When clients come to me for advice about healthy eating, I first like to address their current eating habits and help them understand why they make the choices they make.
So how do we bring mindfulness to our eating habits? By shifting our focus from what we feel we “should” be eating (which immediately creates a certain level of anxiety, tension in the body and feelings of deprivation when we avoid what we crave), to bringing real awareness into how we make the choices we make.
Here’s my 5-step strategy for getting you started with a more mindful approach to healthy eating:
As with anything, it takes practice but, in the long-term, the rewards are so much greater than the stresses of yo-yo dieting.
1. What are the triggers?
Notice what’s going on around you when you feel that compulsive urge to go for the packet of biscuits (or whatever your thing is) and find yourself eating the whole lot.
2. What thoughts are you having?
When you feel the need to eat what you innately know isn’t going to nourish you, look at the thoughts you’re having in that moment. What is it about those biscuits that you think is going to make you happier?
3. What sensations do you feel in the body?
Are you feeling stressed, tense, anxious? Where in the body are you feeling that tension?
4. Observe without judgment!
Just notice what thoughts you’re having and the sensations in your body. Whether you still eat the biscuits or not doesn’t matter. Noticing and observing without beating yourself up is really the key at this stage.
5. Take action!
In that moment of awareness, ask yourself, am I really hungry … or am I actually just thirsty, bored, a bit stressed?
It’s in that moment that it becomes possible to respond differently to the triggers:
- Perhaps have a glass of water or a cup of tea instead;
- You may need to relax; taking a few full deep breaths and exhaling slowly for a minute or so immediately triggers the parasympathetic nervous system which so often will remove the reason for reaching for the biscuits in the first place;
- If it’s boredom, then put your trainers on and go for a power walk or run. Moving the body is one of the best ways to shift negative energy!
- Even if you wouldn’t normally write “stuff” down, we all know the power of seeing our goals written, so just jot down any observations, say, for a week. I’ve found this hugely helpful both personally and when coaching clients. Seeing a pattern emerge can so often bring about a lightbulb moment.
Understanding why we make the choices we make, is a fast-track way to implementing long-term changes to any patterns of behaviour as we are empowered to respond positively rather than react in an unconscious negative way.
Bring a degree of mindfulness to your eating habits for a week and notice the difference. And if this post interests you, please check out our other Mind Matters posts here on Integrated Wellbeing.
With love and wellbeing wishes,