by Kerry Potter
As our society becomes more and more health conscious and obsesses over the latest diet or health trends, how is it that at the other end of the spectrum obesity and onset of diseases at a younger age seem to be on the rise? Where is the balance?
Even though I think it’s a great idea to be mindful of what you eat, I am not quite sure many people grasp what mindfully eating truly entails. According to The Center for Mindful Eating, mindful eating is based on awareness of hunger, fullness, and satiety cues as well as valuing quality over quantity of what you’re eating. Furthermore, Dr. Michelle May, founder and CEO of the Am I Hungry? mindful eating workshops and programs, challenges our thoughts saying that within the concept of mindful eating there can be a balance between eating for health and eating for pleasure.
Evelyn Tribole, one of the authors of Intuitive Eating, believes there are 10 principles of intuitive eating. The two that resonant with me the most are that first, we must make peace with food and second, we must respect our fullness in order to become an intuitive eater. As easy as this seems to do, depending on how long you have been following one of society’s many food rules or yet another diet, for some, letting yourself be the expert of your body with food can be quite a challenge. When we continually label food as good or bad and do not give ourselves permission to eat when we are hungry, we develop feelings of deprivation. These feelings eventually lead to overeating and maybe a full blown binge because we will never be allowed to have this “sacred bad” food again.
As a fitness physique competitor, life becomes all about “eating-rules.” When to eat, what not to eat, how much to eat and for the most part, competitors forget what it’s like to listen to their own internal hunger cues and feelings. I would say we are a unique breed, but as a dietitian and diabetes specialist, I see this as a common theme among anyone trying to lose weight, on a diet or following a special diet in order to main better blood glucose control/health.
So now you are wondering, am I inferring that one can eat chocolate cake and cookies all day and be healthy? No, that is not what I am implying. I think when your thoughts shift toward eating in order to live the most energetic, vibrant life possible, you will not want to eat cake or ice cream all day long. Dr. Michelle May brings up the point that when we no longer feel guilty about eating certain foods, the intense cravings for those foods go away and we usually end up choosing a variety of foods that not only satisfy us, but promote our ultimate goal of health.
As a physique and fitness competitor, I found when my competing season ended I no longer knew how to be an intuitive eater. I had developed too many judgmental thoughts about food and thus started judging myself. I did not honor my hunger or my body’s internal cues and so developed extreme mannerisms such as not eating enough at some periods and way too much at other periods. So what is one to do in order to become a balanced eater?
Meet my intuitive eating role model: Lisa Holt
Lisa naturally follows three key principles outlined by Michelle May in order to become balanced with food intake:
- What do I want to eat?
- What does my body need?
- What do I have to eat?
Lisa follows a raw, vegan diet not for the sake of weight loss or because some food police promoted it as the only healthy diet for living. Nope. Lisa follows this type of diet because it is what helps her achieve a goal of living a full and energetic life not solely focused on food.
When answering the question, “What do I want to eat,” I know Lisa loves to eat dates. She does not ignore her cravings or avoid these foods. She does not have a fear of eating this food uncontrollably either. However, she does make sure she is eating dates for the sole purpose of hunger and not to fill another emotion. She gives dates her undivided attention when she does want to eat them and enjoy them, and honors her body’s warning when she is full and no longer needs to eat. Lisa knows she has unconditional permission to eat this food. Thus she has no reason to overeat them because they will always be around.
When answering the question, “What does my body need,” Lisa considers her own health issues, her family history and how her body responds to certain foods. Lisa feels that she digests food best when it is raw. Furthermore, knowing her family history of high blood pressure and how her body negatively responds to higher sodium foods, Lisa enjoys eating a lower sodium diet because she feels hormonally balanced.
Finally, when answering the question, “What do I have to eat,” Lisa knows planning is an important component of mindful eating. If she does not keep a variety of foods that nourish her body on hand, she may not end up making the best choices when she is left starving with no good food choices available.
Lisa has inspired me to live my life like this. When I am not competing, I strive for balance and know that my body is smart enough to let me know when I am hungry and that a cookie can still fit in my diet. I also acknowledge while eating when I am hungry versus eating for other reasons. Whether you are an athlete, an individual with diabetes or heart disease, or just a regular Joe, you can benefit from the principles of mindful and intuitive eating. For more information and resources, I recommend http://www.amihungry.com/; http://www.tcme.org/; and http://www.intuitiveeating.org/.
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