Why go to a war that is being fought for the wrong reasons with an outcome that is outside of our control? How did the world start believing the complexities of health can simply be boiled down to a number on the scale? Not only are we missing the tools we need to actually make a difference in the weight loss struggle and improve health, but we are measuring success with unrealistic, and often unattainable, expectations. There isn’t any diet that will fix this problem. Intuitive and mindful eating can.
It is possible to enjoy food again and achieve health… REAL health. The solution to the weight loss struggle isn’t dependent on willpower or control and it doesn’t require extreme measures. Through intuitive and mindful eating, we can be confident in our bodies, understand when they need nourishment, and love them for how amazing they are.
This post is the 2nd in a series written by Dr. Lynn Stiff and Dr. Melissa Welby aimed at giving people healthy tools to improve their overall health: both for their body and their mind. At the end of this post, there is a challenge given to us by Dr. Stiff. I hope you join me in participating!
How many of you have sacrificed your mental health in the name of weight-loss?
Lest anyone forget, our “mental” health is critically entwined with our “physical” health. These two can’t be separated. Most people stuck in the dead-end cycle of “self-worth determined by weight” have sacrificed their mental well-being, and instead, prioritize the harmful culture of body-shaming.
There is a way out. Let’s end the war with our bodies and shift the focus away from weight, to make changes that support how we want to feel … regardless of the number on the scale.
Intuitive and mindful eating are overlooked, important pieces necessary in this quest for mental and physical health.
- Stop fighting the weight loss battle. There doesn’t need to be a war!
- Reconnect with your body
- Free yourself from the cycle of shame and “failure”
- Re-establish hunger and satiety cues that will guide your body in what it needs
- Begin to enjoy the food you are consuming
- Stop numbing yourself with food
- Be more present in life…. with our food, our bodies, and all the things in life that are more important than weight
At peace with your body: Improving your health and ending the weight loss battle
Eating intuitively requires paying attention to when you are hungry and when you are full. This sounds so simple but for many, this has long been lost. It involves getting in tune with your body’s natural drive for energy. When we are in alignment (i.e. managing stress, getting regular physical activity, and adequate sleep) our hunger and satiety cues (the way our body tells us we are full) accurately determine how much and what we should be eating.
Mastering intuitive eating can be quite challenging. After all, it has been silenced for decades. Think about a young child who will skip dinner on some days, and on others, they can’t stop eating. This is because they are deeply in tune with their hunger and satiety cues. They listen to their body.
Imagine what the health of our country would look like if we all ate like this.
Mindful eating is more about being present in the experience of eating. This means no distractions. When you put something in your mouth, you are aware of how much and what you put in your mouth. You savor each bite and pay attention to the textures and flavors.
Mindful eating allows you to legitimately enjoy the food that you’re consuming. If we can give ourselves this pleasure, it can reduce the cravings we feel later.
5 Steps to master intuitive and mindful eating:
Unlike what this picture may suggest, you don’t need to climb to the top of a mountain and pack beautiful food in order to mindfully and intuitively eat. It takes practice, but it’s possible to incorporate into everyday busy lives. Food stops being the enemy or an annoyance that interferes with getting things done. By taking the steps to learn mindful and intuitive eating, people get to slow down, reconnect with their bodies, and don’t need to suffer while doing it!
Learn about the hunger scale.
The hunger scale is a way to numerically identify hunger and satiety cues (Access the hunger scale here). The range goes from 1 = starving, 5 = neutral, 10 = uncomfortably stuffed. The goal is to stay between 4-7 as much of the time as possible.
Keep a hunger and satiety journal.
In the free Mindful and Intuitive Eating Workbook there are forms that can make it easy to keep track of hunger and satiety. You can also keep a little notebook or note on your phone. Figure out what system will work best for you. Keep it simple: date the top and list out each meal with a letter (B for breakfast, L for lunch, D for dinner, and S for a snack). Next to each letter put the number from the hunger scale to rate your hunger before eating. Then rate your hunger after eating. Example: B 3/8
Turn off all distractions
It is hard to be mindful when phone notifications are dinging and the tv is going in the background. We don’t want to make it any harder for ourselves to stay in the moment by having to compete with everything else trying to capture our attention.
Use your senses while you’re eating.
In addition to flavor, pay attention to the texture. Notice the nuances of the flavors. Smell the aroma of the food. Visually notice the differences in the various items within the dish. Really be present while eating.
Plan in advance!
When we have a plan for what we will eat during the day it’s easier to stay mindful. Without a plan, we may fall back into rushing and grabbing foods that aren’t in alignment with how we’d like to eat.
Challenge: One week of mindful and intuitive eating
Here’s my challenge for you – are you ready for it? I want you to commit to 1 week of mindful and intuitive eating. By the end of the week, it still may not feel natural and effortless, but I am confident you’ll notice a difference in how you feel and approach food.
There’s no downside to trying and if you don’t like it, your old habits will be ready and waiting for you. It’s not going to be easy but the end result of ending the weight loss battle is worth it!
Dr. Stiff has several resources to support you on the journey to improve your health:
- Intuitive Eating Worksheet: This is a free download that can be downloaded here.
- Mindful and Intuitive Eating Workbook: Another free download that can be downloaded here.
This was the 2nd post in a series aimed at giving people healthy tools focused on improving overall health: both for their body and their mind.
The next post will teach you to change the messages you give yourself to end the weight loss and body-shaming cycle.
Craving Food and late-night snacking: How to counter mindless eating
Lynn Stiff, MD, RD, MS is a board-certified family medicine physician, registered dietitian and the founder of Nutrition Health Life, LLC. She is focused on helping others proactively achieve health and wellness. Through her years of practice, she has come to realize that nutrition is not just "calories in equal calories out" and that many simplistic weight-loss strategies cause more harm than good. She is passionate about helping women reject diet culture and learn to love themselves in their own skin, empowering women to dig deep inside and reframe the way they see food, exercise, themselves, and the world in which they live. She is an advocate for intuitive, mindful eating and helping women focus on their value and purpose without regard to the numbers on the scale.