This post is more about how you eat than what you eat. The fact is that so many people when they start up a diet or try to lose weight put an emphasis on what foods to eat and not eat. The advice that is often touted is eat more veggies and skip the sugar, which is great advice. What if looking at your food or smelling your food could help? How about chewing your food more, yeah there is science behind that one! How about breathing while you eat? Lastly and probably most importantly, thinking about how the food you just ate made you feel. All of this begins with some mental preparation. Changing your mind first is one of the key things you can do make lasting change that is ultimately rewarding and not a fleeting accomplishment.
I would love to take you through the list above and offer up a few tips on how I think you can change your mindset to go from a dieter to a mindful eater.
Willpower vs. Trust
I've met a number of people that just try to will their way to losing weight. They fight cravings, HARD!!! They overthink their plans and work out elaborate schemes that someone claims is the cure all. They are constantly having to think about their next step, their next meal or lack of one. Versus... Someone that trusts the process. A mindful eater won't micromanage the scale or measurements. Remember that advice about eat more veggies and less sugar, yeah that's about as complicated as it needs to be and a mindful eater won't overcomplicate things.
We've got a whole separate post solely dedicated to Why Willpower Doesn't Work if you want to check it out.
Cultural Conformity vs. Individual Empowerment
This one could be applied to any area of our society today from politics, dieting, religion, you name it. Society is always looking to group people together. If you are a healthy eater than you need to eat "X, Y, and Z." If you are unhealthy than you eat this. My advice here is, if anyone ever says they have the perfect diet or way to eat, run the other way! We are learning that there is no one size fits all diet out there. Food intolerances are on the rise and with that brings a very individualized food landscape where you need to determine what works best for you. This happens through experimenting and really listening to your body cues... which brings us to the next topic.
External Cues vs. Internal Cues
This ties back to the previous in that we allow society to dictate what we should look like and feel like. Rather than look to a number on the scale or measurements, focus on how you feel. Do you feel stronger? Do you have more energy? Is your digestion better? Focusing on the external stuff is a losing proposition, so don't go there!
Weight Loss vs. Health Enhancement
I'm sure I heard this somewhere else but my saying is... "Weight loss is a side effect of being healthy, not the other way around!" Can you lose weight without getting healthy, absolutely, but it likely won't be long term or if it is it will cause stress mentally and physically on you. Put the emphasis on healthy first. Rather than worrying about calories consumed, worry about nutrients consumed! Nutrient deficiencies can cause everything from weight gain, fatigue, to chronic disease.
Avoidance vs. Acceptance
To me this is all about owning your decisions and actions. You are the one that ultimately is responsible. I see this in people all the time in our groups, they come up with an excuse for every situation on why they couldn't exercise or find healthy food to eat. I get that these things happen but the mindful person will be aware of it and accept the decisions then move on. It's not someone else's fault, it's not even their own fault. Excuses and guilt are extremely heavy anchors that will keep you from making progress. Own it and move on!
Rigid vs. Integration
Dieters have lists, eat this not that. Things are off limits! Whereas the person that is successful long term will figure out a way to "integrate" new foods into their current diet. This process takes longer but what happens is those good and healthy foods begin to crowd out the not so healthy foods. Over time you are eating super healthy food that make you feel awesome. Integrate don't discriminate!
Counting Calories vs. Quality Calories
I could write a whole book on this topic, thankfully someone else has, The Calorie Myth by Jonathon Bailor. I've summed some of his work up in this blog post, Stop Eating Less and Exercising More. The idea is here is your body doesn't do math that well so trying to control calories in to calories out just won't work. Your body is really good at finding a healthy weight if you give it the nutrition it needs. Focus on nutrient dense food that is prepared in a delicious way.
Restrictive vs. Flexible
If I tell you that you can't have something, what does your mind immediately do? "I WANT THAT THING!" Being ultra rigid in your food choices won't serve you. It will likely lead to binging when our willpower muscle is worn out. We promote and encourage people to have some treats when they are trying to lose weight. Life is meant to be enjoyed, be conscious of your treats, plan them out and savor every last bite.
Deprivation vs. Fulfillment
Being "hangry" is a thing! If the plan you are on encourages a level of hunger, skip it. Instead eat to the point of being fulfilled but not full. This will likely require you to slow down when you eat and chew your food a little more. Eating nutrient dense food and protein with every meal will also help when it comes to hunger.
Quick Fix vs. Lifestyle
I know lifestyle change is kind of a buzz word out there right now but it is because it is exactly what needs to happen and what does happen when people change in a healthy way, a mindful way. Let's talk about the "quick fix" for a second. It usually revolves calorie restriction and over-exercising. Right there it goes against everything I've mentioned so far without even explaining how the physiological changes won't stick because of the methods. That's why coming at it from a lifestyle change where you integrate new foods in slowly, eat to fulfillment, focus on health and give yourself time to change or reach weight loss goals.
Fight Food vs. Celebrate Food
I love this one because so many people look at food as the enemy, it's calories and calories make you fat. If you focus on the quality of food you eat, then food becomes nutrients not calories. It's something to enjoy in abundance and not tiptoe around. Also along with this comes the actual act of eating. We've become a fast food nation even if you aren't actually eating McDonald's or Burger King. When was the last time you slowed down to look at your food, to smell your food. I mean really smell it like you see judges do on crazy cooking shows. Lastly do you chew your food, not chomp and swallow. Chewing is huge when it comes to breaking down food so that we can absorb the nutrients in it. It is also the point where our DNA starts interacting with the food that will eventually become cells in our body. Slow down, enjoy your food it's more than something to fill you up it's something that gives you life.
We hope this helps you connect to your food and your actual act of eating more. Did something speak to you? What's one area where you need to focus your attention?
The Cook & The Coach
Healthy is a LIFESTYLE.