Today we are going to look at four of our top eating tips. There is so much information out there with celebrities promoting all sorts of restrictive diet plans that promise you fast results. I’m all about making sustainable lifestyle changes. The kind you can follow long term, not the kind of thing that you might be able to stick to for a couple of weeks before you find yourself unsure about what to do next.
Now, I’m a personal trainer, I’m not a dietitian, so I’m absolutely not going to be putting specific advice out there for people to follow but here are a few general tips I like to share with my clients. I find, personally, that this type of approach, over time, helps to foster much more positive relationships with foods of all kinds. Listening to your body is a far more sensible and sustainable approach than following strict external rules about calories, food groups, timing etc.
1. Start listening to your internal cues
A really great first step is to start trying to pay more attention to your internal cues for hunger, satisfaction and fullness. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to do because many of us were raised believing we had to eat at particular times of the day and that we had to eat everything on our plates. Most of us really are pretty out of tune with the signals our bodies are sending us.
Try to start consciously thinking about whether you are actually physically hungry when you think it’s time to eat as how you’re feeling as you’re eating a meal. Many of us will just keep eating, beyond the point of satisfaction and into being overfull, simply because it’s there.
You don’t even necessarily have to try to do anything about it in the early stages, just becoming more consciously aware of how you feel when you’re physically hungry and how you feel when you’re satisfied versus overfull.
2. Ditch the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ labels you’ve associated with particular foods
These terms are generally pretty unhelpful and have a tendency to make us feel guilty. It’s just food – it’s not ‘good’ or ‘bad’, it’s just food. Instead, try to work more with language such as ‘everyday foods’ and ‘sometimes foods’. No food should be forbidden from being eaten (with the exception of diagnosed digestive issues), some things we just should enjoy on occasion and others should play a more everyday role in your life.
3. Ask Yourself: Is this what would really satisfy me right now?
This one can make a big difference in your life! When you’re feeling hungry, try to avoid immediately grabbing the first thing you have access to. Equally, you should try to avoid the battle in your head about what you think you ‘should’ eat. Stop and have a little think about it. Ask yourself what would really satisfy you at that point in time. If that’s the piece of chocolate cake calling your name, and you really feel like that will satisfy you, that’s what you should have. If you don’t especially feel like the cake, go with what you really feel like. Maybe it’s a yummy-looking salad in the fridge or the apple on the bench. After all, the chocolate cake will be there later, when we really feel like it and can enjoy it. Listen to your body – what would really satisfy you at this point in time? What would leave you feeling content? This is all part of eating more mindfully.
What happens if we don’t ask ourselves this question? Since we were children, many of us have been taught to think that the chocolate cake is bad for us, or it’s the ‘bad’ or ‘naughty’ choice. We shouldn’t eat that! We should eat the apple right? Not necessarily if you really feel like the cake and it would satisfy you. If that’s what you really want, the apple or the salad isn’t going to cut it. We might eat the apple thinking it’s the right choice after the great mind debate. Then we might eat a banana thinking maybe the apple just didn’t fill us, then we might return to the cake and eat that too because that’s what we really wanted in the first place. We feel guilty for ‘giving in’ and maybe about eating the apple and the banana in an attempt to avoid the cake we labelled as ‘bad’ somewhere along the line. It just doesn’t make us feel good about ourselves and doesn’t foster a positive relationship with our food.
4. Slow down
Once you’ve decided what you’re going to eat, eat it slowly. There’s no rush. Take the time to really enjoy what you’ve chosen – use all your senses, really taste it. You’d be surprised how much of an impact this can have on the overall amount you are eating and aside from that, it makes eating a much more enjoyable experience. Food is a source of energy for our bodies but there is no reason why we can’t find pleasure in it – after all, we are going to be doing it for the rest of our lives. Let’s make it a positive experience, not something that causes us to feel guilty and negatively about ourselves.
If you’re keen to learn more about this non-dieting approach and mindful eating, I can’t recommend a book by Dr Rick Kausman called ‘If not dieting, then what?’ more highly – it will really change your thinking about eating and all the ‘diets’ you’ve been on in the past.