If you’re anything like me, mindful eating is one of those things that you know are good for you but struggle to actually do.
You might have heard people say to be more conscious during meal times can help with weight loss, make you more aware of your food choices, and improve your relationship with food – but what does that actually mean?
In our third bloom interview series, I was fortunate enough to receive a generous overview of this hot topic in the nutrition world right now. Gisela Bouvier, a registered dietitian oozes everything mindful behavior – from the way she talks about it, to the way she practices it in her own life.
Gisela breaks down everything you need to know about incorporating mindful meals – what it is, general advice on how to do it, and the benefits that come. It’s time to limit the distractions, and give your undivided attention to this interview!
What is mindful eating?
Mindful Eating is when an individual becomes more aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities that are available through food, by respecting their own inner wisdom. It is the practice of being present during mealtime.
Can you list some of the benefits of mindful eating?
- Reduced stress around food
- Food enjoyment and pleasure
- Weight maintenance (or weight loss for some)
- Reduced emotional eating
- Supports Eating Disorder recovery and therapy
What is the difference between mindful eating and intuitive eating?
My practice no longer supports Intuitive Eating. I focus on Instinctive Eating. Instinctive Eating means reestablishing your natural inclinations and gut feelings of choosing and consuming the foods that will nourish you most at the moment.
Nourishment can be physical, emotional, and psychological. Instinctive Eating is a non-judgmental approach to nutrition and is flourished through Mindful Eating practices. Mindful Eating comes before Instinctive Eating.
Advice to those with chaotic schedules?
It is important to establish a routine that works best for you. We often put nourishment as the last priority on our to-do list and it should be one of the first when it comes to enjoying a mindful meal. However, if you are unable to take an adequate meal break, I’d focus on when you can take a Mindful Eating approach during other meals.
For example: If you tend to eat breakfast while dropping off the kids and school and then eat lunch at your desk, try to focus on creating a positive food environment at dinner. Creating a positive environment allows for a mindful eating experience in turn.
What myths have you heard as an RD with people offering advice about mindful eating?
Many people think that Mindful Eating is a single tool that can be implemented and all of a sudden, you’ve become a “mindful eater.” The reality is that there are many different mindful tools made for different people.
Some mindful tools include:
– Plate size method
– Need for grocery lists or recipes
– Counting bites
– Journaling – pre and post-eating self-reflection
– Anthropometric measurement tracking
– 1⁄2, 1⁄4, 1⁄4 Plate Method
– How many colors on the plate method
– Limiting food triggers
– Meal planning/Meal blueprint
– Hunger + Fullness scale
A big part of a Mindful Eating journey is discovering what mindful tools support a client’s health journey and which may cause stress. If a tool does not fit into their lifestyle, then the tool isn’t for them and they can try another.
Mindful Eating should be pleasurable – not stressful.
Working with clients on their mindful eating meal plan
Are there specific mindfulness eating exercises you give them that help with approaching mealtimes in a healthier, less aversive way?
When someone has an unhealthy relationship with food or exercise, the specificity of the tool I may recommend really depends on the client and what their stress/trigger/negative relationship may be.
Mindful and Instinctive Eating is never a one-size-fits-all approach and it’s important to truly understand a client in order to help them.
Many readers can relate to being told to finish their plate during dinner which makes being able to understand their fullness cues difficult.
Do you have any general advice on how someone new to mindful eating can learn to “feel their fullness”?
Many of us grew up in the “clean your plate club,” which in turn, has affected our hunger and fullness cues. For someone who still continues to struggle with this as an adult, I could recommend several options depending on the client.
However, here are a few tips I recommend:
- Serve your meals on a smaller plate: When you finish eating, try to gauge if you are satisfied or if you are still hungry. If you are hungry, know that it’s okay to eat more whenever you need it.
- Turn off all distractions: We often eat all of our meals because we are distracted by technology. By turning off technology, we can better focus on our meals and then truly internalize how much nourishment we need.
- Set yourself a timer to eat slowly: Those who “clean their plates” tend to naturally eat quicker. Set yourself a timer to take at least 15 minutes to eat your meal. This will force you to eat slower and therefore connect with your hunger and fullness cues more.
What are some steps or strategies to incorporating relaxed eating into mealtimes that would help someone to be more conscious or present?
To become a more mindful eater and be more present at mealtime, I recommend the following:
Step 1: As previously mentioned, disconnect from all technology and devices – this allows you to put the focus on your nourishment and not on social media, the news, work, etc.
Step 2: Sit at a table – this allows you to rest and digest and truly allow yourself to be engaged with your meal.
Step 3: Make mealtime a sensory experience – Your meal should be visually appealing to you; should have different aromas; should have different food textures and flavors, and you can listen to pleasurable music or engage in great conversation – integrating all of your senses allows you to truly enjoy your meal.
In recent years, mindfulness and purposeful eating have become popular, why do you think that is?
I think more people have become aware that we are always on the go. Technology took over our lives – especially with remote work so common now – and lunch breaks have sadly become a thing of the past. More people are realizing that we need to slow down and that food is meant to be enjoyed. Mindful Eating gives us both a moment to relax and unwind.
Can you let the readers know the ways that they can work with you?
I currently do not offer 1:1 counseling. However, I do offer employee wellness presentations and group sessions.
They can reach out to me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an initial call.
Paying attention during mealtimes with mindful eating scripts
If you’re looking to improve your relationship with food, mindful eating is a great place to start. As iterated by Gisela, beginning your mindful eating journey takes time, effort, and practice with the help of a mindful eating expert.
If you’re someone that’s been considering mindful eating or are simply curious about it, we hope this article has helped to give you a better understanding of what mindful eating is and how you can begin to practice it.
Simply learning how to eat quietly so that you’re able to focus on your food during a meal can be daunting, but with the help of an expert like Gisela, it can be attainable. If you’re interested in having Gisela provide a workshop at your workplace, you can reach out to her via email or find out more about her work online at http://www.giselabouvier.com/.