Written By: Elizabeth Fay, MS, RD, CSPCC, CNSC
Registered Dietitian, Certified Specialist in Pediatric Critical Care, Certified Nutrition Support Clinician
As we continue our mindful meal series, let’s look at two more aspects that contribute to eating mindfully: our appetite and emotions. First, let’s review mindful eating.
What does eating mindfully mean? Eating mindfully encourages you to be aware of your meal, surroundings (including any distractions), appetite, pace, and emotions. All of these components help to shape us to be more mindful at each meal and snack. Eating mindfully not only helps us meet our nutrition and wellness goals, but it provides additional benefits, such as promoting meal enjoyment and gratification.
In order to implement mindfulness when we eat, it’s important to take a look at our appetite and emotions. Our appetite is a wonderful feedback cue that tells our bodies when to eat and how much to eat. Our hunger is driven by many variables, the first being hormones. We have hormones that drive both our hunger and fullness cues. They tell us when we’re hungry and help to show our bodies just how hungry we are. Other variables that play a role in our hunger are the sight and smell of food. Did you know that just seeing and smelling food can trigger our bodies to begin secreting digestive enzymes? The human body is so smart! Another aspect that drives our hunger is our bowel regularity. If we’re constipated or backed up, then our digestion can be delayed, which can impact our hunger.
The other aspect of eating mindfully, emotions, plays a significant role at meal and snack time. Our emotions, no matter what they may be, can have a profound impact on our appetite and our meal consumption. These emotions range from boredom and happiness to sadness and stress. Most of us can relate to these emotions and the impact they have on our appetite, food choices, and portions sizes. Acknowledging our emotions is an important step when evaluating our meal mindfulness.
Since appetite and emotions can sometimes be impacted by each other, it’s important to evaluate both of these components together. When working with your Nuleeu Registered Dietitian and coach, you may be encouraged to review a mental hunger scale before eating. It’s a nice way to evaluate just how hungry we are and if our hunger is true hunger vs. emotional hunger.
Since emotions play such a significant role in our meal intake, it’s equally important to pause and evaluate our emotions before eating. Checking in with ourselves and asking, “How am I feeling right now?” can help bring awareness to our emotions. It’s important to notice when we’re stressed, angry, tired, or ecstatic. Our culture has driven food intake to be associated with not only holidays and events, but emotions as well. Think about the classic picture that our culture has engrained in our minds: someone feeling down or upset headed to the freezer for a pint of ice cream. Pausing and thinking about our current emotional state can help set the pace of meal and snack decisions. Instead of being on autopilot, a brief evaluation can give us a quick emotional check-in. Perhaps we’re not truly hungry, perhaps we’re just eating because we’re nervous and around new people in an unfamiliar situation, or maybe we’re emotional and restricting foods that we know would nourish our body.
Remembering to check in with your emotions is a habit that can take time to master. Many people find visual cues beneficial as a reminder to check in with their appetite and emotions before eating. Setting phone reminders or using sticky notes are some useful methods to use. Everyone is different in how they process appetite signals and emotions, so it’s important to work individually with your Nuleeu Registered Dietitian to evaluate your nutritional goals and implement the best practices for you.
As you know, meal mindfulness includes paying attention to meal pace and being aware of meal distraction. Now we can add paying attention to our appetite and emotions to the mindfulness characteristics. Learning to eat mindfully certainly takes practice to implement over time, but incorporating each aspect one-by-one will help you to be more mindful with each meal and snack.
Touch base with you Nuleeu Registered Dietitian or coach to discuss how appetite and emotions may be playing a role in your nutrition and wellness goals. It’s important that you have have an individualized plan to help improve your mindfulness at meals. Not all tips work for every individual, so working closely with your consultant will bring you the most individualized success to meet your goals and improve your mindfulness at meals. Touch base with the your Nuleeu Registered Dietitian to review your current mindfulness and brainstorm additional tips of how to improve mealtime mindfulness overall.
Remember we are a diet-free, all foods company, supporting clients to learn balanced lifestyle living without guilt, shame or restrictions!
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