Eating mindfully is the best way to eat and involves learning to listen to our bodies for cues about what we need and when we’ve had enough.
However, since none of us live in a perfect world, often life stresses and challenges can throw off those internal cues and cause people to overeat or not eat enough. Learning to eat mindfully takes practice and training, just like most other self-control techniques like meditation and Yoga. No one can meditate perfectly when he or she starts the practice, and mindful eating is no different.
We can’t always trust our feelings of hunger, because they can sometimes be a disguise for what our souls are really longing for, or can even be our inner self’s cry for help. Equally as harmful is a lack of appetite, which can be another manifestation of a disturbed inner state. Therefore, since we can’t always trust our inner cues, mindful eating should first be approached from a scientific perspective.
How to train yourself to eat mindfully
The scientific approach to practicing mindful eating is to use scientifically sound metabolic formulas to help you understand how much energy your specific metabolism requires during a given day.
These calculations take into account your age, gender, weight, height and activity level to determine how many calories you should consume. The result is known as your Total Daily Energy Expenditure or TDEE. Thanks to the Internet, there are many tools that’ll do all the calculations for you, so you can quickly determine this figure once you input your individual stats.
Once you have your TDEE established, you can then further break this down into a healthy macronutrient ratio. In other words, you’ll determine how many grams of protein, carbohydrates, fat and fiber you should eat each day. This can vary, depending on what your fitness goals are, but most people do well with a good balance of all three, as this is the most natural way to eat.
Once you’ve established both your TDEE and a healthy macronutrient ratio that’ll allow you to reach your goals, it’s time to start practicing mindful eating. This will require tracking your food intake throughout the day and planning out your eating in a way that meets your needs. While this may initially seem time-consuming, there are smartphone apps like Fooducate that can make this process almost effortless. Some of them even have barcode scanners that’ll instantly retrieve the nutritional information from the labels of the foods you normally eat.
For fresh foods like meat, veggies and fruit, it’s handy to have a digital food scale so you can weigh out the portion of food you’re eating. You can then enter the food and its weight into your tracking app and the app will tell you how much of each macronutrient the food contains.
Your eating should change with exercise
Another aspect of mindful eating is understanding that you need to eat more on days you exercise and less on days you don’t, because the energy requirements of your body differ between these types of days. Some people mistakenly think they can eat whatever they want, and as much as they want, on days that they exercise. While it’s true that we can eat more on those days, we naturally tend to overestimate how much more.
This is another way that tracking macros and calories can help train us to eat mindfully. Since you’ll have established a TDEE for your exercise days, you’ll know exactly how much more you’re allowed to eat, based on how many calories you burn during your workout. You’ll be giving your body the right amount of nutrition while learning to pinpoint what this amount of food looks like.
When to stop tracking
People learn at different rates, and some may be better at intuitively figuring out how much to eat, but generally speaking, people should track their food intake for about two to four months. It takes a good 30 days for new habits to take root, and an additional 30 days will help cement those new habits into place. Accurately determining how much to eat can become as habitual as anything else, and giving yourself four solid months to learn this habit will most likely make you a mindful eater for the rest of your life.
Later, you may need to check back in with your tracking from time to time, especially if the numbers on the scale begin to move in an undesirable direction. However, you’ll usually require just a week or two of tracking to get yourself back on the right track.
Mindful eating ends the dieting rollercoaster
The reason the dieting industry makes billions of dollars each year is because most people are gaining and losing the same 20 to 50 pounds over and over again. This dieting rollercoaster is not only costly for your wallet, but also for your health. Gaining and losing the same weight over and over is hard on your heart, your body’s hormone regulation and your emotional well-being.
Training yourself to eat mindfully by tracking your macros and calories will allow you to get off that rollercoaster once and for all.
Training yourself to eat mindfully by tracking your macros and calories will allow you to get off that rollercoaster once and for all. You’ll be able to control your weight naturally and intuitively, because you’ll know just how much to eat at any given time. Maintaining a healthy weight will also allow for better overall health—physically, mentally and emotionally. Plus, the money you save from no longer buying all the food for and trying every diet under the sun will be put to better use.
In our modern society, bad food choices and humongous portions are constantly bombarding us, and this is challenging for even the most disciplined person to deal with. However, learning to eat mindfully—with science in mind—will give you the tools to be a healthy eater, despite the food challenges most of us face.