Do you use food as a means to feel better when you’ve had a hard day at work? Do you choose fatty greasy foods the next day after you’ve had too many drinks on a Saturday night? Do you look for an extra piece of chocolate or another coffee because you are tired and stressed? Or counted calories but the weight won’t shift?
Nutrition can be one of the most beautiful forms of medicine for the mind and body. When you pair this with a positive eating practice, you have a powerful combination of self-love and nourishment, that will support healthy weight, healthy body and a healthy mind.
Have you tried 'diet' after 'diet' and lost weight but then only to gain it back from lack of knowing what your body truly needs? Myself and my clients take a 'no-diet diet', meaning that it is a lifestyle approach to food, not a short-term, quick-fix 'diet'. Most 'diets' are deficient in some way as they generally deplete your body of certain nutrients due to the restriction of the foods, and they don't teach anyone how to fuel their body according to their unique needs.
The 'no-diet diet' is all about making food choices based on what will provide the most nutrients, vitamins and minerals to your body, to support optimal health and healing. It requires you to eat food in it's most natural state and listen to what your body is asking for. It's not something we get taught in our younger years, to listen to our body...but it is something everyone should know how to do.
So how do you listen to your body, avoid emotional eating and develop a healthy relationship with food?
Mindful and intuitive eating is key! They both promote a positive eating style that encourages a healthy attitude towards your body, your mind and food, that strengthens with practice. To eat mindfully and intuitively means to listen to your body, understand what it really needs and to adopt of a slow eating practice where you are completely present.
Two common signs that your body signals to you are: physical hunger and emotional hunger. By being present in the moment, stopping and reflecting on your current emotional and physical state, you are able to distinguish whether you are craving something to fulfill an emotional need (emotional hunger), or whether you genuinely need to eat, and what to eat (physical hunger).
Food is there to nourish and nurture you, to give your body the nutrients, vitamins and minerals it requires to function at it's peak. Emotional eating brings about the dreaded guilt, the wishing that you didn't have that second doughnut and the guilt that you will have to work extra hard to burn it off. Emotional eating feeds a vicious cycle of negative self-talk and it's all too easy to remain in the cycle and not get off. But you can get off and here's how.
The key is to adopt a more intuitive, mindful eating practice by pausing before you put food in your mouth. This allows you to look deeper and ask yourself “What is it that I truly need?” You are then able to recognise how much food your body requires, how hungry you really are and what type of food to choose. You may also notice that in fact, you aren't hungry at all but instead you are angry and by eating, you will feel better.
It is common to look to food as a way of feeling better but if the underlying emotions are not dealt with and instead suppressed through food, the emotions will remain there and rear themselves soon after.
So, other than pausing before eating and checking in with your body about whether it is hungry or not, how else can you eat intuitively and mindfully?
Put some time away for each meal, where you sit quietly, relax, focus on the beautiful meal that you have prepared and chew each mouthful 27 times, until it is liquid. This will take the pressure off your digestive system to break it down, therefore you will uptake more nutrients from your food. This will ultimately slow down your eating and give your brain time to recognise from your body that you are full. Being completely present and mindful like this, you will notice your satiety signals and will be less likely to overeat. You will also get to experience the flavours, textures and aroma from your food more easily, which will create a more enjoyable eating experience.
So often, I see women criticise their body and feel unhappy while striving for their ideal weight or body shape. This adds more emotional stress which can lead to emotional eating. Again, I see a common cycle like I mentioned earlier, where the emotional eating leads to more self-criticism and so on...and so on.
Self-acceptance and self-love is key for optimal wellness and to achieve a healthy mind and body. It takes practice and can feel awkward at first but stick with it for a greater good.
Look in the mirror each day and say “I love you” and repeat ten times morning and night, even if you do not mean it. The more you practice this self-love and self-acceptance each day, your body will too respond in a positive way. As the saying goes, "as above, so below", meaning what goes on in our mind is reflected in our physical body, and visa versa.
Love yourself for who you are, eat mindfully, notice when you are truly hungry and when you are not, and look after your emotional health. You've got this!