This Food Philosophy blog post series is in partnership with Cece’s Veggie Noodle Co. A company that embodies the same healthy living values as me. I am so proud to work with companies that are aligned with my brand and love veggies as much as me 🙂 I hope you enjoy this post!
Practicing mindful eating is one of the most important ways I was able to reduce my anxiety around food. I went from fearing each and every meal to finding joy and freedom with my food choices. This process has been a long time coming and is by no means perfect.
Before I dig deeper, let’s me take a step back and share some context.
When I was a kid, I used to be scared that I would not be full enough after a meal. I used to think that if I did not have the super FULL feeling that it wasn’t enough. Every day, I overate to the point of physical pain. I’m talking about eating 6 pieces of bread before I even ordered dinner! I did this for years! I was a super late bloomer and I milked my little girl metabolism for a very long time. As I grew into my late teens and early 20s, puberty finally started to catch up to me. Then, the opposite happened. I had become scared of getting too full. I was worried to go to dinners because I wouldn’t be able to control myself. I put these crazy ideas in my head that dinners out – whether at a restaurant or at friends – would automatically result in a night of overeating and stomach pain. I would get very anxious about things like this. That anxiety just caused me to overeat. Every. Single. Time. I felt horrible and angsty. Plus, this was also the peak of my cardio obsession and subsequent uncontrollable appetite. You can imagine how hard it was for me to avoid that feeling. The worst part was — if I got too full it would affect my mood. A lot. This negativity trickled into my relationships and my ability to have self-love.
This went on for a long time. And sometimes, I still feel traces of it here and there, but for the most part, I have been able to use mindful eating to hinder this cycle. Mindful eating is the idea of being very aware and present during meals. In the past, there were only 2 categories of eating for me – getting too full and not getting too full. These states would dictate everything! Mindful eating really opened my eyes up to all the other feelings that food brings me (good and bad) and the awareness of how it is working in my body and for my body. Today, I am going to share some of my tips and tools that I use daily to eat mindfully.
1| Eat because you are hungry, not emotional.
This seems insanely simple and that is because it is. We often confuse hunger with other emotions. When we get stressed, we eat. When we get anxious, we eat. When we feel sad, we eat. When we get excited, we eat. When we get tired, we eat. There is a difference between these emotions and actual hunger. I am not saying that we cannot have emotional reactions to food – because that is what brings us pleasure! Of course, if we’re going to our favorite restaurant we can feel excited about the food! That’s great – there is nothing wrong with that. But it is really taking a step back to see if the feeling is causing you to eat to fill an emotional void. Hunger is when your body physically and biologically needs nourishment. It takes a moment of pause and internal listening to tell the difference. Differentiating between the emotional hunger and the physical hunger is a practice of mindfulness that I call body listening. This habit takes time and practice to adopt. It is human nature to eat in response to an emotion and it is absolutely okay, but I encourage you to acknowledge it – mindfully – and think about the cause. Isolate your emotions and think about what you can do to get in touch with those emotions. The food is not the answer.
2| Eat without distractions.
Have you ever looked down at your plate and said to yourself “holy ish – when did I eat all of that? I know I have. That is because we are often eating in addition to doing a hundred other things at the same time. Checking our phones, watching TV, driving in the car, walking to a meeting, or plowing through emails at 12:01pm. I can’t tell you how many times I have had lunch and spent the entire time scrolling on Instagram, texting friends, or capturing content. In those moments, we are not present with our food. Our minds are elsewhere like other people’s social media posts, missed calls and that text from your mom. This makes it hard for us to really be aware of how our physical and emotional body is reacting to the food we are consuming. If you can, just for a few minutes during a meal, PUT IT AWAY. If you have to take pictures – do that before you eat and then take a second to get present with your food. Chew it. Taste it. Enjoy it!
3| Eat until you are satisfied.
For so long I didn’t even know what satisfaction felt like. Eating was always associated with being too full and stomach aches. My anxiety with food made me uneasy when eating, and in turn, I would eat SO FAST. Eating too fast gave me stomach aches and the cycle went on! Plus, I grew up in a house of superfast eaters. I would not even process I was full until I had already overdone it. It is the worst feeling! Again, slowing down and being in tune with how the food is making you feel is so key. We are on autopilot so much of the day and doing 1000 things at once – let’s all try to stop the chaos when we eat. It is really a time to enjoy and do something good for our bodies.
4| Embrace mindful indulgences.
Mindful indulgence. This is a term I use all the time with my clients. Let me explain. When we are in the cycle of diets and restriction – we become scared of the “bad stuff”. Things like cake, cookies, pizza, and wine. The truth is – most people cannot go forever without eating those things. Indulgent foods are part of our lives it is OKAY to enjoy them in moderation. BUT- do so mindfully. What do I mean by that? Have that piece of cake, the glass of wine or pizza when you are out for your birthday dinner. Enjoy it. Mindfully enjoy the sweetness, saltiness and other pleasure signals it gives to you. Take it in. Then stop, put the fork down. Quit while you’re ahead. Keep that positive association in your mind. Don’t let the guilt create a fear and hate of those foods. Acknowledge you indulged and be aware that it is okay to experience that pleasure. Nothing bad is going to happen, you are not going to wake up fat and your jeans will fit just fine tomorrow. The problem is so many of us take a single indulgence as an excuse to go HAM on it all. I have done that countless times and it personally leaves me feeling sick, but most importantly it makes me feel sad and guilty. That is the opposite or mindful eating.
So next time you sit down for a meal – get present – and ask yourself:
- How is this food making me feel right now?
- Am I physically hunger or eating in response to an emotion? If so, what is that emotion telling me about my life right now?
- Am I presently enjoying how this food tastes, the texture, and the flavor profiles?
- Am I focusing on my food or external stimulation? Try to eliminate the later for even just a few minutes during a meal.
- Am I full? How long does it take me to get full? Have I given myself enough time to digest?
- Am I satisfied with the indulgent food I have consumed? Did it give me pleasure or did it make me feel guilty?
These tools have allowed me to tune in mindfully into my body and presently determine how food is making me feel. These are not tools that can start working for you overnight. As anything in mindfulness, it takes practice! Practice. Practice. Practice. It will not be linear and perfect. Respect and honor your own process and above anything else, try your best!
A huge part of my mindful eating process has been adopting a diet of real food that makes me feel good. That includes a plethora of nutritious vegetables that work really hard for my body. Vegetables like zucchini, beets and sweet potatoes! I love them all -, especially in noodle form! I also love that Cece’s Veggie Noodle Co makes eating vegetable fun and accessible. To me, they are a brand that represents and values healthy living – something my brand also stands for! Thank you to Cece’s for sponsoring this post.