Mindfulness and Intuitive Eating for Vitality
Mindfulness seems to be a buzz word lately. I did a search on Amazon and found over 50,000 books on mindfulness!!! I think this is a sign that people are searching for connection in a world that is moving too quickly.
I weave mindfulness into my work with clients - both with yoga and nutrition.
We live in a society of constant motion and this can lead to a disconnect from our bodies and minds. We feel like a pinball bouncing around from one activity to another and never really getting enjoyment from anything. We can change this by practicing mindfulness.
You can think of mindfulness like a muscle, it needs to be worked and used or it atrophies. The more you practice mindfulness on your yoga mat or with meditation the stronger the “muscle” becomes and the easier it is for you to be mindful in your life.
Being mindful in life, enhances life by allowing us to be more fully present in the experiences of our life. We are able to enjoy moments with family and friends, the awe of the natural world, and the pleasure of our food. As we strengthen the muscle of mindfulness, it becomes easier to stay fully present in our experiences and truly enjoy our blessings.
What is mindfulness?
The Center for Mindful Eating defines five principles of mindfulness. These principles are listed below and you can read more at www.tcme.org.
1. Mindfulness is deliberately paying attention, non-judgmentally.
2. Mindfulness encompasses both internal processes and external environments.
3. Mindfulness is being aware of what is present for you mentally, emotionally and physically in each moment.
4. With practice, mindfulness cultivates the possibility of freeing yourself of reactive, habitual patterns of thinking, feeling and acting.
5. Mindfulness promotes balance, choice, wisdom and acceptance of what is.
One of my favorite mindfulness practices, is a body scan. I use this a lot in my yoga classes to help students to release stored tension and integrate mind and body.
Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position, using support against your back as needed, or lie flat on your back with your arms at your side and palms facing up. You can close your eyes or keep them open. Take several deep breaths and let your body relax deeply into the floor or wall. Pay attention to the flow of air in and out of your body. Breath at a natural pace that feels comfortable for you.
After several deep breaths, send your awareness to your left foot. Observe your left foot, notice any sensations or feelings in your toes, sole of foot, or heel. While you observe, send your breath to your left foot. When you are done observing (a few moments). You can picture your foot melting into the floor to release it and move up to your ankle. Continue this process moving to each part of your body. You can move to your ankle, calf, shin, knee, thigh, buttock, and hip of each leg, and continue to move up the body. Notice sensations and feelings without judgment, sending the breath to that body part and consciously letting it melt away as you move on.
This body awareness meditation is great for reconnecting to the sensations and feelings in your body. This practice will help you to refine your observer and become more aware of body messages throughout the day and in relation to food.
If you want help with meditations, check out this link for some nice guided meditations including a body scan:
Intuitive Eating Defined
We can relate mindfulness principles to eating and how we can become more aware of the positive and nurturing aspects of food by trusting our inner wisdom. We can choose to eat food that is pleasing and nourishing and use our mindfulness training to allow us to fully experience the food and stay in touch with the sensations it produces in our body.
Mindfulness applied to eating can be called Intuitive Eating. As you strengthen your mindfulness with meditation, yoga, and breathing, you can then apply this mindfulness to your nutrition. You are able to more easily recognize hunger and satiety cues in your body and take pleasure in nourishing food. Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD, wrote a helpful workbook for Intuitive Eating, which I use with clients. Evelyn describes Intuitive Eating as someone who adheres to these three mindful principles:
1. Eat for physical reasons, rather than emotional reasons
2. Rely on internal hunger and satiety cues to guide when, what, and how much they eat
3. Give themselves unconditional permission to eat
Intuitive Eating Practice
The Institute for Functional Medicine also has recommendation for Mindful and Intuitive Eating. They make some helpful suggestions around the process of preparing and eating a meal.
1. Prepare – Cooking food yourself if a great way to be in touch with the sights and smells and add care and love to your meal. Cooking can be a fun and creative outlet.
2. Mealtime Ritual – Create a mealtime practice for yourself. Maybe set a nice table, light some candles, put on music. Sit down, take a deep breath as you sit down for your meal and express gratitude for the nourishment. Turn off distractions and be present in your experience. Be still and notice how your food tastes; the texture, the heat, the smell, the flavors.
3. Listen to Your Body – Recognize when you feel full and when you want more. Honor and respect your body’s intuition without question. Your body knows what you need and you can trust it. Let go of the notion of “good” and “bad” foods and instead focus on foods which make you feel good.
Intuitive Eating Log
If you are new to intuitive eating, it may be challenging to listen to your body. Sometimes using a log for a few days can help to better understand your bodies signals and how your nutrition is affecting your wellbeing You can keep a log of your meals and 1-2 hours after each meal, rate how your appetite is, your energy, and your emotions. After a couple of days, you will start to have more insight into how different foods and meals affect your wellbeing.
If you are interested in exploring how mindfulness and intuitive eating can support your health, feel free to reach out for a free 15 minute strategy call with Deb to learn more.