EAT THE THINGS YOU LIKE AND STILL BE HEALTHY
You walk into your sister’s kitchen and get blasted with the delicious fragrance of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. You see some cooling on the rack in the corner and fight the little voice in your head telling you to take the entire batch and run for the hills. You’re watching your weight and you know those chocolatey pieces of heaven won’t be doing you any favors. Why is dieting so hard? Why can’t you eat the things you like and still be healthy?
Deciding when and what and how much to eat isn’t supposed to be a chore. Food gives us energy and strength, but food can (and I think it should) be enjoyed! While counting calories and reading nutrition labels can definitely bring beneficial results when it comes to weight maintenance or weight loss, it is not a-typical to feel an obsessive nature to this kind of monitoring. It can be difficult to maintain the dedication it takes to track each meal, each snack and each drink. It’s difficult to turn down the foods that you most enjoy because they have been deemed “bad for you.”
But when it comes to making good decisions for your diet, it’s not just about what you are eating, it’s about how you are eating.
It’s about the first bite.
The first bite of the chocolate chip cookie is the one that gets your mouth really watering, that brings back memories, that activates a sensation of comfort and pleasure. Instead of quickly moving from the first bite to the second and third, until the cookie disappears, take time to enjoy that first bite. Pay attention to the way it tastes, the way that it smells, the way it feels in your mouth, the way you feel when you’re eating it. What’s going through your mind?
Take the opportunity.
Taking the opportunity to really enjoy each sensation of the first bite of food (whatever that food may be) allows you to be more engaged in the experience of eating. When we choose to be aware of what we are putting in our mouth, we can avoid the guilt that may come from over-indulgence. We no longer need to label foods as good or bad, but can think of whether or not they are providing our minds, bodies and spirits with what we most want. Instead of a diet mentality which encourages you to focus on what you cannot take a bite of, being mindful in the eating experience allows you to focus on what you can take a bite of.
Compare and find value… or stop.
After that first bite, eaten with attention, the opportunity becomes yours to compare each of the following bites to that first one. If the second bite was just as delicious and enjoyable, great! You are finding value in eating. If that second bite, though, or the third, or the fourth isn’t making your taste buds dance quite as much as the first bite, take the opportunity to listen to what your body and mind are telling you, and stop. You are in control. You make the decision of what is best for your body.
Mindful eating takes away the mentality of food restriction by allowing you to have power over the amount and kinds of things you eat through close attention to how your body feels. As you begin to practice mindful eating, you may find that it’s not as difficult to turn down that third slice of pizza because you’ve realized that you don’t feel your best after that third piece. You may find that you still love eating chocolate chip cookies, but you don’t always eat them when your sister makes them because you understand that it’s an emotional impulse rather than a real desire to have that cookie.
While it takes time to master mindful eating, it is a skill from which everyone can benefit. Begin today. As you eat dinner tonight, eat a little bit slower. Pause between bites to savor the smells and flavors. Pay attention to how full your stomach feels, and don’t be afraid to stop eating when you feel satisfied even if there is still food on your plate.
Being healthy in your eating habits doesn’t have to be a chore. Just focus on that first bite.
Kendra is a Michigan-native with a love for outdoor adventures and healthy twists on old recipes. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a bachelor’s degree in Exercise and Wellness and a passion for sharing her knowledge of fitness and nutrition principles to help improve the quantity and quality of their years of life. She loves to set personal goals that help her be her best self. She is a firm believer that anyone can make small, sustainable changes that lead to big health benefits.