We all have those foods that we love but know are probably more nourishing to our minds than our bodies. I’m talking about those cookies, cakes, ice-cream, donuts or in my case wine and croissants.
In one of our sessions my client told me, “Hannah, I can’t have chocolate at home because if it’s there I’ll eat the entire block in one sitting – I just cant stop!”
Anyone else relate?
It took a bit of convincing but I asked her to buy a block of her favourite chocolate and told her to try making a few simple mindset tweaks. Later that week I followed up to see how she went and she told me:
“Mindful eating has been successful, I’ve had chocolates sitting in the fridge that I haven’t even felt like touching!”
So what’s the trick? What were these little mindset changes that are so successful?
1. Get out of dichotomous thinking: Foods aren’t good or bad and it’s not all or nothing
Food is just a combination of nutrients that are used to fuel your body. You are not a bad person for choosing certain foods over others. Ever been on a diet and then went to a party and was offered a piece of cake. After one piece of cake you feel so guilty and shameful for letting yourself break your diet. Many clients then tell me that they felt like a failure and lost motivation to continue towards their goals. Letting yourself enjoy particular foods doesn’t mean you’ll never reach your goals and you need to just give up. All foods are good foods and it’s about choosing the foods that will give you most enjoyment, comfort and energy at one particular point in time.
2. You are allowed any food at anytime
Psychology 101, when something is off limits, you want it! Am I right or am I right? If you are allowed something, you are able to think logically about whether you really want it.
3. Choose foods for maximum comfort
Not all foods sit well in your tummy all the time. In most cases, your body will feel best when you feed it plenty of wholefoods and water. Before reaching for the chocolate think about how it will sit in your tummy and whether that is what you want right now. If it is great! Go ahead and eat it. If not, what are you really craving? Are you even hungry or are you just chasing some other form of emotional comfort or stimulation?
4. Savour the taste and eat mindfully
So you decided that you did really feel like that piece of chocolate. Awesome! Time to practice your mindful eating skills.
Look at the piece of chocolate, admire the even shine. Take a small bite, think about the smooth, silky texture as you slowly turn it over in your mouth. During this first mouthful, your brain will be lighting up and firing rapid signals allowing you to enjoy the taste. Continue to eat slowly and savour the taste. By about the 4thsmall bite, your brain will have slowed its signals and the intensity of the initial enjoyment will have slowly diminished – your brain becomes essentially bored of the taste. The trick is to recognize this point and think about whether there is much point continuing to eat if you aren’t going to enjoy it as much as you would if you saved it for another time.
5. Plan nourishing meals and snacks and get adequate sleep and hydration.
Balance is about taking a step back and making sure you are looking after your body as a whole. This means that you need to be providing your body with the nutrients and energy it needs, getting enough hydration and sleep so that your hormones are in-check and you are able to accurately read your hunger signals.
Fuel yourself well throughout the day with foods high in nutrients such as vegetables, legumes, fruit, whole-grains, nuts and seeds, dairy or lean meats. This may take some planning. Plan your meals and plan when you are going to get your groceries. Build this into your weekly routine.
Sleep is often neglected but it is essential for accurately interpreting your body cues and hunger signals. When you are sleep deprived your body often mistakes this for lacking energy. Sugars (carbs) and fat are your bodies favourite sources of energy so it will often call for foods high in these nutrients when you are tired. Sleep also has many other important rolls which benefit your overall wellness.
As simple as these 5 mindset shifts are, they have helped both myself and my clients understand and honour our body cues and cravings. You can achieve your goals and still include all foods into your diet. Restriction leads to overeating so ditch the diet and work on your mindset!