’s simplest form.  Fresh fruit and vegetables will not only fill you up but are also great for ensuring you get all the important nutrients and vitamins without adding any extra sugar.

4. Read Labels

The single best way to bring awareness to what your eating is to read the nutrition label.  This helps to give you a good picture of the nutrients that you get from the food, as well as any drawbacks it might have.

Whereas the nutritional label can have a 20% error margin, the ingredients list is typically more accurate for knowing exactly what is in a food.  It can be a healthy practice to look at both for a better understanding of what you’re buying.

5. Get Enough Sleep

When you’re tired you are more likely to go for an easy snack that contains sugar to give you an energy boost.  Sleeping enough also leads to a healthier life and can help you have the mental clarity you need to make good food choices.  

6. Avoid Low/Non-Fat Foods

Many foods that are marketed as low/non-fat are not as healthy as you would like to think.  To make a snack with no fat still taste good, the fat is replaced with a sweetener, typically sugar.  Make sure to check the food labels of all foods even if they appear to be healthy.

7. Avoid High Sugar Foods

Typical desserts and treats almost always have a lot of sugar in them.  The same goes for pop and other sweet drinks. By avoiding your typical soda at lunchtime you can save on a huge amount of sugar.

8. Add Spices

Adding spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, or allspice can help to make food taste sweeter.  By sprinkling in a little bit, you can change the taste of your food and make it seemingly sweet.  Almond or vanilla extract can also be used to up the flavor without compromising the healthiness.

Protein powders are also useful in this sense.  Protein powder can be purchased in a variety of flavors and kinds, most of which bring a sugar-free sweetness.  

There are plenty of ways in which you can reduce your sugar intake and aim your life in a healthier direction.

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Breaking your sugar addiction can be tough and added sugar can feel almost impossible to avoid but by changing your habits around food, you can take back control over your health.  It’s time to kick sugar to the curb and curb your cravings!

How to Eat for your Health Without Going Hungry

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For a lot of people eating healthy and making good food choices can seem like a daunting task.  With so many different diets and studies, it can make eating healthy seemingly impossible. Eating with your health in mind shouldn’t be only for the privileged or those with all the time in the world.  From grocery shopping to eating out, this guide will give you helpful tips and tricks to make healthy living attainable and realistic.

What is a Healthy Diet?

Everyone’s definition of healthy is going to be different but the one this that will make or break the idea of eating healthy is ultimately how sustainable the diet is for you.  It’s probably not sustainable to say you will only eat chicken and vegetables and it's also unsustainable to believe that you will never have another treat food again. The biggest step in creating a healthy diet is to set reasonable guidelines.  Here are some examples:

  • Only eating out once per week

  • Having a meatless Monday

  • Eating at least one serving of vegetables with all your meals

  • Reducing sugar and added sweeteners

  • Eliminate dairy or other food intolerances

  • Drink more water

  • Stop drinking pop

By outlining some of the big goals you have with your diet it helps to make healthy eating seem more reasonable.  Once you’ve planned out some guidelines you would like your new lifestyle to include, it is time to go shopping!


Tips for Grocery Shopping

Making a grocery list and sticking to it can be one of the easiest ways to avoid junk food. When we make a list, we force ourselves to only buy the essentials no extras.

Although grocery shopping may seem like a really good idea when you’re hungry it’s actually not.  When grocery shopping on a full belly you are less likely to buy junk food and it is a lot easier to just stick with your shopping list.  

A good tip to help avoid overly processed food is to avoid the middle section of the grocery store almost completely.  It is a lot easier to make healthy choices when you’re not drooling over the chips or candy that you know you shouldn’t even think about putting in your shopping cart.  


Tips for Going Out

Once eating healthy at home has become a habit, eating out can be either your worst nightmare or your best friend.  All the various different options may make you just about lose it. Maybe you just wish you could order it all or maybe you feel guilty even for looking.  Whatever the case may be, eating out and making healthy choices can leave you feeling satisfied without regrets. You just need to learn how to make the best choices for you.  

It would be easy for me to say that ordering a salad is the best choice but its really not.  If you don’t want to eat a salad but still want to know how to eat with your health in mind, keep reading for some of my favorite tips.  

  • Don’t feel like you need to eat all the food on your plate.  Unless you're sitting down for dinner at a fancy restaurant where the portions are all too small, the size of your meal might be too big to eat comfortably.  It's even recommended to split the meal into two portions when you first get it.

  • Don’t feel guilty about ordering “not the healthiest” meal on the menu.  It feels good to order food that you want to order not that you feel that you HAVE to order.  Going out does not mean that you should feel bad about eating food that is exciting or that you want to order.  


Tips to Maintain

Sometimes the hardest part about starting a new habit is not so much all in just getting started.  Having the ability to maintain a healthy diet can sometimes be challenging. It can be easy to fall back into old habits but the most important thing is acknowledging when this happens and trying again.  It is not the end of the world to have a piece of cake or some of your favorite treats, it’s just important that a healthy relationship is developed with these. Nobody will ever eat perfectly healthy because everyone’s definition of healthy is different.  Once you know what that is for you then you can begin to focus on how exactly you will work to maintain that.

Although everyone’s idea of healthy can be different, it is still important to find a balance in how we eat.  Eating junk food and treats all the time is not a sustainable practice but neither is eating only “healthy” food.  Healthy eating can be implemented into our lives relatively easily, we just have to know what our goals. Once outlined we can start working towards our idea of healthy.