First, let’s define Intentional Eating since it is the basis of all my programs. By definition, intent is “aim” or “purpose.” So, what is your “purpose” or “aim” with eating? There is no right or wrong answer. Occasionally it might be for pure pleasure, other times for fuel, most of the time to satisfy hunger, or to improve your health. Knowing your intent with food is essential in managing chronic diseases and improving your health.
Now, let’s take you through the steps of Intentional Eating.
Know your why. Why do I want to eat? What is my intent with food? Am I hungry? Bored? Sad? Stressed? Getting ready to exercise? Before putting one bite in your mouth, it’s important to identify the “why” so you can make sure you are eating for the right reasons.
Know your what. What am I going to eat? This is the most important step in managing chronic diseases. By carefully choosing “what” you can optimize energy, sleep, hormones, blood sugars, blood pressure, etc. The list could go on and on. Choosing the right foods is key to feeling great.
Know your how. Am I eating at home? In the car? With other people? Fast? Slow? Standing up? Sitting down? Managing “how” you eat will maximize the food that you put into your body so you can feel your best.
Intentional Eating does not have to be tricky or difficult. It just takes some practice. By paying attention to why you eat, what you eat, and how you eat, you will see how different foods affect you in different ways, You will be empowered to make the food choices that give you the results you want.
A simple, visual way to change your eating habits is to imagine your plate divided into sections as you portion out your meals. To decrease your weight and decrease your chances for cancer and heart disease, it is suggested that your plate is filled 50% with vegetables and/or fruit. Lean meat can be about 25% and whole grains the remaining 25%.
If you are a man or an active woman, then you may need more food than is on the “plate.” In that case, add skim milk on the side, bread, and/or fruit.
How does this plate compare to the last meal you ate at home? How does that compare to the last meal you ate at a restaurant? I imagine that if you ate at a steak house, then 50% was meat, 25% was starch (mashed potatoes or French fries), and possibly 25% was a vegetable. If you ate at an Italian restaurant, probably 75% was starch (pasta) and 25% was meat.
If this is far off from how you currently eat, try to make one change a habit first. How about trying to fill your plate with 25% vegetables? Once that has become a habit, increase it to 50%. Does that sound too challenging? Then try to decrease your meat to 25% of your plate and fill up on whole grains instead. Keep on persisting, and soon it will be a habit.
We make thousands of decisions every day, from what to wear, where to drive, how to eat, who to speak to, etc. The majority of these decisions are made without even thinking. Only a small percentage of our daily decisions do we actually think about. Imagine if we had to consciously think about everything we did…our brains would be on OVERLOAD!
Let’s say that you have a habit that you’d like to change. Habits are decisions made “without thinking.” Another term for this is “fast thinking.” When you’re in “fast thinking” mode, you are choosing the default option, the easiest option, or the most rewarding option. Our brains are hard-wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Let me give you an example. You come home from work and feel tired and stressed. Your mind only cares about relieving the stress and fatigue and feeling some pleasure. Without thinking, you head immediately to the kitchen for your favorite salty snack because it will bring instantaneous pleasure. Your mind doesn’t care about the “pain” that may come later (i.e. ruined appetite, guilt, disappointment, etc.). Again, this is “fast thinking.”
Now, the opposite of this scenario is engaging in “slow thinking.” When we want to change a behavior we have to consciously choose to switch from fast to slow thinking. Slow thinking takes us off of auto-pilot and gives us time to intentionally choose what will be most rewarding in the long-term instead of the short-term. Someone once told me, “You have to play the tape to the end.” Meaning, think through your decision until you see all the consequences. Only then can you make the decision that is best for you at that time.
How do we do that? Here are a few suggestions:
Pause and take a few deep breaths.
Leave the room, close your eyes, and think your decision through.
Decide ahead of time what you will do before you even encounter the difficult situation.
Be patient with yourself and don’t ever give up!
You can apply slow thinking to any behavior you want to change, from eating to exercise and everything in between. Just remember to pause, take a breath, and think it through. Now you are in control instead of “fast thinking”!
Please share, what do you need to apply “slow thinking” to?
To define “intentional eating” it’s easier to first explain what it is NOT:
Eating by the clock or diet rules
Obsessing over food and weight
Constantly off or on a diet
Feeling out-of-control with food
Embarrassed by the amount or way you eat
Bingeing on food or eating compulsively
Disconnected from food and your body
Confused by knowing what the “right” way to eat is
Feeling you will never be a “normal” eater
Eating whatever is handy, in front-of-you, or available at the time
Not having a plan to manage your eating
Eating when stressed, lonely, bored, happy, anxious, angry, or depressed
On the other hand, an intentional eater does the following:
Honors her hunger, fullness, and food likes/dislikes
Never diets again
Eats food that nourishes her body and mind
Feels in control of food and cravings
Soothes emotions in productive ways that don’t involve food
Is successful in managing her weight and health
Empowered with a daily plan
Is proud, strong, and free from food issues
Which category do you fall into? If you would love to become an intentional eater, then try my “Intentional Eating-Home Study Course.”
If you’ve struggled with your weight or food/body issues all your life, you may wonder: is this just another “diet” to waste my money on? Most definitely it is not. I’ve combined a variety of methods for treating food issues to bring this class to you. I’ve seen so many people that long to be healthy and free up their mental energy by focusing less on the scale, calories, and fat grams. Yet, they are scared. Are you scared of failing one more time? Are you scared of actually hoping that you can finally be FREE from food and make PEACE with your body? I understand. It takes faith to take that step and let go of the dieting rollercoaster. You CAN learn to trust your body again. We were all born with the ability to naturally regulate our intake and love our bodies. Think of the children that you know. They instinctively know when they are hungry and when they are satisfied. You CAN reclaim your intuition. By having a support system and learning the steps of “Intentional Eating”, you will be amazed at the transformation.
“My little intentional eater. She eats to get rid of hunger and experience new foods. Nothing more. Nothing less.”