Think of that person in your life who eats whatever they want whenever they want and still maintains a healthy physique. That one person who eats when they’re hungry and stops when they’re full with ease. They don’t seem to deprive themselves of treats all while naturally having a healthy balance of foods. This is the life of an intuitive and mindful eater.
Although mindful and intuitive eating are interchangeable, they do mean slightly different things. Mindful eating is the non-judgemental process of paying attention to the eating experience with awareness of the subconscious reasons behind your hunger (emotions, comfort, schedule, habits, etc.) Intuitive eating, on the other hand, is a bit broader. It incorporates mindful eating practices while also emphasizing the relationship between the mind (emotions), body (fitness and healthy body weight), and food (eating for nourishment and pleasure).
Open your mind to mindfulness
Mindfulness is an innate human quality — the focused act of being present. However, with the rapid pace of modern life, its stressors and culture of convenience, our mind becomes overwhelmed takes flight, disconnecting with our body and its needs. Mindfulness visionaries like Jon Kabat-Zinn have been repaving the path and guiding people to reconnect with themselves through being genuinely present and experience the act of eating.
When’s the last time you multitasked while eating: working, watching tv, driving, reading, scrolling through your phone — with little awareness of what you actually ate? When we don’t pay attention to what we eat, we won’t feel satisfied and will only want more. Mindful eating is the practice of being aware of the nurturing aspects of food and understanding your inner impulses, without preconceived ideas or value judgments such as good vs. bad, healthy vs. unhealthy.
Interested in intuitive eating?
Intuitive eating relies on internal hunger and satiety cues; giving yourself unconditional permission to eat what you really want and need while addressing any underlying emotional reasons that motivate our eating. It embraces the mind-body connection while guiding eating behaviors back to our natural instinct. In their book Intuitive Eating, dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch describe the ten principles of intuitive eating that will guide you to becoming an intuitive eater.
- Reject diet mentality: Get rid of the inaccurate information and misguided hope of losing weight through a fad diet.
- Honor your hunger: Feed your body with enough nourishing food. Learn to honor your hunger and rebuild trust with your body.
- Make peace with food: Give yourself permission to eat. Telling yourself you should or shouldn’t have a particular food, can lead to deprivation and cravings.
- Challenge the food police: Say “no” to the guilty thoughts in your head that declare you’re “good” or “bad” because you ate something; they’ll eventually make you want to rebel.
- Respect your fullness: Really listen to your body’s signals that tell you that you’re no longer hungry and that it’s time to stop eating.
- Discover the satisfaction factor: Embrace the pleasure of the eating experience. When you eat what you want, in an environment that is inviting, it will help you feel satisfied and content.
- Honor your feelings without using food: Find ways to comfort, nurture, distract, or resolve emotional issues (good or bad) without using food.
- Respect your body: Accept your body and the weight where it naturally feels and functions the healthiest.
- Exercise to feel the difference: Shift your focus from the calorie burning effect of exercise to how your body feels when you workout. It’ll help you be more motivated to move.
- Honor your health: Gently use nutrition to guide your food choices. Honor what you want to eat while focusing on what lends you a feeling of wellness.
Above all, love and respect your genetics, background, and the body you’re born with. A person with a size eight shoe would not expect to squeeze into a six, it’s unrealistic to have the same expectations when it comes to your body shape or weight.
The path to presence
There will be bumps and detours on the road to becoming an intuitive and mindful eater, but with practice, you’ll learn to recognize your body’s natural needs and find freedom in the eating experience. The key is to be patient with yourself and enjoy the process of building a stronger mind-body connection while improving your relationship with food at the same time. Mindful and intuitive eating complement one another and when used in tandem, they can help you find peace with most aspects of eating.
- Sitting down: Enjoy the food in front of you. The simple act of having a dedicated space to eat allows you to focus fully on your food. Make a ritual out of mealtime.
- Turning off or silencing devices: Eat and only eat. Take time to relax and enjoy the food without any distractions or interruptions from electronic devices.
- Taking a moment: Take 2-3 deep breaths before beginning a meal. Appreciate the food you have to eat by saying a small gratitude prayer.
- Activating all of your senses: Be aware of the look, smell, textures, flavors, and even sounds of your food. Experience the five fundamental tastes (bitter, sweet, salty, sour and umami) and note which one is more prevalent.
- Cooking: Whether you’re a novice in the kitchen or a culinary master, preparing food gets your brain and body ready to welcome nourishment.
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