Mindful Eating – Who are you as an eater?

Are you worried about your weight or health in general? If you have not been able to get to or maintain the weight you want, it might more about HOW you eat versus WHAT you eat?

Sound silly? Believe it or not, the subjective experience of eating has a LOT to do with nutrition as the food itself. For many people, women and men included, the experience around eating is defined by struggle.

The field of eating psychology has shown us that metabolism is not only impacted by the quantity or quality of food we eat, but also by our thoughts and emotions ABOUT the food. You probably have heard about “emotional eating” (e.g. eating a pint of Ben and Jerry’s after a break up) but what about the entire context of your experience in general day after day, year after year?

If we want to gain deeper understanding of our relationship with food, we first need to look at how we label food and ourselves when we eat it. There is no question certain foods have more or less benefit for the body, but no food is inherently good or bad. Despite this truth, we are taught that the only way to lose weight is to eat only “good” food and avoid the “bad” food or eat less in general. Believe it or not, however, even the “cleanest” eater on the planet can have a difficult time with weight loss and achieving desired health goals.

Have you ever noticed you settle into a comfortable weight during times in your life when you aren’t stressed or worrying so much about food?

There is science behind this! Believe it or not, every negative, judgmental or anxious thought we have is registered in the brain as stress and creates subsequent stress chemistry in the body. When we are stressed the body, including the digestive and metabolic processes in the body, literally shut-down and a hormone called cortisol is produced. Cortisol is great for getting stuff done at work on a short time line, but it’s also responsible for storing more fat and halting the production of lean mass (i.e. muscle). You may also see elevated levels of insulin and decreases in thyroid hormone, which also decreases calorie burning efficiency, energy, and disruption to your digestive system (think gas, bloating, etc.).

If we constantly shame ourselves when we eat or feel intense guilt around food (i.e. “I shouldn’t be eating this”) and our bodies (“I’ll never fit into my skinny jeans”), that stress response is activated. When those thoughts become a consistent experience, you might create the exact opposite response in the body!

So what are we do to? Here are some simple strategies to get started:

• Sit down for meals as often as possible, without distraction. Pay attention to your food’s taste, texture and the feelings that come up.
• Take 5-10 deep, slow breaths before meals to help short circuit the stress response. Inhale lavender essential oil or Balance to further support lower stress levels.
• Give yourself permission to experiment and enjoy food and notice what foods give you the most pleasure and leave you feeling the most nourished.
• “How you do food is how you do life!” How might the relationship you have with food be a metaphor for other areas for life?

So, have you had a difficult time with emotions around food? If so, what is one thing you can do this week to start redefining your relationship with food. If you don’t feel this concept applies to you, are there any other obstacles you have encountered thus far in your eating experience?

Want to learn more and dig deeper? Come to our Mindful Eating class on February 4th @ 10:00 am. Email imuahealth@gmail.com or call 521-8170 to sign up!

Source: David, Marc. The Slow Down Diet. Rochester, VT, Healing Arts Press, 2015.

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