Trust is an absolutely essential nutrient if you want a relaxed and peaceful relationship with food and eating. Your body & mind will be so much less stressed when it feels like it’s being listened to, and respected. We spend countless hours trying to over-ride body signals, controlling cravings, searching for answers when actually you already have everything you need. I know, I’ll never be a millionaire lol!
Learning to trust yourself is a process. You’ll need to have courage, you’ll need to be patient and compassionate. All of these might not come easily at first, but can be strengthened with practice and support. Our brain is incredible, and we’re able to actually change our neural pathways through the way we speak to, and treat ourselves. When we start to treat ourselves as human beings worth listening to, we’re better able to tune in to the signals that help us know when to eat, when to slow down and when to stop. It’s not perfect, but neither are we! When we keep curiosity and compassion front of mind, we can approach this with a brave heart and mind, and be willing to play around a bit in the shallow end before making our way to the deep end (with credit to the wonderful Aaron Flores for this analogy – I love it!).
Trust begins with a willingness to try. A willingness to stuff it up. A willingness to stay curious. And stay present. It’s absolutely the #1 key to finding contentment with food and your body.
Anyone have a dog? I was thinking that the practice of formal mindfulness (meditation) is like training our brain similarly to the way we would a pup – we don’t want them running all over the place, piddling everywhere and going bananas, nor do we hold them on such a tight leash that there’s no room to move.
Instead, we might train dogs (or is it called “canine behaviour shaping?” lol) by using gentle but firm and consistent techniques like this:
(dog goes wandering, like our mind does)
good dog. Read More
And ….repeat. Our minds naturally wander (we’re human!) but the real skill in mindfulness practice is in noticing the wandering off, then gently and non-judgementally coming back to the present moment. And doing that again, and again, and again for as long as you wish. You might like to use the dog analogy, calling yourself gently when you realise you’ve wandered off. And did you know that the moment you notice you’ve wandered off, you’re actually being mindful? Go you!
As you’re probably aware, we’re pretty into mindfulness. Why? Because we see with our own eyes (and hear others’ experience with our own ears) that it makes a big difference to the relationship people have with food, eating and their body. That, with practice, mindfulness helps bring more calm, and less chaos, which opens to door to making choices from a place of self care, respect and compassion. We practice mindfulness ourselves too (because we’re big believers in practising what you preach!) and have found it instrumental in holding steady when life throws all kinds of things at us. As life has a tendency of doing right?
Luckily for us, research has shown that mindfulness (by way of formal or informal practices) can improve health and wellbeing, specifically depression, anxiety, relationships, immune system and general life satisfaction. With regards to eating, mindfulness can support you to have a much more calm and considerate approach to your eating behaviour so when things don’t go the way you’d prefer, mindfulness can help us not drop our bundle but come back to a kind and compassionate approach which helps us ride the waves of life experience. Bringing attention to body sensations also supports us to be able to be responsive to our own appetite rather than looking outside of ourselves for what/when/how to eat (except for medical reasons).
Each and every human has an enormous amount of wisdom, and mindfulness can help us reconnect with what is most helpful at any one point in time.
Come, sit, stay. Repeat. Good dog Rex! *woof*
Breaking news! A whole new set of Vitamins has been discovered that can nourish our bodies and minds, support a better body image and help us make peace with food. No gimmicks! No fads! Just real results that you won’t believe! Kate* , 42 from Melbourne says “I must admit, I was a bit skeptical, but once I started taking the Body Positive Wellbeing Vitamins, I couldn’t believe the transformation! I’m now much happier, confident and feel awesome going out. My kids don’t recognise me, and my husband is so proud……thanks Body Positive Wellbeing Vitamins!”
These vitamins have remained hidden by the manipulative veil of the dieting and weight loss industry, but health experts are now able to reveal that, in fact, we’ve all been duped and there are many ways to enjoy wellbeing that doesn’t involve counting calories, caning ourselves in the gym or speaking badly about our bodies.
*name changed for privacy reasons
In other news, water is wet and Usain Bolt is quite a fast runner.
We’re calling this a #foodreboot and invite you to take a look at how you can get your daily dose of these essential vitamins (for the once-only price of……free!). Wellbeing is about SO much more than what you eat, how you move your body etc., but when we ignore the myriad of factors that can REALLY make a difference, we miss oppportunities to connect with life in a way that’s really meaningful.
So to get us started, we’ll reveal Vitamins A through to E – scientists and wellbeing experts are still working on the rest but stay tuned on Facebook HERE and Instagram @themindfuldietitian as more life-changing nutrients are revealed! As a bonus offer (for the once-only price of…..free!), you’ll enjoy the peace of mind that there’s not a one-size fits all approach and that having a more positive and relaxed relationship with food does not come with a meal plan #sorrynotsorry 😉
Vitamin A: ADVENTURE
Nah, we’re not getting all nerdy on you, we’re changing things up and as of today, your daily dose of Vitamin A = ADVENTURE
You don’t need to climb Mt Everest for a bit of adventure! Spicing things up with your food and eating experiences (literally, if you wish!) can reignite interest, joy and connection with foods that help feel genuinely good. Ask yourself “how much am I enjoying the meals I‘m eating at the moment?” If things are feeling a little dull, that’s a red flag for you. You’re more likely to eat habitually or reactively if you’re not enjoying your food which can compound difficulties you may already be having with eating, or other things in your life.
Feel like some inspiration? You could try:
– a new recipe (I love Super Food Ideas or www.taste.com.au)
– a new take on an old fave (such as Sarah’s Mexican lasagne*)
– a new restaurant, take-out, or food truck
– a different eating location eg. picnic
*Sarah’s Mexican Lasagne
Basic bolognese recipe, add burrito/fajita seasoning
Cheese, spinach, capsicum, corn (go wild with your own additions here!)
Alternate layers of “mexican bolognese” with wraps and other ingredients in a deep, round pie dish (similar to lasagne layering)
Top with grated cheese
Serve with sour cream, guacamole, salsa or your own choice of toppings
Vitamin B = BRAVE
Your daily dose of Vitamin B is no longer Thiamin, Riboflavin and Niacin (although those are quite handy for energy!), but instead we invite you to explore how you can get a daily dose of BRAVERY.
Bravery is being willing to step into a space of discomfort, it’s about taking risks without being certain of the outcome, it’s about trust, and faith and most of all it’s about moving in the direction of the things in life that are truly meaningful to you whilst acknowleding that things in life don’t always turn out the way we would wish.
A brave eater is one who is willing to step into an uncomfortable place (such as eating more, or eating a wider variety of foods, or attempting some intervention strategies with binge eating), without knowing exactly how things will turn out. A brave eater is one who is willing to trust, or develop trust, to have a more positive relationship with food.
It takes a VERY brave person to acknowledge that what they’ve been doing (particularly if it’s been for a long time) isn’t working out so well. It takes a sh$tload of courage to turn away from the dominant dieting and weight-focussed paradigm to stand courageous in your own truth, in the body you have now. To nourish yourself from a place of respect and care. And it IS possible. It’s definitely possible. But yes, you will need your dose of Vitamin B.
In practice, being brave with your eating means:
– turning away from dieting, or restrictive eating
– not engaging with diet, or weight loss chatter
– actively making efforts to change what you see on Social Media, changing your “feed” so to speak to make it more positive and helpful
– giving foods, or meals a go even if it feels scary
– seeking and using your existing supports
We are incredibly privileged to know so many very brave people. Our clients who gather courage every day to step away from dieting and body hatred, instead moving towards a more peaceful relationship with food, eating and their body. And our colleagues, who are working to shift the paradigm from weight, to wellbeing by persistently advocating for body positivity and size diversity, for providing services that compassionate and promote healing, and are spreading the body positive message, one person at a time. We admire, respect and salute you -every single one of you.
Happy Brave Day everyone!
Vitamin C – CONNECTION
Connection is one of the most important aspects of health, wellbeing and healing. It’s well documented that feeling connected, in a way that’s meaningful to you, promotes whole-body wellbeing. Through connection, we are reminded that we are not alone, or broken. It is from this place that we can find room for healing.
Connect with your food by:
Pausing just before you start eating
Sending out a little gratitude
Connect with your eating experience by:
Using all your senses to to pay attention to the aromas, flavours and textures of your meal
Stay calm & steady, gently reminding yourself to come back to your breath, or present moment experience.
Connect with yourself by honouring your body signals of hunger, fullness and the subtle cues in between.
And yes, it’s no mistake that “C” is also the essential nutrient in the background of this pic – CAFFEINE, fuelling RIPE Group Therapy since 2004 🙂
Vitamin D = DIVERSITY
When we search for the “one right way” we miss valuable learning opportunities about ways of eating, moving, resting and connecting that are most suitable for us (remembering that this can change over time, keeping us on our toes!). Your body, and your eating habits will change significantly over your years of life, and we have the option of celebrating this, rather than commiserating over inevitable change.
Let’s celebrate diversity by
– cultivating respect and appreciation of your unique body, and the bodies of others
– step back from criticising ourselves and others about perceived flaws
– opening our eyes to the deep beauty in diversity, much as we would do in nature. Who wants just one sort of tree? Nup!
– speak with our children, and other special people in our lives about diversity – that everyone’s different, and that’s a GOOD thing! Plus, everyone is human and we treat everyone with respect.
– cleaning out your social media feeds that show you only one type of body, or before/after photos. Basically anything that imprints the “one good body” in your brain or makes you feel bad.
And most importantly, really contemplating the idea (I don’t mean a fleeting thought, I might sit down and think about it) that there is no one right way to eat that leads to best health, or a certain body. There isn’t. And the sooner you can let go of this, the better. Then you can move on, listen to YOUR body, and find out what helps you feel as good as possible.
We do not have to fall hook line and sinker for our cultures harping on about diet and bodies, We’re all capable of making our own decisions about what we do with your bodies. You can heal. And although this is certainly not a simple task if you’ve battled in your relationship with food, eating and your body, it is possible to move towards a place of greater peace.
In the absence of REAL Vitamin D here in Melbourne today (come back sunshine!!!), take a look around and absorb some diversity today.
VITAMIN E = EMBRACE *ALL FOODS*
Embracing all foods is about developing the skills (yes, it takes practice) to lean into the idea that there’s no such thing as “good” or “bad” foods. Here’s my little litmus test with regards to food choices:
Helping me feel good, and get my shit done?
Yes? Great. No? Time to re-evaluate. And at the end of the day it’s#yourfoodyourbusiness
Ask yourself – Are food rules helping you feel better, helping you get where you want to go in life? What are you missing out on because of all the time, energy and brain space spent planning, counting, berating, name-calling etc?
Embracing all foods is about becoming more flexible, and connected with your eating experiences. But we totally get that moving in this direction isn’t easy-peasy (which I wrote about here):
Embracing *all foods* is about choosing foods that help you feel good. If you have a health or medical condition where certain foods help, or don’t help you feel good, then that’s part of managing your wellbeing. For example, I don’t tell someone with a nut allergy to “embrace ALL foods!” without being respectful of a medical condition. Same with Coeliac Disease or anything that needs to be managed with specific dietary modifications. And everyone is so different – the choices you make at any one point in your life with simply reflect that – where you are in your life. Foods that help you feel good may or may not help others feel good, as vice versa.
Keep your eyes on your own plate. Eat for wellbeing, eat for joy. Eat for the stuff you gotta get done!!
Weight Watchers going Body Positive? We call bullshit!
Weight Watchers wants you to feel good about yourself *oh look…..a unicorn doing a jig!*
So – apparently Weight Watchers want to ‘end fat shaming’. In order to do this they’ve stuck some nude pictures of women into their shitty weight loss magazine. “While it’s great to shed a few pounds when you feel it’s necessary, it’s even more important to learn to love and embrace your body at any stage — flaws and all.” #ohpleasestop
So..erm…let’s get this straight:
You should love your body *but it would be better if it changed*
Love the skin you’re in *but only once said skin is trim, taught & bikini-ready!*
Appreciate what your body can do *but it’s more important what it looks like*
Appreciate your inner self *but not if you’re fat – lose the pounds first*
Treat your body well by exercising regularly, eating nutritious foods and avoiding crazy yo-yo diets *ummmmm riiiiight – irony much?*
Don’t feel you have to change for anyone *but us! Join our Lifetime Membership Program y’all!*Read More
Aaaaaand in other news, the coal industry is fighting for clean energy, and Hooters is gunning for feminism. Sorry Weight Watchers – we’re calling bullshit. You don’t get to make your money off the backs of body dissatisfaction and then claim to CARE! If you cared then do the right thing – close your doors. Fold the business. Donate your profits to eating disorder clinics around the world.
Don’t try and manipulate body positivity, mindful eating and other ideas that HAVE NOTHING to do with weight, or weight loss. At the very least – please get real because the veiled attempts at pretending you give a shit are really tiresome. Your advertising directly preys on people’s insecurities and promotes the idea that you’ll be happier and more confident by losing weight. You use fear of fat, and shame, to perpetuate the idea that we’re not enough as we are, we must change & that if we’re smaller, we’re better, more valuable, more worthy. Yours is a shame-based business that is built on the idea that smaller is preferred, and that controlling your food makes for a better person. It keeps the narrative alive that self worth is contingent on weight, shape and compliant eating behaviour. Whilst we’re keeping the focus on weight, we’re not really addressing the REAL reasons we’re not living the life we want, and deserve. Yep, you care. Clearly.
And obviously, you understand the issues around shame, and the body yeah? Your current slogan for WW Australia is “live larger in the smaller, healthier body.” Yep, clearly someone has a PhD in body politics to come up with that winner. YOUR WHOLE INDUSTRY IS BUILT ON BODY SHAME YOU MORONS.
Weight Watchers (and seriously, EVERY company,organisation, group and individual that is using Body Positivity to sell your shit), maybe instead you could invest in a company that promotes women to focus on the stuff that really matters and can make a positive contribution to the world – like equality, like education, like FKIN ANYTHING ELSE BUT DIETING AND WORRYING ABOUT THE BODY ? Geez..
Frankly, it’s downright insulting to genuine people who are dedicating their lives to building Body Positivity for it to be stolen by the dieting industry. It feels grubby, and very wrong. We agree on one thing (and one thing only) – that Body Positive IS AWESOME! But it does NOT belong in dietland. We see you. We call bullshit.
Feisty attitude brought to you by Louise Adams, Clinicial Psychologist & Director at Treat Yourself Well, Sydney and Fiona Sutherland, Accredited Practising Dietitian and Director, Body Positive Australia
If I could have a dollar every time someone (usually media!) asked me that question, I’d have enough pennies to throw three words at you – Bahamas. Hammock. Margarita.
The truth is, there is no one “best” diet that holds the exclusive claim of optimal health for any one person. Actually hang on, yes there is. The one that doesn’t drive you crazy, the one that keeps you connected to family and friends, having fun and feeling good (well, as good as humanly possible – we all get tired cranky, hormomal, injured and sick sometimes!).
Another way to put it is…..are your focussing so much on nourishing your body whilst neglecting your mind & soul? How do you feel when you eat foods that you enjoy, taste good, and you eat as much of it as you actually feel like at that time? Compared to eating food that might be nutritious but that’s not balanced with other foods that you enjoy, or choosing food that tastes like cardboard, only to end up eating *everything else* that isn’t cardboard? Read More
Your body AND your mind need to be attended to, need to be nourished, need to connect with pleasure and joy. It’s not about one taking over the other, it’s about taking the time and energy to consider both, and neglect neither. If you’re not sure where to start, a Non Diet Dietitian can help you. We have a list on our website here (throughout Australia).
Rediscover the joy of eating!
The day my first son was born, almost 7 years ago now, I’ll admit I felt a bit perplexed. Growing up in a family of girls, I was all a bit like…..huh? What on earth do I do with this little person? What do I say? How do I parent this little…..boy? I think the toilet seat goes down (mostly), but…..any other hints? Like most first-time parents, I made all the classic mistakes of reading too much and listening to too many people’s opinions rather than using my own intuition. And you know what was interesting? Knowing what I do for work (as a Dietitian and Mindful Eating specialist), people would say “well, thank goodness you won’t have to worry about all the food and body stuff….I mean…..you’ve got boys!” And, depending on who it was, I would either do one of those high-pitched nervy laughs you do when you’re caught off guard, or in my braver times saying “in my experience, anyone can feel good, or bad about their bodies. It’s not about gender….” Followed by a wave of anxiety as that truth hits home, and I wonder how on earth I’m going to support my kids to jump on – and stay on – the Body Positive bus. Read More
As my boys get older and I’m not longer the centre of their universes, I’ve had to really dig deep when it comes to body positive conversations, because if there’s one thing that I’m very, very sure of, it’s that the ways that we talk to the men in our lives can make a very valuable contribution to body positive conversations and building a culture of body respect for all people.
There’s no doubt that raising kids to be body positive – to respect their own bodies and those of others – is possibly one of the most valuable lessons we’ll teach as parents. Many people believe that body positive attitudes and behaviours are more important for little girls given that the incidence of eating disorders and dieting behaviour leans pretty heavily in that direction. It’s certainly true that women often bear the brunt of body shaming in our society, but that doesn’t mean that men escape unscathed. I’ve watched so many men suffer through horrible body shame, succumb to eating disorders, and live in a constant state of self doubt because they had been convinced their bodies were not good enough. And that’s the last thing I want for my sons.
We are all part of this mess of disordered relationships with food, eating and body, and we can all be part of the way forward so that our kids grow up to be respectful to themselves and others. Our sons also deserve to care for, and love their bodies just as much as our daughters. And to support the girls and women in their lives, actually ALL people in their lives, to have peace with their bodies.
I personally have 10 Body Positive messages which I try to integrate into conversations I have with my sons, and other boys and men in my life. (Of course, these are for everyone!)
- All bodies are valuable and worthy just as they are (regardless of shape or size)
- There are no bodies that are better than, or less than others
- Your body is your business – you can assert boundaries, and make your own decisions about your body
- Other people’s bodies are their business – they get to say what’s OK for them
- We cannot tell anything about someone else simply by looking at them – we can’t tell what they eat, how they move their body, how healthy they are, how intelligent they are etc.
- We do not “call names” about someone else’s appearance. Ever.
- We speak kindly about our own bodies. We speak kindly about other people’s bodies
- There are many things that make people special, unique and valuable. We make an effort to appreciate things about people that are not about appearance.
- Being Body Positive is not about being, or achieving a certain body shape, or gender. It’s for everyone.
- Everyone can make a difference. Yes, you can too!
I want my sons to hear these messages loud and clear because unfortunately we live in a culture that holds all bodies to truly impossible ideals of beauty and perfection; because of this, we all have to be ready to combat body shame. I want my sons to grow up feeling good about themselves just as they are without feeling like they have to change anything to feel like a more valuable person, and I want him to one day be able to feel good about himself as a teen, then as an adult. Being Body Positive myself is something I can show him through my own role modelling – little eyes and ears see and hear everything (which is a bummer when swearing just slips out!)
I want my sons to grow up feeling good about themselves just as they are without feeling like they have to change anything to feel like a more valuable person
Throughout life, my boys are going to meet many people, who are going to have all different bodies. Unless we’re able to contextualise the messages they receive from our culture, and inject plenty of Body Positive in there, they might think that it’s OK to treat people differently based on their appearance. They might get the idea, for example, that it’s OK to tease another kid for their appearance. They might think it’s OK that women alter their bodies to be more pleasing to men, or other women. I want them to be brave in the face of a dilemma with peers. To stand up for what’s right. To be fierce when everything I’ve taught them is being challenged. Beyond anything else, my number 1 goal is to raise my sons to be respectful, kind and compassionate human beings.
At every opportunity, I also try to talk about Body Positive with my husband who has been raised in this culture and, like me, is still learning about how we can work as a team to raise Body Positive kids. We don’t always get it right. We aim to be respectful and compassionate towards family and friends who are also part of this difficult culture, and set boundaries around conversations as much as we can whilst maintaining positive relationships with those we value. We have family and friends who live in diverse body shapes and we want to make it crystal clear that people are no more than, or less than, because of their body.
In all honesty, it’s not easy. Combatting such a strong culture never is. But if I’m going to live and breathe Body Positive, then I have to give my boys the best chance to not be part of the problem, but be active participants in the solution.
Is food and eating a source of joy, or angst? Calm, or stressed? Just a passing event, or something that completely rules your day? If you’re having a difficult relationship with food and eating, chances are you’ve tried all sorts of things in an effort to help yourself feel better (whatever that means to you). You may have tried different diets, scoured the internet for that one piece of information that you didn’t know, or spent hours reading books and articles. Only to still end up feeling frustrated and chasing your tail. When you’ve tried every strategy or solution that’s out there and things still don’t feel calm, maybe it’s not you. Maybe it’s the dieting, maybe it’s your relationship with food, and your body. Maybe there’s another way to heal? Read More
The good news is it is possible to enjoy a more relaxed and peaceful relationship with food and eating that doesn’t involve cutting out “just this one food!”, counting, measuring or controlling. Instead, we suggest that you start from the inside, the place where your wisdom & intuition resides. When we privilege knowledge over wisdom, we lose the ability to tune into what our body needs and wants, we lose the ability to trust ourselves, to nourish ourselves from a place of respect and care. Instead, we try to “think” our way through it, which disconnects us from body cues and the ability to make mindful, in-the-moment choices which truly honour our body.
I have broken down this process into a number of steps, and what you’ll notice is that mindfulness is a theme at each step. Please note that when you’re in a highly stressed or anxious state, this process is likely to be more difficult to enact. So, my suggestion is that you aim to practice when you’re in a relatively calm state, just to get those mindfulness & wisdom muscles firing when you need them most!
Step 1: Take a mindful & deliberate pause, making an intentional decision to be present.
So much of what we do, particularly the process of eating, is mindless and automatic. We might eat habitually, eating when we’re not hungry or not eating when in fact we are hungry. We might reach for food, eat it, and even finish it before we’ve even realised what’s happening!
So the first step would be to take a mindful pause, making it deliberate and intentional. Our aim is to place our attention very carefully & specifically on this moment, with the intention to hold it gently & with curiosity. Be aware of any judgement or criticism, and let it go (you’ve tried it before….. I promise being harsh & critical won’t help you!).
Step 2: Take 1 deep breath, gently taking your attention inwards.
Take our attention into your body (using a brief whole body scan, it can just be quick, a few seconds). Again, we’re taking a deliberate action here, one which opens up possibilities and true choice. We making the conscious choice about whether to eat, or not.
Pause, and take a few seconds to check in with your body.
Ask yourself these questions…
Am I hungry? Am I full? Or am I neither?
How hungry/full am I (quick 1-10 scan, 1 being most hungry, 5 being “neutral” or neither full nor hungry, 10 being most full), see pic below for a guide
What would truly nourish me in this moment? Is it food? Or something else?
Step 3: Make a choice – eat, or don’t eat.
Make your choice from a place of kindness, commitment & acceptance. You are in charge and are capable of making a choice based on your needs, wants and desires. You may realise that your body does need nourishment (see guide below) and it’s time to eat, or you may realise that in fact you’re not really hungry but there’s something else going on. So you’re at a “fork” (sorry, pun intended!) in your road. Let’s keep exploring……
Step 4: What kind of food is it that I want?
If you’ve decided to eat, aim to place deliberate awareness on the choices in front of you. You may have multiple choices, or limited choices. This is the point where you turn to your body, rather than your mind, to guide you. This is also be point where your mind might jump in with all the usual rules, regulations, threats or just “old stories” that seem to pop up.
How do I make a choice by listening to my body?
First of all, aim to let go of expectations or that there’s a “right” answer. There’s not. You are free to find foods that feel like a good “match” for how you’re feeling now. I encourage you to view this all an experiment, where you are free to explore options. Free of rules and regulations, you are much more likely to be able to figure out what feels good to you. It’s much more important to make a decision with your whole heart than it is to make the “right” decision. It’s perfectly OK to make mistakes (or “oopsy!” as I call it, you can make it lighthearted if you wish?), it’s all part of learning. We don’t shame children for having accidents when they’re learning to use the bathroom, and this is a process of learning about our body signals too.
Before you reach for any food, take a few seconds just to breathe, which can help you make a choice from a clear & calm place. Consider the options available to you. It might be helpful to quickly run through the major attributes of food such as sweet/savoury, crunchy/smooth, hot/cold?
Then, take charge, and let go of second guessing or doubting your choice. Let go of giving yourself a hard time, or beating yourself up about the choice you’ve made. Reflect on how it’s helped you in the past, or not? Giving yourself a hard time just takes away the joy of eating, so aim to notice if those thoughts are creeping in, then aim to gently remind yourself to let them go so you can focus on the taste of your food.
Step 5: Savour your meal. Be present and enjoy it!
Bring your full awareness to your meal, or particularly your first bite (see here for an explanation of the “1 Mindful Bite” activity). Engage with all the sensations and eat with your full attention.
For many of us, we get so busy that we’re not present with our food. We’re thinking about something happening in the future, something that’s already happened, making to-do lists or drifting off into fantasy. These experiences can leave us full of food, but yearning for something more fulfilling, which is when we might reach for more food, feeling that we are unsatisfied. And most often, this just leaves us more full, more uncomfortable and less fulfilled.
When we connect with the experience of eating, we’re able to enjoy and notice all the experiences that are available to us. It’s not just about the food or meal itself, we can notice flavour, texture, the nuances of different sensations within the same mouthful. When we bypass these experiences, we can miss the opportunities for connecting with food and eating in a way that can be truly be fulfilling, and you are able to experience eating in a different way.
Step 6: Track your experience using appetite cues
This is often the toughest step, as we can have a tendency to move more into autopilot mode once we start a meal. Remember that these are opportunities for learning, rather than opportunities to find fault with yourself. Please take your time, and be kind.
As a practical suggestion, take a pause halfway through your meal just to check with yourself. The aim here is not to control anything, or reach for a certain outcome (eg. not finishing your meal) but just to remain in a curious frame of mind. Take a few breaths and check in with your body using the 1-10 scale. How are you feeling physically? Once you’ve found your number, ask yourself “what are the specific sensations that I’m picking up on that are telling me this number.” Remember that sensations part way through a meal are much more subtle, because you’re less likely to be really hungry, or really full, but somewhere in between. These are the specific signals you can build skills in picking up on, so you know when to slow down, and when to stop.
Make a choice – keep eating, or discontinue eating
See the suggestions in Step 3, because the principles are pretty much the same. There’s no right, or wrong. Sometimes you’ll hit the mark, sometimes it’ll be an “oopsy!” when you slightly, or more significantly under-shot, or over-shot your most comfortable point. There is no such thing as perfect mindful eating. The fact that you’re placing your attention on your cues is a fantastic task, in and of itself.
Step 7: Create space for non-judgemental reflection
Now that you’ve eaten as much food as you have chosen for now, take a few minutes to reflect – as always, with a spirit of openness, honesty and kindness. Beating yourself up at this point can block your ability to reflect mindfully, and you can miss critical opportunities for learning and growth.
How do you reflect? One suggestion is that you deliberately spend a few minutes after your meal placing attention on your experience, without judging. Did the meal satisfy you? How attentive were you through the meal? Did you enjoy the meal? And the eating experience? How does your body feel (scan 1-10)? Notice the experience of your body – did the combination of foods feel like a good match (particularly good if you have intolerances or a medical condition which is managed by diet)?
Notice whatever information comes to you. You may notice some judgement, or criticism. Aim to notice it, and gently step away, reminding yourself that you’re learning.
Step 8: Move on
This is the part that people find perplexing. My clients will often speak about the natural eaters in their lives with wonder, noticing that they seem to be able to “just move on” after a meal. This is what we’re aiming for too. For food and eating to be just one part (an enjoyable one!) of your day.
Move on to the next thing in your day. Do something that has nothing at all to do with food. For many people, this can be another tough step as we’re aiming to let go of repetitive thoughts around food, eating, body, rules etc. But you can move on; it gets less effortful over time and with practice.
When we’re trying to control our bodies, or weight, we become disconnected from our innate wisdom, the part of us that is so helpful when it comes to nourishing ourselves. Along with disconnection comes mistrust, and we may believe that the only way to feel good (read: our cultures very warped ideas about what bodies “should” look like) is to control our food, control our eating, control our bodies. But in releasing this control, we don’t become out of control, we become in charge. We step into a space that is rightfully ours to occupy. A place from where we can re-connect with the trust and wisdom that helps us truly be and feel nourished.
There is no one way of eating that holds the exclusive claim of health for everyone.
And beware of anyone who claims that there is, and rejects other ways or styles of eating as being “less than,” inferior or that somehow you just don’t care enough.
The truth is that what helps each of us be most healthy is very complex. The eating, exercise, rest & self-care behaviours & habits that best take care of one person is unlikely to be identical or necessarily best for someone else. Everyone has different reasons for their food and lifestyle choices, and that’s entirely their business, no one elses. For example, some may choose to align with a personal ethic eg. vegan, or medical eg. gluten free foods for those with coeliac disease, or to feed the mind & soul eg. chocolate for humans 😉
Does it help you feel physically good, and not worse?
Does it align with the way you choose to live your life?
Does it show respect for your body AND mind AND soul?
Does it connect you with others, rather than exclude you unnecessarily?Go for your on version of best health, whatever that means to you.
When it comes to eating, and change, we’re often in a big hurry. In our culture saturated with “quick fixes” it’s not hard to see why we’re led to believe that changing quickly is not only possible, but also highly desirable. But if you’ve been struggling with your relationship with food and eating for a while, you’ll understand that it’s not easy to shift into a more peaceful or relaxed gear around eating behaviours. Being more patient with your eating, and yourself, takes enormous courage. Our brains can develop strong neural pathways which can make it difficult to break away from habits, even those that we’re well aware are not helping us. The honest truth is that meaningful, sustainable change can take time, persistence & commitment to being compassionate and kind to yourself along the way. Because….y’know…you’re human! Read More
So let’s start with cultivating a sense of patience at mealtimes. Coming to a meal with a sense of peace and calm is a great way of caring for yourself and practising a patient sense of awareness as you notice your experiences. How patient do you feel that you are before the meal? During the meal? After the meal? How patient are you with others at the table?
If you notice that you’re anxious around mealtimes, you may it beneficial to develop a pre-meal mindfulness practice (it only needs to be a few minutes) so that you’re able to come to the meal more calm and relaxed. It’s very difficult to be patient when you’re stressed. One suggestion is that you can try to find a space out of the kitchen or “busy area” to take a handful of mindful breaths. Some people find it helpful to repeat a short phrase to themselves, such as “I am grateful for this meal” or “I can listen to my body….” (as it’s feeling more full from the meal) or simply “breathe….” (between bites of food). You might be interested in getting some new ideas for Mindful Meals from the Mindful Eating cards, which include 12 pre-meal meditations. Your digestive system will certainly thank you if you’re able to cultivate a little more calm, as will others at the table!
Being patient & calm can also help us create the space we need to see the choices in front of us and invite wisdom into the process. This is NOT about manipulating your food choice, or making a “right” choice, but about being able to slow down enough to be present & notice your experience rather than getting caught up in mindless chatter or habitual reactions. It is from this place that you’re able to make a wise choice that takes into account your needs and desires.
You can move towards being more patient with yourself & your eating behaviours by:
– Being more kind and compassionate towards yourself. This means recognising that you too are human, and as a human you are’t perfect. but you’re also not alone in your experience.
– Acknowledging that if this has been a difficulty in your life for a period of time, that finding a new way to relate to food might also take a while.
– Engaging in general mindfulness practice. This doesn’t have to be formal medtiation, although research shows that this can be very effective in settling down our mind. It can also just be bringing deliberate attention to any present moment in your day.
– Getting some good support. This might mean professional support, or personal support.
– Don’t compare yourself to anyone else’s journey. Given our culture of social media, it’s not easy to avoid hearing from and seeing what others are doing. Try to surround yourself (and your eyes!) with feeds and messages that nourish you rather than making you feel bad.
Try to see eating is not just another thing to “tick off” your list, or another annoyance that interrupts your day. Rather, aim to stop and pay respect to your food and eating as something worth your time, effort and energy. Be patient with yourself as you navigate the discomfort of doing it differently. You are being very courageous.