Mindful vs. Mindless Eating

Sometimes we think that jumping on a nutrition journey bandwagon requires tremendous planning and preparation — but in reality, one of the simplest (simple in this case doesn’t always mean easy) and most crucial things you can do to begin redirecting the trajectory of your nutrition journey is start building your self-knowledge. What do we mean? 

There is a certain physical and emotional self-awareness that is crucial for anyone that has a desire to improve their nutrition habits. Recognizing hunger cues, understanding the interplay between emotions and eating habits, recognizing food-behavior patterns in our lives…these are all skills, that like any other, can be practiced and honed. 

But, where to start? There are some nice-sounding platitudes that might seem helpful until you actually try to practice them. 

“Listen to your body”

“Eat intuitively”

“Do what works for you”

Unfortunately, for most of us, years of being immersed in a food culture that is filled with inconsistent (and oftentimes conflicting) messages, fad diets, and dubious marketing techniques have left us feeling lost and powerless. To “listen to our bodies” at this point could feel like trying to navigate a dark road with a broken compass. Self-trust has been severely diluted. 

However, there is good news in all of this. There are actual, concrete strategies that can be used to build your “self-knowledge superpowers”. One example is practicing “mindful eating”. To eat mindfully is simply to be aware and present while you are eating. Habits of mindfulness include things like sitting down while you eat, eliminating distractions during meals and savoring each bite of food. Check out the graphic below for a more detailed picture of mindful vs. mindless eating.

Here’s how to start. Commit to practicing mindful eating for the next 5 days and pay close attention to any trends you notice. Do you usually eat while watching TV or scrolling through social media? How long does it usually take you to eat a meal? Are you noticing when you are beginning to get full? You might be surprised what you learn about yourself with such a simple practice. 

As you start your nutrition journey with this self-knowledge exploration, make sure you give yourself grace. Like any other skill, knowing yourself takes effort & time. There are no shortcuts. As Benjamin Franklin said, “There are three things that are extremely hard: steel, a diamond and to know one’s self”.