It is really not necessary to eat until we are completely stuffed or very full at every meal. In fact that should be the exception to the rule. For many reasons, but also because our stomach is going to be able to digest the food better if it has some room in there to churn the food all around. Of course overeating happens. When something tastes exceptionally great, or we haven’t had a favorite food in a while, or we are overly hungry and can’t quite make ourselves stop.
When we slow down, pay attention while we eat, and listen to our body’s cue’s we find that getting overly full is much less likely to happen.
In order to be able to focus on our bodies signals for hunger and satiety, I think there are a few other concepts that we have to be on board with. They go hand in hand, and for some people it takes quite a bit of practice, while for others it’s the most natural thing in the world. This information may or may not be something that you use personally, but it is really good to understand, as it surely applies to people that you know. Problems with these two components usually arise as an outcome of repeated dieting and diet attempts.
1. Giving yourself permission to eat.
This means taking the good and bad labels off foods, and recognizing that all foods can fit into a healthy diet. And I am not about the give the typical speech of “of course you can have junk food but just have a little or one, but fill your plate with whole grains and vegetables…”. That is good advice, however, certain people (those who have tried every diet in the world and still struggle) need to work on HOW they are eating FIRST, then work on the WHAT (nutrition knowledge component) they are eating NEXT.
It is so important for everyone to experience the stages of satiety that our body goes through when we eat, to taste the food, enjoy the food, and recognize when we are done with the food…empty plate or not.
I have had many clients tell me that if they were to give themselves permission to eat anything they wanted, that they would eat gobs of rubbish all the time, and not be able to stop until they were physically ill. And the thing that is so ironic about that statement is that, actually, that is exactly what happens when they DON’T give themselves permission to eat.
For most people, it is unrealistic to assume that because they KNOW what to eat, that they are ABLE to stick to that indefinitely, or at all. Nutrition knowledge is super important. Knowing what foods help prevent and treat various diseases, priceless. Having nutrition tools to help eat a well rounded diet, also really key!
However, if the ability to eat when hungry and stop when satisfied is not there, then all the nutrition knowledge in the world may not help. And the reason for that is that our super evolved brains play tricks on us. We become hyper sensitive to all things food and hunger related, and when we indulge in the “bad” food, we tell ourselves that we won’t do that again, so better really fill up on it now! In other words, we binge. Every once in a while…no harm done. On a regular basis… there will be weight gain, countless health problems, and it wreaks psychological havoc.
So, this brings us to the challenge for this week, which is about mindful eating, or paying attention while we eat.
2. Paying attention while you eat.
If you give yourself permission to eat, then the other important piece of this puzzle is to then pay attention while you eat the food you gave yourself permission to eat! This is important because this is the step in which you will recognize when you are filling up and when you are ready to stop eating.
For some people, if you are not paying attention (watching TV, reading, working at computer while you eat), then before you know it your plate is empty and you realize that you feel super full and overate.
If you’re conscious of how your body is feeling while you eat, then you will find that there are very specific cues that give you information. As we begin to fill up, it is also interesting to notice how the food we are eating loses some of its’ tastiness. The first few bites, delicious, but that wanes as we fill up. It truly does not taste as good as we get fuller and our appetite diminishes.
Now if we are constantly restricting all the “bad” but tasty foods, that is when we will either:
1. Ignore that feeling of satiety and keep eating because ‘we may not ever get to eat it again so better fill up now…I’ll be good tomorrow’, or
2. Not even realize we are satisfied because we are not paying attention while we eat in order to not feel guilty while doing it.
Wow, it’s a tangled web isn’t it!
What to eat encompasses way more food, and much more flexibility than the standard most people try to hold themselves to. The real problems actually arise from trying to be too perfect, and our body and brain rebels.
Perfection is unattainable in all things, and to strive for nothing less isn’t commendable, honorable, sophisticated, intelligent, or anything else. It is unequivocally being set up for failure and feelings of inadequacy and shame.
Even if you are already a pretty mindful eater, make an extra effort this week to slow down, pay attention, relax, and enjoy your meals!
Have a great week!