This blog has been written by Amber Stevens, NBCHWC, National Board-certified Health and Wellness Coach
How do you feel about food?
Is it amazing and yummy; a healthy part of your life? Or is it scary and dangerous; something to be avoided or risk overeating?
Food is a necessary part of life, but it has a mixed reputation making us ask ourselves “what do I even eat?” or “what’s the best diet out there?” It can be challenging to have a good relationship with such a complicated item.
It can feel overwhelming, trying to keep up with the latest “eat this, not that” information from ads, social media and even family and friends.
It’s easy to get on the dieting hamster wheel, feeling trapped in an endless cycle of eating, don’t eat, eating more, feeling ashamed, stopping eating, getting hungry, and eating again….
What Is Mindful Eating?
There is a way to stop, step off the wheel and into food freedom! This happens through Mindful Eating.
Mindfulness simply means “paying attention to” or awareness. It’s a way of slowing down and tuning in to what matters to you in the present moment.
Mindful eating then is intentional awareness—you are choosing to focus on the food and your body as you eat.
Mindful eating first adopts the concept of non-judgment. Food is neither good nor bad: it’s just food; an interesting, and hopefully yummy, combination of fat, protein and carbohydrates providing you energy.
By accepting an attitude of non-judgment, you immediately take away the guilt and shame of “I shouldn’t eat this; it’s bad”. You open yourself up to possibilities and allow yourself to ask the question, “is this a good food FOR me” (rather than is it a good food).
We all are individuals with different dietary needs. There is no one right diet generally, but there is a right diet for you. Taking away judgment and getting curious about foods is the first step to knowing how to best eat for your body.
What About Dieting?
Mindful eating then brings awareness inward—what is my body telling me? Is it hungry or full? Is it stressed or content? Is it thirsty? You learn to listen to your body’s cues, eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full. You can do this technique with fruit or with candy, of course!
So let’s add another layer to inner awareness by asking, “how do I feel after eating this food?” If there is guilt or shame, lethargy or digestive issues, then it’s likely not a healthy choice for your body.
But if there is joy, energy, and contentment then it’s likely a good choice. Ultimately, be mindful of whether or not this food matches your health goals. Fruit and candy are both tasty and provide needed calories, but the outcome for your health is very different!
Slowing Down with mindfulness
Finally, mindful eating says to eat the food, but to savour it. Eat like a connoisseur, taking in the smells, textures and distinct tastes as you eat.
We digest best at rest, so allowing time to eat slowly and savouring the meal helps our bodies to gain more nutrients from our food. Pause while eating to notice those body cues, eat only the right amount, and then give thanks. Thanks for the food that nourishes, the farm that cared for it and the connection to all living things.
Being mindful of how food is raised matters to your health and what we eat matters to the mind and body. This is self-compassion – showing care for yourself and loving yourself.
By loving yourself and focusing on the self, you remove the noise and confusion that surrounds food and eating…it simply doesn’t matter. You begin to recognize how to best nourish yourself and gain a love of food.
You are free…to eat and simply be you! Such wonderful joy!
Amber Stevens is a National Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach, Mindful Eating Instructor and Licensed Massage Therapist. Her award-winning work has helped hundreds of people live a boundless life, free from physical and emotional pain. She is the Founder of Boundless Body and Wellness (in Arvada), an International Speaker and the Author of Food, Feelings and Freedom: The End to Emotional Eating. Amber is passionate about helping others to end their health struggle, finding peace with food and loving themselves! Learn more at www.youareboundless.com