Mindfulness & Intuitive Eating

How frequently are you so busy that you forget to eat only to find that you’re starving when you get home from work? Or do you sit in front of the couch/computer with a snack and realize you’re halfway through a bag of chips when you look down?

I think that it’s easy to forget that we have a perfectly, well-oiled machine to help us determine our caloric needs. We just need to learn to pay attention to it. 

As a society, we are always looking for the next plan or diet to help us lose weight or “stay on track”. Life shouldn’t consist of monitoring how healthy we eat or making sure we are getting all the right micronutrients and macronutrients.

Nutrition is individualized, but also extremely flexible. There is no right or wrong way to eat. 

In my opinion, the most successful individuals practice MINDFUL & INTUITIVE eating without vigorous counting and restriction. 

What is mindful/intuitive eating??

Mindfulness is being aware of what are bodies are telling us. Intuitive eating is understanding what we are feeling before, during, and after a meal. 

Over the years, I have become super in tune with how my body feels. That means, I know when I’m full and when I’m hungry and I don’t ignore those cues. Your body is telling you something for a reason and learning this takes TIME.

Usually when you feel hungry, your blood sugar is probably running low and your body is saying “hey, we need some fuel to keep this train steady”. 

Likewise, when you feel full, your body is telling you “ok, we’ve had enough to nourish us, we probably don’t need anymore”. Even if there is still half a plate of food left, it’s okay to walk away. Save it for later and you’ll have a second meal. 

Listening to our bodies helps keep us in tune with, not only our hunger and satiety cues, but also translates into every other area. I started recognizing when I was tired, overworked, stressed and now I feel my body’s reactions to those feelings. Mindfulness helps us remember that whatever we have going on, fueling and taking care of ourselves is a priority. 

Size/lifestyle matters.

I think it’s also important to mention that every human is DIFFERENT. I can not eat as much as someone who is 6’5” and 250 lbs or a marathon runner who is my height and weight. I’ll likely feel full much quicker than them and require far less food to keep me satisfied. 

Luckily, your body is an expert at keeping everything inside functioning and operating to its best ability given your lifestyle. It knows how many calories you need to operate your brain, heart, liver, etc. 

If you’re worried about falling short on certain micronutrients/macronutrients, well YOU’RE IN LUCK. Because the body is great at that too. It will usually trigger you to crave what you need. Some exceptions may include genetic deficiencies, age, menstruation, or sunlight exposure, but for the most part it’s pretty on point. 

Your body will do everything in its power to maintain “homeostasis”, or balance, to keep everything in check. It will adjust accordingly.

If you hike 10 miles, you’ll notice you’re eating more the following days. If you sit on the couch all day, you might notice you aren’t as hungry. If you go on a crash diet, your body will realize you’re taking in far less calories and reserve the calories that you do take in to keep your organs running optimally.

If you eat an entire buffet, your body will recognize that you’ve overeaten and will speed up your metabolism to process the extra energy you consumed. 

When we ignore those signals and try to manipulate our energy balance in extreme ways, the body eventually pushes back. 

That is why, typically, those who live on very restrictive diets end up plateauing when the body has learned to reserve. When they fall back into their old habits, the body is still in “reserve mode”, which causes them to gain more weight that they started with.

Why is mindful/intuitive eating important: 

It helps us understand what we need when we need it. It takes a lot of guess work, restriction, and calculation out of our lives. It helps teach us that we can eat what we want without over or under indulging. 

It provides us with the understanding that fueling the body does not have to be complicated as long as we take the time to understand what it is communicating. 

This takes time, but the more you pay attention, the more you’ll learn. 

How can I become more mindful of my body?

I know counting calories contradicts everything I just said. BUT, the only time I will recommend doing so, is to get a general idea of what you are taking in on a daily basis.  It’s a good place to start. Sometimes we just don’t realize how much/little we may be consuming. We very often over/under estimate what we are eating or how much we are eating compared to what we might need. 

      A good example for someone who has never practiced intuitive eating would be:

        “Oh, I just realized that I’m eating 2 cups of rice for dinner, which is 4 servings. Next time I’ll try one cup and see if I feel full after the meal.” 

Sometimes recognizing and making small adjustments goes a long way in regulating our body weight.

Another thing I would recommend is to eliminate distractions while you are eating. Really spend some time with your food. Think about what you are eating, how it tastes, and halfway through your plate just evaluate how you feel. If you’re still hungry, keep eating. If not, save the rest. (Eventually, this will come naturally). 

Lastly, and most importantly. HONOR your hunger and full cues. This helps regulate your digestion and keeps your body functioning throughout the day with the right amount of energy needed to keep you going.
Even if you’re extremely busy, but feel hungry, and think “oh I’ll eat in a few”. Well a few turns into an hour and you no longer feel hungry because your body stepped up. The more you ignore those cues, the less in tune we become with our body and mind. This usually leads to overeating and overconsumption later on.  

hi there, i’m michelle

welcome to my little home on the internet! I'm a Registered Dietitian and am here to share with you evidenced based and realistic ways to better your health for the long haul. Here you'll learn ways to eat that are both practical and sustainable. Enjoy!

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Current Location

New Hampshire

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