This guest post was written by Liz Higgins, dietetic intern. Thanks Liz!
We are all creatures of habit, and our busy schedules make it challenging to change our routines. This is especially true when it comes to food and eating. But, change is possible. Here are a few simple tips to help on your journey to a positive relationship with food.
- Target your food triggers
Food triggers are the sights, sounds, smells, thoughts, feelings, and emotions we have that make us crave certain foods. Maybe you have a bad day at work and can’t resist the drive-thru window on your way home, or a heaping bowl of pasta when you’re bored. Whatever our triggers are, they usually end up with us eating for reasons other than physical hunger.
By identifying our own trigger foods, we become more aware of our cravings and can plan ahead so that we respond to these cravings with nutritious, wholesome food. To help you target your trigger foods, we suggest starting with this free Mindful Eating Journal (coming soon!).
- Make small goals
Our relationship with food develops over time. Our food likes and dislikes change over time, and we can’t expect to completely change this relationship overnight. Instead, focus in on one thing you’d like to change. Maybe you’re going to eat leafy greens each day, have a smoothie for breakfast, prepare your veggies ahead of time, or step away from your desk while you eat. It’s great to be motivated, but research shows that sticking to small, simple, realistic goals is more effective for making bigger changes in our lives (here).
What are your mindful eating goals? Take some time to brainstorm what these might be. Then, hone in on goal that you think is top priority. How are you going to achieve this goal? What supports do you need? How long will it take? How will you know when you’ve accomplished it?
- Accept your eating habits
Like learning to ride a bike, learning to eat mindfully takes time, patience, and lots of practice. You will likely begin to notice the many facets of your life that are affected by food: social occasions and family celebrations to work or study break rewards. In today’s food environment, we tend to label foods as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’ for health. This can bring a lot of shame and guilt over eating certain foods. However, there can be a time and place for all types of food in your life.
Take a look at your own food habits, and then forget about them. Recognize that there is no ‘perfect’ way to eat. Instead of trying to control what you eat, be in charge of how you eat. Mindful eating can even improve your eating habits. As you become more present while you eat, your food choices may even begin to change (here).
But Does the Mindful Eating approach really work?
The quick answer: probably. A recent review of all studies measuring the effects of mindful eating showed positive effects on eating behaviours 86% of the time. This meant improvements in binge eating, reduced emotional eating, less external eating, and better weight outcomes (here).
What we do know, it that mindful eating brings a deeper appreciation for our food and the positive effects that it brings. Food is much more than just energy for our bodies. Food can help improve our health and minds, bring us closer to others, and connect us to our environments.
Most importantly, mindful eating can help us to override negative thoughts about our bodies and weight. We internalize media portrayals of thinness and beauty less. We learn to love- and nourish- ourselves. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?