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Tips and Tricks for Mindful Eating

(Chester County Moms - January 18, 2012)

Eat when you are hungry. Stop when you are full.

Sounds easy, but it's really, really difficult. We did that when we were young children. Somewhere along the way, we stopped listening to our bodies. Somehow, food took on the magical qualities of providing comfort, preventing boredom and relieving stress.

Those of us who have tried many diets have lost and re-gained weight. You didn't fail at the diets, the diets failed you. When you eat too few calories, your body slows down and stops burning as much fuel. When you restrict "bad foods" you end up bingeing on those foods or over-eating other foods to compensate. Then you feel guilty, "go off" the diet, and re-gain all that you lost. Sound familiar?

"The best way to allow our bodies to get to the weight nature intended is to consider our bodies as our teammate, not as our adversary," says Kim Smith Knipe, RD, LDN, Community Nutrition and Outreach Coordinator for The Chester County Hospital. "If it's hungry, feed it. When it's full, stop eating. Appreciate each mouthful."

She stresses, "DON'T DIET!!"

How can we do that?

  • Respect what your body tells you. Eat when you are hungry. Your body knows what it is doing - we just have to re-train our brains.
  • When you are hungry - stop to think if it is your body that is hungry or if you are just bored or lonely or tempting treats are in front of you. If you are truly hungry - EAT! If not, move the treats to a new location and distract yourself - go for a walk, call a friend, check email.
  • If you are hungry, try to eat something healthful that will conquer whatever craving you are having. Want something sweet? Have some fruit instead of a cookie. Want something crunchy? Have some baby carrots instead of pretzels or crackers. Want something salty? Have a small handful of lightly salted almonds instead of a bag of chips.
  • If what you truly want is a "bad" food, you can have some. YES! It's not off limits. Just be more aware. Have a small portion without guilt. Once you've enjoyed a few bites, you may find that you are satisfied -- so stop eating. Don't worry; this will become easier with practice!
  • Several times throughout each meal, stop and decide if you have become satisfied (notice I didn't say "full"). If you are, stop eating. Food will be available when you are hungry again.
  • Focus on how you feel rather than on weight loss. Eating lean protein, whole grains and vegetables makes our bodies feel better - we have energy; we don't have "tummy issues." Eating white bread, cookies and soda every day reduces our energy, disturbs our digestion, and doesn't even give us much pleasure after the fact.

Kim says, "When you allow yourself to eat whatever you want without judgment, you will begin to learn what makes you feel good and what doesn't. If you eat mindfully and tune into your body's signals, you will enjoy your food more and need less of it to be content." Your weight might go up a little at first, but then it will go down, until you stabilize at your natural weight. Learn to love yourself at that weight.

Eat when you're hungry; stop when you are full. Eat what you love and definitely love what you eat!

Last Updated: 9/11/2012