Mindful Eating Review: The Basics

It’s not unusual to hear from returning Green Mountain at Fox Run participants, “I was doing great with practicing mindful eating when I went home, but then, over time, I let it slide.” When we make any change, it’s normal to occasionally toggle back to some old habits or patterns.If you’re struggling with the practice of mindful eating, also known as intuitive eating, at home, this “refresher course” may help you get back into the practice. As the word “practice” implies, this is something we need to do over and over again before it becomes second nature. So let’s go over the basics to help you continue your practice of mindful eating.

Green Mountain’s Three Principles of Mindful Eating

  • Wait for Hunger 
  • Eat What You Want 
  • Get Focused 

Start by reflecting on the first principle: Wait for hunger.

  • Are you getting clear hunger cues from your body?
  • Would reviewing the hunger and satisfaction scale in your Green Mountain at Fox Run notebook help? (Nutrition, page 2)
  • Would it be a good idea to structure the timing of your meals to help support your ability to hear your hunger cues? That is, do you wait too long to eat? Or are there points in your day/week when you never allow your body to tell you it’s hungry (i.e., you’re eating too often)?
  • Could a lack of balance in your meals or snacks be increasing frequency of hunger cues for you?
  • Are you noticing patterns in your appetite? For example, do you feel hungrier when you don’t sleep well or when you’re going through PMS?

If you are in fact using hunger as your primary cue to eat, then move on to reflect on the second principle: Eat what you want.

  • Do you consider what you want at each meal or do you just focus on nutrition guidelines?
  • Do you notice a pattern in what you want that you could plan for? Example: I always want something salty and crunchy mid-afternoon. When I have no snacks at work, I’m tempted to hit a vending machine for chips. Since I recognize salty and crunchy as a common craving, I plan to bring salted pistachios and whole grain crackers to work. Both satisfy that craving but are a more wholesome choice than chips every day.
  • Do you struggle with figuring out what you do want? If so, consider the 3 T’s of food: taste, texture and temperature. Granted these are not the only qualities of food, but they are easy to remember and may help you pinpoint what you want before you start eating.
  • Do you keep the foods you want/enjoy in your house? We’re not talking about trigger foods but foods that you enjoy eating in moderation. If there is nothing at home we’re interested in eating, we may end up substitute eating or going out for food, which may actually mean we end up eating greater quantities.
  • Are you disappointed with what you always want to eat? Example: I notice I want ice cream every night instead of dinner. I don’t believe this pattern of eating supports my health goals. I’m disappointed that I want this food every day. If the answer to this question is yes, consider:
    • Is there a physical reason you crave this food (unbalanced meals, extreme hunger, hormones)?
    • Could this be triggered by deprivation (feeling guilty about eating the food or by eating very plain/boring foods earlier in the day)?
    • Would considering this an Option food and experimenting with having it less often and initially outside of the house help?
    • Could I eat less of this food (if I feel I overeat on it) by incorporating it into my personal eating plan? Example: Frequently enjoying ice cream as a dessert after a well-balanced meal.

Finally, focus on the last principle: Get focused.

This principle is about identifying the primary obstacles that are getting in the way of feeding ourselves well. Consider these common obstacles.

  • Are you creating an eating environment that allows you to pay attention to what and how much you eat?
  • Do you attempt to slow your pace of eating, focusing on the flavor, texture, appearance, aroma, and temperature of the foods?
  • Can you identify a comfortable feeling of fullness, or is it easy for you to miss that mark?
  • Would it be helpful to spend time reflecting on habits/patterns you have with food that are getting in the way of practicing mindful eating? Complete the form “Identifying My Eating Obstacles” on page 8 of the Taking it Home section of your Green Mountain notebook.
  • Can you identify any patterns in how you react to specific foods? Example: Noticing more gastrointestinal upset after eating soy or noticing that eggs for breakfast stick with you longer than cold cereal.

If you’ve identified any of the above as problematic, what are you willing to do right now to address the issue? Set a goal. Remember, avoid overwhelming yourself with changes. Set a maximum of three changes you want to make, and focusing only on one is good, too.

Go back to our first email in our Sustain the Change™ series to our article titled “Where Do I Start?” for more tips on successful change.

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