In honor of nutrition month, Global News asked me to come on to talk about the theme for 2020: More than food. I had mixed feeling about it; at first I was happy because it meant we can finally put less attention on the food itself and more around the experience of eating, which includes eating with others, making more home cooked meals, and eating mindfully. But then I remembered that the reason why Health Canada wants us to focus on the experience of eating is to help us to eat less, which goes against the essence of mindful eating (more on this very shortly). I also didn’t want people to become even more preoccupied by their eating habits because now they need to think about what they’re eating and how/why/where they’re eating.
What is mindful eating
Mindful eating is a subset of mindfulness, which is defined as “the psychological process of purposely bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment without judgment“. Big word there, “judgment“. If you are so focused on losing weight, it is IMPOSSIBLE to not judge your food. You will start saying things like: This is too high in sugar. This has too many calories. I’m not allowed to have these cookies on my plan. I already reached my fat intake for the day, so I shouldn’t be having this.
Mindful eating is more complicated that just stated, so click here to read a great blog post by Registered Dietitian Vincci Tsui explaining it further.
BUT, if we ignore Health Canada’s reasoning behind mindful eating and focus on its true nature instead, we can see many health benefits, including improving your relationship with food. That being said, here are 5 ways to improve our relationship with food that involve some form of mindfulness:
1. Make something
Get into the kitchen and create something. Whether it’s making an elaborate meal, or just slicing up some veggies, getting into the kitchen to prepare something made with care, for yourself, with the intention of nourishing your body but also enjoying the experience of preparation and eating is really important in sparking a positive relationship with food.
2. Watch your language
Ban the word good/bad, healthy/unhealthy, and guilt-free. How will you feel if you eat something that you labeled as bad? Pretty bad I would think. And saying something is guilt-free implies that food holds the power to make you guilty or that a food itself can be guilty. It takes the pleasure out of eating, and puts a negative spin on many delicious foods.
Try to accept foods for what they are, food. They’re all a mix of different ingredients. There’s nothing magical about that bag of chips you just bought. If you like the way a food tastes, it makes you feel good, and you are in the mood for it… go for it. If you don’t enjoy the taste of a food, aren’t in the mood for it, or it doesn’t make you feel very good either physically or emotionally, then it probably isn’t the best choice for you.
3. Accept enjoyment/pleasure from food
Food is awesome and it’s ok to enjoy it. In fact, oftentimes if you eat foods that you genuinely enjoy, you end up eating less overall because you’re not left pining after the food you really wanted. Just make sure that you’re in the mood for food and the food makes you feel good in the short term and long term.
4. Focus on hunger and fullness levels
Rather than relying on other people to tell you how much to eat, rely on your intuition and learn to recognize your hunger and fullness cues. Using a scale from 1-10 (1 being you’re ravenous and 10 being you ate so much you’re sick to your stomach), rate your hunger and fullness. Ideally, before a meal or snack, you want to be at a 3 or 4. This is where you’re hungry, but not so hungry that you want to eat everything in front of you. After a meal or snack, aim for a 6. This where you feel food in your stomach, but not to the point where you feel discomfort or sluggish. A 5 is satisfied, where you’re neither hungry nor full.
5. Look at why you eat
Are you eating because you’re hungry or because you’re bored or stressed? Sometimes it’s hard to see the difference between the two because they both cause hunger. But the signs and symptoms of a physical hunger and emotional hunger differ. For example, a physical hunger tends to come on gradually and can be satisfied with any food. You’re also more likely to recognize your fullness level. On the other hand, an emotional hunger tends to come on suddenly. All of a sudden you’re hungry and all of sudden you crave something specific. You need the chips, the chocolate, the wine, etc.
Once you see the difference between the two, ask yourself these questions before eating:
- Am I physically hungry?
- Will I feel good physically and emotionally as I eat it?
- Will I feel good physically and emotionally hours/days later
If you answer yes to the questions, then go for it. If you answer no to any of the above questions, then this is where you have to have a conversation with yourself to see what you really want and need at that time.
If you do want more info or want to hear me say these things, watch me here: Global News Video