What is your relationship with food?
Not what you eat, but how much? or when?
Before you grab something, do you ponder if you deserve it? Do you justify eating a sweet something because you’ll be ‘good’ starting tomorrow? Do you talk to yourself with disgust if you overeat? Or something you’ve deemed as ‘junk’?
I have. And I know I’m not alone.
I’ve spent lots of energy in the past calculating calories, sugar, and fat grams. I’ve laid awake, spewing the most horrifying insults at myself about what I’ve eaten. I’ve over-exercised, fasted, dieted most of my 20s. I avoided pasta in Italy, chocolate in Belgium, and croissants in France… because I didn’t trust myself around food. Food and I were not friends.
I don’t know when I stopped this nonsense and made peace with food, but luckily, I did. And guess what? I’m healthier now. Mentally, physically, and surprisingly my weight is about the same.
Mindful eating was one of the keys to breaking my eat-repent-repeat cycle. One definition of mindfulness is paying attention to the internal and external world in the present moment on purpose and without judgment. When I work with patients who don’t have a good relationship with food, I start with mindfulness. I recommend practicing mindfulness with each meal. Go slowly and be kind to yourself. Try practicing mindful eating for the next 7 days (and beyond), and let me know how it goes.
Before a single bite of food passes your lips, it is essential to recognize why you are eating since the reason(s) impacts every other decision downstream. Whenever you feel like eating, first ask yourself, “Am I hungry?” This simple but powerful question helps you recognize whether the desire to eat caused your body’s need for fuel or driven by some other trigger.
It may be helpful to close your eyes and do a mind-body scan, looking for signals of hunger. These may include hunger pangs, growling stomach, low energy, shakiness, headache, or other symptoms that indicate that your stomach is empty and low blood glucose. Recognize that these are all physical symptoms, no cravings or thoughts, such as “That looks good,” or “I better eat now while I have the chance.”
Decide what to eat, honouring your preferences by asking yourself, “What do I want?” and celebrating your health by inviting, “What do I need?” If you are preparing your own food, view it not as a chore but an opportunity to become an integral part of the process. Connect with all your senses as you touch, smell, and combine the ingredients.
Create a pleasant ambiance. When preparing food for yourself, make it attractive by setting the table, turning on music, and perhaps even lighting candles. Minimize distractions so you can give the food and your body’s signals full attention. If you eat while you are distracted by watching television, driving, working, or talking on the telephone, you may end up feeling full but not satisfied.
Do not eat while standing over the sink, peering into the refrigerator, or sitting in bed. Instead, choose one or two places at home and at work for eating.
Before serving yourself or ordering, set your intention for how full you want to be at the end of eating. This intention guides you in deciding how much food to purchase, prepare or serve. Once you have the amount of food you think you will need, physically divide it in half on your plate to remind yourself to stop halfway and check-in again. This little “speed bump” slows you down and serves as a reminder to reconnect if you lost your focus.
Take a few deep breaths to calm and center yourself before you begin eating. Reflect on all that went into bringing this food to your plate. Express gratitude for the nourishment, the people with whom you are sharing the meal, or simply the fact that you are giving yourself time to sit down and enjoy eating.
I have always wanted to be a naturopathic doctor even before I knew this career existed. As a kid, I loved learning about the power of healing. I talked at length with family and friends about vitamins and minerals and, because I grew up with social worker parents, I was also passionate about mental health.
Like so many others, I ignored my heart and followed another career path. But I was miserable and lost. I worked as a flight attendant for a few years and, while traveling the world, decided to be a doctor.
Unfortunately, my personal life took an unexpected turn: I got sick, divorced, and depressed. All three, while connected, were also a painful eye-opening gift. I needed to prioritize my health and decided that I had no choice but to go back to school and become a naturopathic doctor.
It was not easy. I worked full time while in medical school and had a baby in my third year just to keep things interesting. But it was who I was meant to be and I never looked back. That’s why I’m so passionate about helping others become who they are meant to be. As E.E. Cummings stated, “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are”.
Dr. Jen is a licensed naturopathic doctor. The content of her videos are intended for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to substituted for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Please consult your physician or qualified naturopathic doctor for medical advice.