“Reflective mindful eating is a process. It is a journey. But the destination is so so worth it.” – Krissy
You probably want to know what the heck mindful eating is…
Psychology is at the essence of everything we do. The way we think about things truly defines how we respond. Perhaps you’ve heard the saying “you are what you eat”. And if you are further into your health journey you’ve probably heard the saying “you are what you absorb”, referring to gut health.
While these are both amazing sayings and absolutely relevant to health, I personally believe we are what we think, because how we think literally defines EVERYTHING. How we act, how we eat, how we shop, how we move. EVERYTHING. We really are what we think.
Pssst. This is kind of a long one (but totally worth it). Want to watch and listen instead of reading? Watch this reflective mindful eating training!
When I first heard the term Mindful Eating I was like “what the heck is this!”. I thought it sounded way too “woo woo” and out there and just not something I was into. I thought maybe it was a fad, or perhaps it was for the women who meditated and practiced yoga all day (haha, ironically I guess that is kind of me now…).
Mindful eating can definitely feel a little overwhelming and confronting at the start but it definitely doesn’t need to! That’s why I’ve fallen in love with reflective mindful eating, a strategy I use to bring my mood, emotions and eating patterns into the forefront of my mind without changing the way I eat. I’m not being dramatic when I say reflective mindful eating is life-changing.
Before I share with you how to practice reflective mindful eating I just want to make a quick note. Sometimes when practicing reflective mindful eating you can become aware of some really toxic thoughts around food, the way you are eating and why you are eating and it CAN BE confronting. If you’ve struggled with your relationship with food, feel like some negative feelings might come up or are feeling emotionally vulnerable please consider exploring your food thoughts alongside someone such as a psychologist, certified health coach or counsellor.
WHAT EVEN IS REFLECTIVE MINDFUL EATING
Reflective mindful eating is my bread and butter. I practice it often (usually daily but I can now do it in the moment) and it’s one of the KEYS to transforming health and wellness using a non-restrictive, diet-free approach. I also use it anytime I feel out of balance or “off” because I know it’s the easiest way to work out what is going on.
Reflective mindful eating is essentially reflecting on the last meal that you ate and identifying as much detail about the meal as possible, followed by your mood, thoughts and feelings (both emotional and physical) and taking note of as many meals as possible, ideally for at least a week (longer if possible).
WHY USE REFLECTIVE MINDFUL EATING?
I personally use reflective mindful eating if I ever feel “off” or if I’m feeling bloated, out of balance or lethargic. I also find it incredibly valuable to ensure I continue to speak kindly to myself, having experienced a toxic relationship with food in the past.
Reflective mindful eating can be super helpful if you are struggling with any (or all) of the following:
- Weight imbalance
- Poor sleep
- Digestive issues
- Hormonal Issues
- Toxic food thoughts
- Disordered Eating
And honestly SO MUCH MORE!
I honestly feel like reflective mindful eating is something everyone can benefit from which is why I HAD to share the basics of how to do it with you!
HOW TO PRACTICE REFLECTIVE MINDFUL EATING
The way I suggest is to start with a piece of paper and pen. Write down everything you ate and all the details: the food, the time, how much, where, what you were doing when eating. You are NOT noting calories or any nutritional information, other than the food itself. This is not about becoming obsessive about food or counting calories or macronutrients.
Next to your food/meal write down your mood (happy, sad, angry, surprised etc). You can be feeling multiple moods and perhaps even conflicting moods. The key is NOT to overthink it, just write. Write down how you are feeling, both physically and emotionally as well as any thoughts you are having about the food you ate. It’s not about trying to change the thoughts (yet). You simply want to note it down.
That is how simple reflective mindful eating is.
What you then do with the information you’ve uncovered is where the magic happens (and why working with a health coach who understands reflective mindful eating can be incredibly powerful).
Over time you will start to recognise patterns. Perhaps the food you are eating is not serving you well. Perhaps you could be intolerant to a food you are consuming regularly. Perhaps you are overeating out of boredom. Perhaps you have negative food thoughts come up because you are struggling with an emotional issue, or perhaps you are bingeing on sugar at night because you are so stressed throughout the day. It’s also important to keep this diary for as long as you possibly can, especially if your worries relate to issues that may take some time to show (such as acne and bloating). Sometimes these issues aren’t immediate and so they can take a little digging to uncover.
Over time you can also work on any negative/less positive thoughts that pop up around food (guilt is one of the most common thought I see), and develop new positive and kind thoughts to replace the less-helpful ones. Like I said, you are what you think. They way you talk to yourself really does matter.
Let me share with you an example (real life, from my own personal reflective mindful eating journal). I no longer need to write this down as I can reflect in the moment, but sometimes if I’ve introduced a new food or I’m feeling “off” I will go right back to basics.
8:50pm – Small bowl of oats with tbsp plant based protein powder (vanilla…*brand noted*), eaten while working on my laptop at night. Was feeling really tired but chose to eat.
Should have gone to bed. Super tired. But it was comforting and sweet. I really enjoyed the flavour of the protein powder. Proud of myself for choosing oats over chocolate or other food. Wasn’t really hungry though. Now feel over-full. I’m starting to feel a little nauseous because I am so tired. Need to go to bed. Know this wasn’t the best choice right before bed and will leave me restless in bed. What could I be doing instead? Next time I need to go to bed earlier before I feel overtired. I’m eating because I am tired and my body needs sleep or energy.
ACTION STEPS FROM THIS REFLECTION:
Tomorrow I will go to bed 10-15 minutes earlier and read my book. I know that my body needs rest or energy so I will choose rest. I am kind to my body. I enjoyed the protein powder flavour so I will try to add this to a meal/smoothie/oats earlier in the day.
See how my reflection made note of the actions I could take instead, without berating myself or talking negatively to myself. This can take time, work and practice. But the power of reflective mindful eating is incredible.
It can take a bit of work. And it definitely takes a little brain-power. Sometimes it can feel confronting and it can DEFINITELY be hard to be totally honest with yourself. This is one of the reasons why I suggest doing this alongside a certified health coach (or psychologist if you have experienced disordered eating) as they can ask you the tough questions you might not be willing to ask yourself, and they can also guide you and help keep you accountable. We are all incredibly gifted at making up excuses as to why we are eating a certain way. It’s protective. But we aren’t going to change if we aren’t willing to question what we are doing and try something different.
Reflective mindful eating is a process. It is a journey. But the destination is so so worth it.
Have you tried reflective mindful eating? Do you think this could help you?
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