The statistics say it all. Every year, 46 million Americans go on a ‘diet’. The Australian statistics are modest by comparison at 3 million people, however, in terms of the total population, the numbers are fairly similar. This ‘diet’ of course, means a slimming diet. Because as we all know, a diet can be defined as what you eat. It’s not necessarily a slimming diet. But in the popular parlance, ‘diet’ has taken on the meaning of a slimming diet. In theory, a person’s daily diet should be a balanced diet, a diet that is mindful of your body’s needs and your psychological state. Many people are not mindful when it comes to eating nor do they have a good idea of the relationship between what they eat and its nutritional benefits or disadvantages.
Despite decades of information dissemination about the value of nutritious food, researchers continue to find that many people don’t get an adequate amount of fruit and vegetables in their daily diets. A balanced daily diet includes at least three serves of fruit and four serves of vegetables.
People can follow fad diets for only so long. They can follow the rules of that crash diet or liquid diet for a short time but for real change in eating to occur, they need to develop a healthy relationship with eating. The typical ‘diet’ regime makes people focus too much on what they eat and not why they eat. Both are important of course, but overemphasising the ‘what’ at the cost of the ‘why’ readily creates problems for many people. They become obsessed with the idea of different categories of food, count calories endlessly and all this can descend in a downward spiral of feeling dispirited and giving up. Such an obsessive pursuit of a trendy diet can also mean a person loses sight of the actual meaning of food in daily life.
Food is there to nourish us but also to be enjoyed as an oral and psychological experience. Eating with family or with friends, for instance, is a social activity of great importance in most people’s lives. It’s a culinary and group experience to be enjoyed for its nourishment of body and soul.
People often don’t ask themselves: ‘Am I hungry?’ There are some external signals that trigger eating and some of these signals can create a problematic relationship with eating. It’s empowering to learn and evaluate when these external signals push you into eating when you’re not hungry.
These signals include:
Time – eating lunch because it’s lunch time, even though you had a late – and large breakfast
Visual cues such as watching a snack commercial or seeing muffins displayed on a plate when you’re buying your coffee
Emotional eating when you unconsciously push down feelings of loneliness, anger or boredom with food
Mindless consumption of food when you eat without knowing you’re eating or how much. A good example of this is the person who consumes a block of chocolate or a pint of ice cream because they’re distracted by watching the TV
Stop and ask yourself three questions
Whenever you feel like eating, stop and ask yourself three simple questions:
Learning to eat when you’re hungry and knowing what the best food options are means that you can create an environment for yourself that is supportive of your good eating habits. Mindful eating comes from a mindful practice of understanding and evaluating your food needs and making the best choices available to you.
To learn more about mindful eating practices see Think Yourself Thin: The Psychology of Losing Weight