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Developing healthier eating habits

Mindful eating is all about experimenting with the foods that make you feel better, and training your brain to crave what does.

PORTLAND, Maine — As we inch closer to holidays, the time when many of us start to indulge in food a little more, there are healthy habits we can start now. Those habits could also improve your mood and the way you feel physically. I spoke with integrative naturopathic doctor Alice Fong about mindful eating habits.

A lot of people have this idea that food is either good or bad so you have to restrict your intake to foods that are considered healthy. This has led to an explosion of so many diet programs such as Keto and intermittent fasting. However, there is something about diets that do not work for so many people. These diets often lead to deprivation, frustration, and unnecessary stress.

Mindful eating is a way of healing our relationship with food. It allows us to tap into that natural, intuitive eating that is programmed within us—knowing when we are truly hungry, knowing when we have had enough, and using what we eat to fuel our activities. Most importantly, however, we learn from the experience—what food made us feel better (physically and emotionally) and being able to make that conscious decision of what to eat and how much food to take in the future. This is the essence of mindful eating.

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How do we start to build the habit of mindful eating? 

1) Have a Purpose: We should begin by understanding that mindful eating is all about awareness and purpose. What is the purpose of eating? Start your meal with the purpose of feeling good when you’re done. Your purpose will affect how much food you eat, what food you eat, and how the experience will make you feel.

2) Ask Yourself, “Am I really hungry?” Check for physical manifestations of hunger such as low blood sugar, stomach rumbling, and being hungry among others.

  • If you are really hungry, decide which food to eat. Mindful eating is about having that choice to eat what makes you feel good and nourishes you at the same time. Eat what you want to eat or it's alternative. It’s about how the experience will make you feel during and after eating.
  • If, on the other hand, you are not hungry, find out what is driving that hunger and address it. It could be stress, fatigue, or maybe you are just thirsty. Eating when we are not really hungry can make us feel less energetic. It won’t make us feel good and the craving continues because we haven’t addressed the root cause.

3) Let Go of Trying to Control: Remember that controlling our food is never the goal. Our goal is to be in charge, meaning that we are able to make that conscious decision to eat or not to eat. It’s about making that choice and learning from it - did we like the experience, how did it make us feel, would we do it again, what can we do moving forward. With mindful eating, all food is good but we have the flexibility to make adjustments based on our mood, our purpose, and the circumstances.

You can learn more by texting the word "Yes" to 66866.

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