Dieting versus Mindful Eating
The American diet is in a very, very sad place. We are surrounded by fast food, processed food, and SO MUCH SUGAR.
Everywhere you look there are ads for and products of foods that are so foreign to the human body, yet in America we have become so accustomed to them.
Healthy eating has become so foreign in America that it is often confused with dieting. However, they are two very distinct ways of eating! Let’s look at the difference and some keys to healthy, mindful eating.
First, what is dieting?
Dieting has many different meanings. In America, the word is often attached to some form of restriction of food. Meaning eliminating certain foods, food groups, or calories.
Traditionally, dieting had a completely different meaning. The word diet comes from a Greek word meaning “way of life.” Meaning the way we eat is meant to be a LIFESTYLE.
A diet in American terms is in no way a lifestyle. Our body will burn out when being restricted and serious health consequences can follow.
So we have to first define what dieting means to us. We can decide if it means being restricted or if it means making our food choices part of our lifestyle.
What is mindful eating?
Mindful eating is making food choices keeping in mind the benefits of the food and what it does for the body, as well as consciously enjoying our food.
Mindful eating is in no way restrictive, but is intuitive to what the body needs (which is not loads of sugar, by the way).
Our bodies are very smart. They KNOW what they need and they also know what they have difficulty processing. Our job is to listen to our bodies to know what they need, as well as what our bodies do not like.
What can we do to eat more mindfully?
- Learn to listen to and be aware of your body
Listening to your body is the single most important thing you can do in healing your relationship with food. Our bodies are very smart and know what we need. When you listen to your body, it will tell you when it feels good or doesn’t feel good.
Of course, these signs are not just in how your stomach feels after eating (but of course that is an important factor). You also have to consider your energy, brain functioning, and mood. These factors are often not considered but are just as important as how your stomach feels after eating. After all, we are eating to thrive in our energy, brain, and mood, right?!
Learning to listen to your body is a process and takes time. Journaling what you eat and your symptoms (good and bad) after eating can be helpful in recognizing what foods your body does and does not like. After journaling for some time you will be more aware of how your body feels, as well as what foods your body does and does not like.
- Eliminate food intolerances
As you increase your awareness of how food impacts the body, you will learn what foods your body does not tolerate well.
When I started the process of eating more mindfully, I was surprised to see how much better I felt after eliminating my food intolerances. I started with gluten, because I knew this was a trigger food for many people. Within the first couple days I noticed a HUGE difference. I didn’t feel so bloated and sluggish. I had more energy and I felt great! I then started to limit dairy. This is something that I have “every once in a while” and my body does well as long as I’m not consuming it all the time.
Generally dietitians (of which I am not one) recommend an elimination diet to find what foods your body does well without. After a few weeks you start to reintroduce foods to see if your body can tolerate them. Don’t try eliminating entire food groups, as this can be damaging to the body.
- Detox from sugar
Our brains do not know the difference between sugar and drugs. I’m serious! Sugar effects the brain in the same way cocaine does. Sugar is addictive and we will automatically go for the less nutritious foods when we crave sugar constantly.
Sugar also impacts the brain like an addiction. Meaning, mindful eating is very hard when we are addicted to sugar.
At the beginning of my journey I was MAJORLY addicted to sugar. I am not kidding when I say I ate ice cream every day. And not always because I wanted it, but often because I felt like I needed it. When I started eliminating dairy, I noticed that addiction breaking (although it wasn’t easy). I felt less obsessed with getting my “fix” and more mindful about what was going into my body.
Sugar is a hard addiction to break when we are surrounded by it, but breaking the addiction is worth how your body will feel in the end.
- Change your “way of life”
Changing the way you see food is a helpful step in moving away from “dieting” to mindful eating. By way of life I mean changing the way we use food.
In America especially we use food for pleasure. It’s all about how good it tastes and how much we enjoy eating the food. Now I am NOT saying that food should not taste good or that we shouldn’t enjoy eating. But in order for food to work the way it was meant to, we have to take a step back from the pleasure and determine if the food is really benefiting us.
Of course we can still enjoy foods that aren’t as nutritious, but being aware of that choice and choosing more nutritious foods MOST of the time is what is important.
Once of the tools that has helped me on my journey to mindful eating is planning ahead of time. By this I do not mean spending hours in the kitchen on Sunday prepping all the food for the week.
Honestly, I HATE meal prepping! But I do like being prepared. So for me this looks like planning in my head what I am going to eat for the week and going to the grocery store to make sure I’m prepared for the week ahead.
Prepping does not have to be complicated or take hours. It just takes some effort.
America has really lost sight of what it means to eat mindfully. Healthy eating is now seen as dieting and that could not be farther from the truth.
Being mindful of what goes in our body can help us not only feel better in our bodies but increase energy, brain functioning, and mood.
We need more MINDFUL eating in America and it starts with a choice. The choice will always be worth it!
If mindful eating is something you struggle with, I have 5 open coaching spots for 1:1 health coaching in June. If you are interested, fill this form out and I will reach out with more info!