One of the most common reasons people attempt a lifestyle change is to improve their nutrition and health. Unfortunately, many people undertake drastic changes they simply cannot sustain. Mindful eating is a gentle approach that can lead to sustainable changes for lasting improvements in your nutrition and health – the only kind that really matter! This article gives you seven mindful eating strategies that help you eat better!
A restrictive diet backfires
Be careful! These days, “lifestyle change” is often code for restrictive rules about your eating (as in “avoid sugar,” “don’t eat bread,” and so on). Unless you have a serious allergy, these drastic changes may be temporarily attainable, but are not sustainable (even if you have diabetes).
If you’ve tried a restrictive diet to improve your health, you’ve probably experienced the resulting feelings of deprivation and cravings. These often lead to the rebound effect of overeating the ingredients or foods you were trying to limit in the first place.
Mindful eating is a far more flexible approach based on awareness of all the factors that go in to deciding what to eat.
I get it! “Eat what you love” may sound like a scary idea at first!
Scary or not, all Am I Hungry? mindful eating programs are based on a “non-diet” approach. But until you’ve tried it, you may be afraid that without rules, you “won’t eat healthy.”
You might not. At first. After all, it makes sense you would crave the foods you’ve been depriving yourself of. It’s like holding your breath… of course you will gasp for air when you are finally able to.
But as you learn our non-restrictive, fearless, mindful way of making decisions about eating, just the opposite is true! I like to say, when guilt is no longer a factor, common sense prevails!
Am I Hungry? strategies that help you eat “better”
I know that not following dietary rules may sound too good to be true. But if one of your goals is to “eat better,” here are seven strategies you’ll learn about in Am I Hungry? mindful eating programs that help (along with reminders about where to find out how to do it in Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat).
1. Set your intention.
Mindful eating is eating with intention and attention. Assuming your intention is to feel great, think of dietary changes as choices you make in order to feel your best both short and long term (rather than some externally applied diet you can’t sustain).
Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat Chapter 6: Mindful Eating
2. Consider what your body needs.
When deciding what to eat, ask yourself three questions:
- What do I want?
- What do I need?
- What do I have?
The question “What do I need?” is about acknowledging your personal health needs, including medical issues, allergies and reactions, family history, and health goals.
Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat Chapter 5: Fearless Eating
3. Use nutrition information as a tool, not a weapon.
Don’t use nutrition information to deprive or punish yourself! Nutrition knowledge is helpful for making decisions, but it is not the only criteria for deciding what to eat.
Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat – Chapter 10: Rediscover Food
4. Balance eating for nourishment with eating for enjoyment.
There is room in your diet for foods eaten for pleasure! In fact, regularly including foods you love makes it less likely that you will overeat those foods because you ran out of willpower. While it may seem counter-intuitive, when you are free to eat whatever you want, food loses the power it had over you, so you don’t even need willpower! As a result, your choices are likely to be more balanced instead of “all of nothing.”
Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat – Chapter 5: Fearless Eating
5. Don’t miss the lesson.
One of the many benefits of mindful eating is that your awareness helps you make connections between what and how much you eat and how you feel—as well as how you feel and what or how much you eat! This direct feedback is very helpful for making changes in order to feel good, not to be good.
Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat – Chapter 7: Just Right
6. Recognize and address your non-hunger triggers for eating.
When a craving doesn’t come from hunger, eating doesn’t really satisfy it. By learning to meet your other needs in more effective ways, you are able to improve your overall well-being.
Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat – Chapter 4: What Am I Really Hungry For? (and Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat for Binge Eating)
7. Eating is for fueling living.
In our food-abundant, diet- and weight-obsessed culture, eating occupies too much of our time, attention, and energy. Your were born with the instinctive ability to eat enough food to fuel your life. Learning how to get back to that place where you can trust your ability to manage your eating without a bunch of rules supports a pattern of eating that you can sustain almost effortlessly.
Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat – Chapter 8: Self-Care Buffer Zone
If you want to “eat better” for the long run, learn to eat what you love fearlessly and love what you eat mindfully!
This article was updated from a previous version.
(This is part of series of articles about making dietary changes without feeding the Restrictive Eating Cycle. The first article, A Diet by Any Other Name is Still a Diet, explored the idea that when people make a voluntary change in their eating in the name of “health” without mindfulness, they may find themselves hyperfocused on food with less energy left to focus on living the healthy life they set out to achieve. The second article, Mindful Eating with Health Issues: What If I Can’t Eat What I Love?, addresses the concerns people have about mindful eating when they have medical or health concerns. This article applies mindful eating strategies that help you eat better from the Am I Hungry? mindful eating programs.)
If you enjoyed this article, here are three more to help you:
A Diet by Any Other Name is Still a Diet
Mindful Eating with Health Issues: What If I Can’t Eat What I Love?
How to Stop Using Exercise as Punishment for Eating