We all know how to ingest food, but how does your style of eating influence your health and every day life? Some of you may be asking yourselves, “Style of eating? What is that?”. Your style of eating can be defined by how you choose the foods you eat. For instance, some people choose to eat whatever is convenient due to their busy schedule, others may plan ahead their meals for the day or week, and others may be more in touch with their bodies and eat what they like, while still focusing on having an overall healthy diet.
I first became aware of “eating styles” when I read the book “Intuitive Eating” by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch (both Registered Dietitians). The authors describe several different eating styles, with a focus on how repetitive dieting, stress, and emotions can have a huge effect on how we eat and use food for other reasons besides hunger. If you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend it to anyone who finds themselves stressed out about what/how to eat, or to anyone who finds the concept of mindful/intuitive eating interesting (I use the words mindful and intuitive interchangeably, as do the authors of “Intuitive Eating”).
What is mindful eating, you ask? Mindful eating (to me, at least) means being in touch with your body, determining your hunger and satiety signals before and after eating, respectively, and paying close attention to your food and eating experience in the present. Mindful eating makes sense for so many people, from chronic dieters who are fed up with calorie counting, to emotional eaters whose comfort lies at the bottom of a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. Mindful eating has been shown to be very effective in preventing binge eating, which is more common than you think (Binge Eating Disorder affects 2.8% of the U.S. population). Being present (on a mental, emotional, and physical level) while eating also makes food more enjoyable because you’re focusing on the sensual experience of food (taste, texture, smell, which may go unnoticed if you’re in a binge or too focused on the macronutrients of your meal).
While mindful eating is a beneficial practice, it’s still important to consume a healthy diet, and sometimes focusing too much on the pleasurable sensations of eating can lead one to make unhealthy choices (because delicious food is sometimes not the healthiest). Many dietitians/nutritionists advise their clients to have a loose plan of what they’ll eat in advance to avoid being overwhelmed with unhealthy choices when hungry. I know when I’m in a rush or stressed with life in general, I don’t make the healthiest food decisions and this leaves me feeling guilty and physically tired. It’s also incredibly difficult to be a mindful/intuitive eater when you’re used to eating a certain way, therefore taking small steps is a great way to achieve balance between health and pleasure.
How do you find a balance between health and pleasure when it comes to eating? For further information on Mindful Eating approaches, take a look at the links below or pick up a copy of “Intuitive Eating” (Evelyn Tribole, Elyse Resch).