When it comes to the way we eat, specifically the way we try to control our eating habits to make sure we're being healthy, there are two terms that tend to pop up. Some people subscribe to "intuitive eating," while others swear by "mindful eating." These terms may cause confusion because they are often used interchangeably, even though they have slightly different meanings. What we consider normal eating is flexible, and can include both mindful eating and intuitive eating.
Mindful eating encompasses a variety of concepts, but at its core, it centers on how we eat rather than what we eat.
Pace - A key aspect of mindful eating is paying attention to the pace at which we eat our food. All too often, we rush through meals, eating more quickly than we should. This is often done out of habit, or because we are too distracted during meals or are rushing due to hectic, busy schedules. To eat mindfully, you would pause between taking bites, chew your food more thoroughly, and pay attention to your breathing and how full you feel.
Avoiding Distractions - Mindful eating involves staying away from life's many distractions, including your TV, radio, computer, phone or other mobile devices. You should also refrain from eating while you drive.
Assessing Level of Hunger - Think of your hunger as ranging from 1 to 10, with 1 being absolutely starving and 10 being completely stuffed. Assess your level of hunger before you start eating and gauge this level throughout your meal to know when to stop. With mindful eating, it's encouraged to veer away from a rigid eating strategy.
Enjoying & Appreciating Food - Learning to find pleasure in eating and fully recognizing all of the senses you're using simultaneously in the process is essential to mindful eating. Appreciate how food nourishes your body while savoring each bite. Also key is paying attention to your reactions to food without judging yourself.
Recognizing Mindless Eating Habits - Being cognizant of mindless eating behaviors (and their consequences), such as emotional eating and overeating, are crucial to mindful eating. Mindful eating also can incorporate meditation.
The term "intuitive eating" originated in 1995 when two registered dietitians, Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole, wrote a book on the subject, appropriately titled Intuitive Eating. These authors explain that mindful eating and intuitive eating share the same philosophies. According to research, intuitive eating involves three main concepts (which are covered below), with the overarching goal being to achieve a healthy relationship with food and to throw out the notion of dieting. It aims to remove the feeling of guilt you may get when you give in to foods you've sworn off because no foods are "off limits" with intuitive eating.
Unrestricted Go-Ahead to Eat - Unconditional allowance to eat anything you want, at any time, as long as you are truly hungry. You are encouraged to remove any guilt associated with eating and to avoid any rigidity with your eating habits.
Eating Mainly by Physically-Driven Reasons - Avoiding using emotional motives to initiate eating is a key concept. Eat to nourish your body.
Trusting Innate Cues for Hunger & Satiety - Feed your body what it wants when it is truly hungry. The core idea here is to trust your own internal instincts about when you're hungry and full.
The research on intuitive and mindful eating is fairly new, but it's believed that they share similar main ideas that can help people achieve their wellness goals for a lifetime, rather than for a short-term period of time.
Kari Hartel, RD, LD is a Registered, Licensed Dietitian and freelance writer based out of St. Louis, MO. Kari is passionate about nutrition education and the prevention of chronic disease through a healthy diet and active lifestyle. Kari holds a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from Southeast Missouri State University and is committed to helping people lead healthy lives. She completed a yearlong dietetic internship at OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, IL, where she worked with a multitude of clients and patients with complicated diagnoses. She planned, marketed, and implemented nutrition education programs and cooking demonstrations for the general public as well as for special populations, including patients with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, obesity, and school-aged children. If you would be interested in working with Kari one-on-one, sign-up for FitDay Dietitian.