Mindful Eating vs. Counting Calories

Have you ever been overwhelmed by counting calories?

We got a question on our Nutrition and Fitness support group about how overwhelming it can be to use tools like MyFitnessPal.

We want our eating habits to help us, not hinder our mental health. That’s where mindful eating or intuitive eating comes in.

What is Mindful Eating?

Mindful eating means paying attention to what your body is telling you. Let your body guide you towards better eating habits. Now that doesn't just mean eating whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it. It's paying deeper attention to when your body is hungry, and when your heart is.

A lot of us don’t think about how we feel when we’re eating. The importance of mindful eating comes from focusing on how we feel physically and emotionally both before and after eating. While it’s less precise than calorie counting, it can be better for your mental health if you find yourself getting caught up in numbers.

How to Take Steps Towards Mindful Eating

Let’s talk about food and feelings. We need to bridge the gap between how we feel emotionally and physically about our food. The best way to do that is to journal.

Here are a few journalling practices that will help you listen to your body better.

1) Eating Behaviour + How you feel

Every time you get ready to eat a meal or a snack, write down what you are eating and how you feel emotionally. For example, you might be tired after a workout or bored. This might help you discover some patterns and habits you may want to break.

2) How Food Feels While You Eat

While you’re eating, pay attention to how the food makes you feel physically and mentally. This can help you recognize if you have unrecognized intolerances, or even mild allergies. If you eat certain foods that make you feel cozy and happy, note it down. Then, pay attention to how you feel after you finish.

3) Hunger Level and Fullness Level

Every time you eat something, think about how you feel physically. Rank yourself on a scale of 1-10 before and after you finish eating.

Are you actually hungry, or are you bored, or tired, or stressed out? Maybe your reasons for eating aren’t because you’re hungry or full. Understand how you feel physically and emotionally can help you see your own patterns and grow from them. Read more about emotional eating and be honest with yourself.

Mindful eating takes time and practice. Here are some ways to be more aware.

How do you become more aware of what you eat?

1) Eat slowly

Put down your knife and fork between each bite, allow yourself to chew on your food so you can be in tune with how full you’re getting. A lot of the times we eat too fast and we don’t realize it until after, and then we feel we’re too full. Eat slow to allow your digestive system to work properly.

2) Eating to 80% full

Think about a Thanksgiving dinner or special occasion dinner. That is 150% full. If your stomach is gurgling and you’re feeling faint, you are 0% full. When you finish your meal, you should feel energized and comfortable but not stuffed.

3) Ask yourself questions as you journal

What are you learning about your body? Is eating slowly allowing you to enjoy your food more and does your body feel better? Recording your feelings associated with each meal will help you get miles ahead.

We hope this helps and answers any questions about calorie counting, mindful eating, and other ways to work towards your health goals.

Ready to get started? Download our free 5 Healthy Days of Quarantine Guide.