Returning to Mindful Eating
Note: For more information about the Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating program, visit www.AmIHungry.com or my website.
One of my favorite parts of the Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating program is the reminder that perfection is not the goal. This is very helpful for those with perfectionist tendencies, such as myself, especially when I fall back into old, restrictive eating patterns.
It usually starts innocently enough. For instance, I might decide out of curiosity to figure out how many calories I’m eating, or a doctor might recommend I eat a certain way as an experiment with improving my bone density. But even now, after all these years, I can so easily become obsessed with counting and numbers, feel like I can’t deviate from the “shoulds”. Pretty soon, it seems like I’m on a diet again, even though I don’t want to be and never intend it.
The irony is that I tend to gain weight when I get into this cycle. Sometimes this is because I feel like I should be eating certain amounts, or sometimes it’s because I get into the mindset that if I ate x number of calories yesterday, I can eat that much again today – even if I’m not hungry for those same amounts.
Gaining a few pounds isn’t the end of the world, but it does annoy me when some of my favorite clothes get snug. Worse, though, is the preoccupation with numbers and worrying about if I’m meeting the unintentional requirement I’ve placed on myself. It takes so much time and energy.
So what do I do in these cases? In the past, I would probably have started overeating, shedding the shackles of control and just doing what I want.
These days I take a different approach, although it still involves ditching the rules – I get back to mindful eating. I go back to the basics of focusing on how I’m feeling. Am I truly hungry? Do I really need to eat this much? What does my body want? And if what I want is outside my normal habits, I remind myself that’s fine, especially if I focus on eating it mindfully.
And each time, it’s such a relief. It feels so wonderful to eat when I need to and to not eat when and what I don’t particularly need or want. It’s also helpful to remember the goal of feeling better when I’m finished eating.
While it would be nice to someday get to the point of not slipping back into restrictive eating at al, I’m not going to beat myself up about it. I’ll simply enjoy mindful eating and try to remember the lesson the next time I’m tempted to go by the numbers.