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(As published on TheTownDish.com, April, 2011)
You reach into the bag and find that you are fishing around in a pool of crumbs. At that point, as you realize you've just polished off an entire bag of chips, you start to think, "Oh no!" and plummet -- not hop, skip or jump -- but take a giant nose-dive off the proverbial wagon. Your vice-of-choice may not be chips -- it could be chocolate, fries, or just an indulgent item that you hadn't intended to eat that day. Whatever your food of choice is, this action is called mindless eating.
You may have caught yourself mindlessly eating on more than one occasion -- staring into the pantry or fridge, eyes glazed over, waiting for that moment amid snacking to realize, "Ah yes, that is exactly what I want." We tend to mindlessly eat when we are bored, stressed, upset, or simply distracted. Next thing we know, we're beyond stuffed and our good intentions to follow the latest "fad" diet have turned into just another failed attempt at losing weight.
Intuitive Eating -- more commonly referred to as the "Undiet" -- tells us to forget everything that dieting teaches us about our relationships with food and ourselves. By following the Principles of Intuitive Eating, you can rekindle that once happy, loving relationship you had with food.
Reject the diet mentality.
One week into your diet and you're hungry, tired, and cranky. You pass a bakery and you can almost hear the angels descending from Heaven as you stare longingly at the display case.
Dieting tells us we are banned from certain food - that only makes us want them that much more. Yes, some foods are healthier than others, but dieting implies there are "bad" foods and "good" foods, without thinking of moderation. Dieting also implies a beginning and an end, where instead the overall health of your body should be a lifestyle.
Honor your hunger.
"Am I actually hungry?" It's such a simple question, but many of us don't even think about hunger before we begin feasting. Seem a little ridiculous? That's because it is! Think about how hungry you are before you eat.
Stop treating your body like the enemy. Feed your body like it's your teammate -- if it's hungry, feed it. If it's full, stop eating. 'Nuff said.
Cope with your emotions without using food.
The moment a carton of ice-cream can make your bad ex spontaneously combust, make your boss rehire you, or make money grow on trees, I'll be the first in line to get a carton of Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey. Until then, think of food as just that≠≠ -- food. It is there to fuel your body, not to be a solution to your problems.
Be present during your meal.
Yes, it may be efficient to eat while getting other tasks done, but is it really beneficial? Stop treating yourself like the family pet -- sit down to eat your food off of a plate, not out of the container it came in. Be present during your meal and enjoy what you're eating. Enjoy the textures, smells, and tastes. Savor each bite.
Discover the satisfaction factor.
Choosing what foods to eat doesn't have to feel like studying for the Bar Exam. Just eat mindfully -- what do you really want? If that piece of cake has been calling your name all week and nothing else will do, then you eat that piece of cake. Just enjoy every bite and put the fork down when you feel satisfied.
Exercise and feel the difference.
If we have learned only one thing from the era of Richard Simmons, jazzercise and ridiculously tight, neon spandex, let it be that exercise should be fun (or funny, if you happen to be watching Simmons shake it in "Dance Your Pants Off"). Stop thinking of exercise as a chore, but as a way to treat your body. Make it simple or make it fun -- but just get moving! Think about how it makes you feel, not how it makes you look.
Honor your health through gentle nutrition.
You deserve to feel good about yourself. You deserve to live a healthy, full, comfortable life. Allow yourself to learn, grow, and experience the journey -- you may just find the foods you once thought of as a "treat" actually make you feel lethargic, bloated, unsatisfied, and really just aren't worth it.
Listening to your body can be simple and easy -- if you let it. Trust your body and respect that it knows what is best for you. Most importantly, realize that rethinking your relationship with food doesn't have to be a burden, but a gateway to a happier, healthier, you.
Last Updated: 9/7/2012