Written by: Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Kim Feinstein, RedMountain Weight Loss’ Behavioral Weight Loss Specialist
What is a healthy relationship with food?
So many of us are chronic dieters and emotional, binge, and mindless eaters; therefore, we have lost touch with what a healthy relationship with food actually is. Below are some fundamentals of a healthy relationship with food:
- You feel happy and fully engaged in life when you are not eating (food is not your only reliable source of pleasure and satisfaction).
- If you are not feeling physically hungry, you don’t eat.
- You stop eating when you feel physically satiated.
- You are able to leave food left over on the plate (even though there are starving children in
- You fill in the country as it changed based on your generation).
- You don’t obsess about food.
- You enjoy eating many different kinds of foods.
- You have intervals of at least several hours when you are not hungry or thinking about food, punctuated by meal times when you do feel hungry and take enjoyment in eating.
If you do not resonate with above statements, you are not alone. Most of our society has a very dysfunctional relationship with food. Thankfully, mindful eating can help re-establish a healthy and joyful relationship with food.
A large part of mindful eating is gaining awareness of what physical hunger feels like. For most of us, somewhere along the line, we stopped paying attention to our body’s internal signals for hunger and satiety (fullness). The signals are still there, but we are out of touch with them and have instead chosen to eat in response to external, internal, and social stimuli.
How Do I Begin?
Now, you may be asking yourself, “How do I begin?” Mindfulness (awareness) is the foundation and first step for change and transformation in any area of life, including in your relationship to food. Therefore, you need to begin to pay attention and observe your reactions to hunger/fullness signals and eating without judgment or criticism. By becoming more aware and in tune with your thoughts, feelings, and reactions to food and eating, you can learn to listen to your body’s internal signals of hunger, fullness, and physical satisfaction. This can further help you to decide why, when, and how much you chose to eat. Below is a 4-step approach to help you begin.
When you feel or notice a craving/urge to eat arise, ask yourself: “What type of hunger am I experiencing.” Is it Physical hunger, Emotional hunger, Environmental Hunger? or Sensory Hunger?
If I am not physically hungry, ask yourself: What can I do instead to satisfy my psychological hunger?
If I determine I am physically hungry, ask yourself:
- “What is my hunger rating?”
- “What type of food would help me best meet my hunger?”
- What foods are on my plan?
- What foods will make me feel healthy & balanced; pleased AND nourished.
Next, sit at a table, free from distractions, and eat your meal mindfully.
? Create 3 intentional pauses when eating: Before eating the first bite, 10 minutes into the meal, and at the end of the meal.
- Try to eat slowly and mindfully noticing the colors, textures, flavors, aromas
- Chew each bite approximately 15- 20 times before swallowing
- Savor the flavor
- Pay attention to your own experience without judgment.
(Bays, J. C. (2009). Mindful Eating: A guide to rediscovering a healthy and joyful relationship with food. Shambhala: Boston & London.)