New Year’s Mindset: Mindful Eating vs. Dieting

I am not here to sell you on an approach to eating healthier this New Year. January is a busy month for Nutritionists and I agree it’s a great time to start anew. However, if you’ve tried more than enough dieting approaches before – lower calorie, lower carb, lower fat, higher protein, juicing, detoxes, “eat this but not that” – and you’ve burned out on them and returned to the same challenges around eating yet again – this may be your moment to focus on a different approach: mindful eating.

It can be scary to leave the structure of a diet mentality. We take comfort in numbers, what is good vs. bad and that which can be measured. Mindful eating, on the other hand, doesn’t start with an object to evaluate or deprive. Mindful eating is a process that starts with one simple tool: Curiosity.

Here are two examples that illustrate these two very different approaches:

Situation #1: Afternoon snack hits at work and the chips in the vending machine are calling my name.

Dieter:Chips are my downfall and they don’t have any fiber or protein so I won’t eat them. Fruit, string cheese or yogurt are healthy options.

Mindful Eater: I’m craving chips. If I get up out of my desk chair and take a walk or stairs for 5-10 minutes does that lower the craving? (Crunching helps release some stress hormones just as exercise does.) If not, are there healthier crunchy foods I can have that can satisfy the crunch as well? (Veggies in hummus, snap pea crisps, popcorn, akmak crackers with cheese.)

Bottom-Line Issue: Stress may be playing a part in your craving crunchy foods. Or it may just be a textural preference. Protein/fiber rich crunchy foods are better choices for you than yogurt.

 Situation #2: I have been craving carbs all day today.

Dieter:Fruit and light popcorn are healthy options. Keep focus so I won’t go over my calorie budget.

Mindful Eater: Did I get enough sleep last night? Am I getting some carbs with every meal to give me energy? Did I have protein with all my meals today? Did I eat enough fat today? Am I hydrated?

Bottom-Line Issue: Lack of sleep can cause refined carb cravings during the day. Also, lack of balance in combining carbs, protein and/or fat in meals can cause blood sugar imbalances which lead to cravings. Sometimes we’re hungry when we’re really thirsty.

 As you can see from these examples – starting with curiosity is not an easy approach. But it can lead to graceful experimentation and an end to judging ourselves. Sometimes all we’ll be able to do when we mindfully eat is to be aware as we’re eating that food in which we wish we weren’t. And without the judgment talking we’ll be able to listen in to how our bodies feel afterward. This is progress!

Curiosity creates the space for change. Here’s to more mindful eating and less judgment this New Year.



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