Mindful Eating Helps Control Your Eating Habits

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Do you find yourself rushing through meals? Eating lunch in front of your computer? Eating dinner in front of the TV?

Many people are constantly on the go from one activity to another and often don’t take the time to plan meals and snacks. Mindful eating is a practice that puts you in control of your eating habits, says Premier Health dietetic intern Emilee Pfeifer. During National Nutrition Month in March — and after a year of pandemic eating — it may be a good time to take a new look at how, when, why, and what you eat.

The basis of mindful eating is exactly what’s in the name: being mindful. Practicing mindful eating helps you to become fully present at meal or snack times. The benefits of being present lead to you becoming aware of your hunger or fullness cues, exploring why you eat, and remaining curious about the best way to nourish your body.

The Mindful Eating Cycle

Dr. Michelle May, author of “Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat,” created the Mindful Eating Cycle. It has six main components to guide individuals as they begin mindful eating. First, the cycle begins with “Why do I eat?” to explore intentions behind eating. Are you eating for nourishment or out of boredom?

Next, the cycle asks “When do I want to eat?” to cue into your feelings of hunger and fullness. It can be helpful to rate your hunger on a scale of 1 to 10, with a rating of 1 being “ravenous” and a rating of 10 being “painfully full.” When using this scale, try to stay within a hunger rating between 4 and 7 to avoid undereating or overeating.

“What do I eat?” is the next question in the cycle. Exploring what you eat can help to remove the feelings of guilt or shame around food. Trust your body to choose foods that sound appetizing and will nourish your body and soul.

The mindful eating cycle asks “How do I eat?” in order to tune into presence around food. Distracted eating can lead to you not being aware of hunger and fullness cues, which can lead to undereating or overeating. When you are present and aware during meals, you will be able to feel the effects that foods have on your body.

Next, the cycle questions “How much do I eat?” to tune into hunger and fullness cues once again. Rather than relying on external cues for the appropriate amount of food to eat, individuals can trust their body to determine when they are satisfied or when they need to fuel.

Finally, the question of “Where do I invest my energy?” is posed. Individuals can use this question as a starting point to determine if they are spending their time in a way that is fulfilling to them. This can be the space to decide what movement feels good and satisfies your body.

The journey of mindful eating is lifelong and puts you in a position to evolve with the needs of your body while remaining curious. Tune into your body and allow yourself to enjoy food in a non-judgmental way that satisfies your soul. 

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