Mindful eating can help keep you healthy in a number of ways, particularly in your recovery from an eating disorder.
What is mindful eating?
Mindful eating, at its core, is the practice of being present while eating. The practice borrows philosophies from mindfulness in that it focuses on being aware in the present moment, noticing your intention behind the act of eating and appreciating your thoughts, feelings and sensations while eating.
This is especially true for individuals who struggle with an eating disorder. Eating disorders alter our perception of food, leading to an unhealthy relationship with food and dangerous eating habits. Mindful eating can help eliminate these habits – starving oneself, binging, purging and excessively exercising – while helping us re-learn the purpose and value of food.
What are the benefits of mindful eating?
Mindful eating benefits both your mind and body, which necessarily means it can benefit your recovery. By being present while eating and appreciating the food you put into your body, you will start to see food as something to be enjoyed rather than a source of shame or negativity. Committing to mindful eating can also help you explore new recipes and ingredients that excite you, and you may even find a new hobby in cooking.
How can I eat more mindfully?
One of the main objectives of mindful eating, and ultimately recovery from an eating disorder, is to establish a healthy relationship with food. In cases of disordered eating, food is often seen as an adversary. Individuals struggling with anorexia will eat the minimum amount of food they need to survive, and taste, smell, presentation and nutrition often comes second to this objective. Those struggling with bulimia eat large amounts of food with the intention of purging or exercising the calories away. Binge-eating disorder is marked by mindlessly eating large amounts of food in a short period of time and feeling unable to stop. In none of these scenarios is food being enjoyed, savored or allowed to provide nourishment.
For ideas on how to integrate mindful eating into your recovery and daily routine, try the following tips:
- Eat at a table or another designated eating space free from distractions. Watching TV or scrolling through social media while eating can put you on autopilot, and your attention will not be focused on experiencing or appreciating your meal.
- Portion out your meals and snacks. Take smaller portions for dinner and go back for seconds if you’re still hungry. When snacking on chips, pour some into a bowl instead of eating out of the bag, and try to focus on taking individual bites rather than grabbing a handful. It is much more difficult to mindlessly overeat when you don’t have all of the servings right in front of you.
- When possible, cook your own meals rather than ordering takeout. You will learn to appreciate your food more when you put the work into making it exactly how you want it. After all, cooking is a labor of love.
- Continue eating your favorite foods. Forcing yourself to eat food that doesn’t taste good to you, even if it is nutritious, will cause you to resent eating and may lead to a relapse.
- Avoid using food as a source of comfort. While you can still enjoy your favorite treats in moderation, reframe your thinking so that your food is no longer a reward, something you have to earn or a security blanket of sorts. If you previously used food to cope with stress, sadness or anxiety, try to find healthy diversions when you feel these urges.
- Eat slowly. You may notice that you feel more full more quickly, because you have given your brain the chance to communicate with your stomach.
- Eat when you’re hungry. Recognize when you’re eating because you’re bored or anxious and make an effort to curb those habits.
- Thank yourself for providing your mind and body with delicious, nourishing, sustaining food.
- Eat with intention, whether your intention is to satiate hunger, try a new recipe or ingredient, give yourself energy and nutrients or share a treat with someone you love.
Seeds of Hope offers holistic and compassionate treatment to help you work towards your recovery from an eating disorder. Learn more today about how to eat more mindfully by reaching out at 610-644-6464.