5 Tips on Mindful Eating from the Cats
Like many people, I’ve spent a lot of time with my pets during this past year of the pandemic, and it’s highlighted even more how different their eating styles are. Pangea is an instinctive eater (I’m not sure if “mindful” applies to cats), whereas Fezzik will overeat pretty much any chance he gets.
And even though they’re cats, their behavior patterns have reminded me of some tips about mindful eating.
1: You won’t always eat the same amount
You might be in the habit of serving yourself a certain amount of food because that’s what you “normally” eat, and then you’re more likely to finish it because it’s on your plate.
When you’re more mindful, though, you consider how hungry you are before you start to eat and then only have as much as you need to satisfy yourself.
Pangea is a master of this. Sometimes she’ll have just a few pieces of food, sometimes a palmful. It’s quite a contrast to Fezzik, who will eat everything available.
2: You don’t have to eat the food just because it’s there
That leads me to my second point. Even if you do end up taking more food than you need – maybe you’re not as hungry as you thought, or you misjudged how filling it was, or you decide you want to save more room for dessert – you can still choose not to eat it all.
Similarly, if you’re bored or stressed, you might start rummaging through cabinets looking for something to eat. But when you’re being mindful, you’ll find another way to address those needs and won’t eat the food just because it’s there.
Pangea is also good at this. She has an automatic feeder that only operates for her, and I can leave it full of food because I know she won’t eat it unless she needs it. She’s also not motivated by treats.
Fezzik, on the other hand, is always interested in food - here's his not-so-subtle way of asking for more.
And if I don’t know where he is and want him to come out for some reason, I can shake the treat container, and he’ll come running.
3: You’ll have more energy when you don’t overeat as often
You’ve probably noticed that when you overeat, you feel sluggish. You’re more inclined to sit on the couch or perhaps take a nap than do anything energetic.
You might also be tempted to eat more, thinking that the extra food will give you energy, but that backfires. It just makes you more sleepy.
If you start eating more mindfully, though, you’ll likely notice an increase in energy. Suddenly you might find that you want to do something more than sit around the house.
I’ve seen this in Fezzik as well. He’s not eating more mindfully, but I have been trying to feed him a little less, and I’ve noticed an increase in his energy. He wants to play more and is generally more interested in what’s going on around him. Admittedly, sometimes this doesn’t turn out so well because he starts pestering Pangea, but at least she’s good at enforcing boundaries.
4: You might be hungry at odd times
When you start eating mindfully, you may also notice that your hunger rhythms change – or you might notice them in the first place. You could find that you’re not as hungry around the usual meal times, but you may want snacks at other times of the day.
You can adjust this a bit as you learn more about which foods keep you full for longer, but even then there could be days when you’re simply hungrier than others. This isn’t a bad thing, just something to be aware of.
I’ve noticed this with Pangea. Some mornings she eats more than others, and I don’t quite know why. She also eats more in the evening, which I assume is because cats are nocturnal.
5: You can find other fun things to do
Preparing food and eating can be a lot of fun, but you can certainly find other hobbies.
You might take up birdwatching or observing the local wildlife. Maybe you’re interested in gardening, or you want to try something active like running, hiking, or kayaking. Perhaps you want to be creative and write those stories you’ve been thinking about, or learn how to play guitar.
This applies to the cats, too. I’ve noticed that on days when I can have the patio door open, Fezzik is happy enough sitting by it to smell the fresh air, and watch all the birds and critters, that he doesn’t beg for food every time I step into the kitchen.
Many benefits to mindful eating
I sometimes wish I could teach Fezzik about mindful eating, rather than restricting his food, but so far I haven’t figured out how to do that.
Luckily, though, it’s something you can learn and practice, and if you do, you’ll notice some positive changes in your life. You’ll be more likely to eat only as much as you need, when you need it, and that in turn means you’ll have more energy to do the things you enjoy and even start some new things.
And when you do eat, you’ll enjoy the food even more – before you go on to the other things in your life.