Taking Back the Meal

It’s 1:00 in the afternoon and I haven’t eaten since 6 AM. I’ve been running around the hospital seeing patients, talking to families and attending rounds. I finally have a chance to sit down at a computer and settle in with my lunch so I can begin to work through the 18 notes I need to type.

For some reason, I think that I’m able to type, click, dictate and eat all at the same time. In reality, this is impossible. Instead of eating a peaceful lunch at a table, I shoveled my lunch into my mouth between clicks. I didn’t enjoy the food and I barely accomplished anything on the computer.

I shrug it off and am just grateful to not have to eat again for a few hours. Now I can get my work done and maybe get home at a reasonable time.

Meal Time in 2020

Does this resonate with you? Please tell me I’m not the only one! For me, this habit started in medical school after my first child. I felt I had to prove I could do as much work as a man who didn’t have any other responsibility and wasn’t nursing.

I had two more children during training and these habits now feel like a well oiled machine. I remember sitting in the pumping room after my 3rd child; it was around 2pm and I was pumping hands-free, talking to a nurse on speakerphone and eating lunch. I did what I thought I had to do to get through. 

But it doesn’t need to be this way. Actually it shouldn’t be this way.

Radically Rethinking Meal Time

Mindful and intuitive eating are essential to achieve complete health. Many times with our busy schedules we think of eating as a task that has to be checked off the list.  We attempt to do this in the fastest way possible. This may even be making a shake so we don’t have to chew (yes, I’ve tried this too).

But this approach is all wrong. Eating should not be considered a mundane task. It is how we nourish our bodies and minds so we can take on the challenges of the day! This mindset is part of the problem with the health of our society.

We go through our day and often never experience the food we’re eating. We eat what is necessary for life (whether that food is nutritious is a whole other discussion) so we have the stamina to complete the next task.  We long for the day of having a nice quiet meal with our significant other.  But we tell ourselves stories to prevent that from happening:

  • I’m not in that phase of life
  • This is not the job for that
  • That luxury is for other people

What if I told you mindful and intuitive eating could transform the way you see food and your body? It’s true, it can. When you begin to eat mindfully, you reestablish hunger and satiety cues that guide your body in what it needs. You begin to enjoy the food you are consuming.

Mindful and Intuitive Eating

Intuitive eating and mindful eating are two slightly different things.

Intuitive Eating

Intuitive eating is paying attention to when you are hungry and when you are full. It is getting in tune with your body’s natural drive for energy.

When we are in alignment  (so stress management, regular physical activity and adequate sleep) our hunger and satiety cues are quite accurate in determining how much and what we should be eating.

Mastering intuitive eating is quite challenging at first. After all, it has been silenced for decades. Think about a young child. Some days they can go without dinner other days they can’t stop eating. This is because they are deeply in tune with their hunger and satiety cues. They listen to their body tell them what it needs. Imagine what the health of our country would look like if we did this one thing.

Mindful Eating

Mindful eating is more about being present in the experience of eating. This means no distractions. When you put something in your mouth, you are aware of how much and what you put in your mouth. You savor each bite. You pay attention to the textures and flavors. You legitimately enjoy the food that you’re consuming. Allowing ourselves this pleasure actually reduces the craving we feel later. This is the piece that’s often missed on a day-to-day basis.

Ready to Take Control of Cravings?

This brings in an important topic of cravings. The guilt and shame associated with eating something that we feel we shouldn’t eat prevents us from actually enjoying what we eat.

Think about the infamous Halloween candy. Did you happen to sneak a piece or two. Why did you have to sneak it? Why couldn’t you just decide you wanted a piece? Why didn’t you take a piece, sit down at the table, open it up and eat it over 2-3 bites, enjoying each bite?  There shouldn’t be shame around eating something delicious from time to time.

When the shame is removed, the coping strategies for dealing with the shame also go away. That means binge eating, mindless eating and emotional eating are eliminated. Instead we’re in tune with our bodies and we do what we naturally know is right.

Challenge Time!

Here’s my challenge for you – are you ready for it? I want you to commit to 1 week of mindful and intuitive eating. You won’t be a professional by the end of the week. But I am very confident you’ll notice a difference in how you feel and how you approach food.

Are you ready to begin to experience this radical transformation of eating? Here’s how to get started:

  1. – Learn about the hunger scale. You can google this or check out a free handout I made. Basically, 0 is starving, 5 is neutral, 10 is stuffed.
  2. Keep a hunger and satiety journal. You can print off a handout for this from my website at the link above. You can also keep a little notebook or a note in your phone. Date the top and list out each meal with a letter (B, L, D, S). Next to each letter put the number for hunger before eating / number you are after eating. Here’s an example:
    B: 3/8
  3. Turn off all distractions
  4. Use your senses while you’re eating. In addition to flavor, pay attention to the texture. Notice the nuances of the flavors. Smell the aroma of the food. Visually notice the differences in the various items within the dish. Really be present while eating.

Our bodies are smart. I mean think about it – they have evolved for survival over thousands of years. They know what to do to ensure we are nourished and healthy. WE just need to listen to them. We can understand when our body needs nourishment. Through intuitive and mindful eating we can become confident in our bodies and begin to love them for how amazing they are.

Be sure to grab your FREE intuitive and mindful eating guide in my free resource library!

This article was originally published on SheMD – Nov 2019

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