Isn’t healthy eating the same thing as mindfulness?
Here’s the empowering difference you need to know to start eating by YOUR rules.
HEALTHY EATING IS A PERCEPTION
Healthy eating is EVERYWHERE… You can find more and more healthy options wherever you go, which is awesome! But, did you notice how everyone has a different idea of what healthy eating means?
- Grain free diets
- Vegan diets
- Dairy free diets
- Gluten free diets
- Low carb diets
- Clean eating diets
- Paleo diets
- Macro tracking diets
- Ketogenic diets
- Sugar free diets
- Calorie counting diets
- Low sugar diets
- [insert diet name here] diets
It’s like no matter what we figure out about nutrition, there are still questions that go unanswered. Which leaves us with this never-ending diet dogma and a gazillion different ways to eat “healthy”.
THERE’S MORE THAN 1 WAY TO EAT HEALTHY
Clearly, if we knew what healthy eating meant, we would all eat the same – but we don’t! So, why would this sabotage mindfulness? Wouldn’t all these ways to eat healthy actually make it easier to be mindful of what you’re eating? No, and here’s why…
Because we get so caught up in figuring out the “right way” to eat healthy, we forget HOW to be mindful and WHAT mindfulness really is.
Being mindful isn’t about eating healthy.
Let me repeat: mindfulness is NOT about eating healthy.
While it’s absolutely super important to be healthy, (we want to live long and happy lives, right?) you don’t have to be obsessed with perfect nutrition to get that. And honestly, in a lot of cases, “being mindful” has nothing to do with “eating healthy”. That’s because most of us are here right now, reading this blog because we already know how to eat super healthy food. We’ve learned about nutrition and we intuitively know that lots of fresh, whole foods are good for us – and lots of processed, sugary foods aren’t good for us.
SO, WHAT’S MINDFULNESS?
While most healthy eating trends follow strict rules, like…
- Don’t eat gluten
- Don’t eat sugar
- Don’t eat meat
- Don’t eat dairy
- and on and on and on
…mindfulness is different.
Mindfulness is essentially the practice of choosing what’s right for you.
The dictionary says mindfulness means:
1. The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
2. A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
Clearly, mindfulness is not only about healthy eating.
Mindfulness is about being aware of the choices you have in front of you, and consciously choosing something instead of letting it “happen” to you. Does mindfulness, then, have to be about eating healthy? Nope, not really – and that’s the most amazing part.
Mindfulness allows you to choose what’s healthy for your as a whole (mind, body, and soul) — so instead of only focusing on food, it allows you to focus on your entire life.
Healthy eating isn’t restrictive… unless you make it restrictive by following someone else’s strict diet. And if your diet is too restrictive, it’s about time you freed yourself with mindfulness instead 😉
Why? Because mindfulness is really about doing what works for you.
WAIT – ARE DONUTS HEALTHY THEN?
Are donuts technically the healthiest thing you can eat? Of course not 😉
Let’s get this whole mindfulness thing straight…
I’m not talking about nutrition.
Being healthy isn’t only about healthy eating, so we’re talking about being healthy a much more general sense of the word — like doing what’s healthy for your mind and happiness. The problem we face when we only think about what’s physically healthy for us, is that we forget that doing things only for the sake of nutrition can easily get out of hand.
Which why so many of us have trouble with eating disorders in the first place.
We get so caught up in doing the nutritionally healthy thing, that we create these “food rules” that ultimately don’t make us happy and ruin our relationship with food.
Don’t let your perception of “healthy” ruin your relationship with food.
Is eating that donut really going to be the worst thing you’ve ever done? Absolutely not. The perception of what we think is happening to our bodies is what’s making us so stressed out about food. We worry about the sugar, the gluten, the whatever nutritionally “bad” thing is in our unhealthy food and it makes us stressed, anxious, obsessive, uneasy…. and on and on and on. We repeat this cycle of constantly feeling guilty about what we eat.
MINDFULNESS ISN’T RESTRICTIVE
Feeling restricted and controlled by food isn’t healthy… While it can feel like mindfulness is all about making healthy eating choices, it’s so much more than food. Remember, mindfulness is “The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.” It’s about being aware of your body… whatever it’s telling you.
Mindfulness isn’t about only listening to the part of you that says eat healthy… it’s about listening to the WHOLE part of you… even the part that wants donuts sometimes.
Mindfulness is listening to your body saying hey… I just really want to sit with my coffee and enjoy that amazing donut I’ve been drooling over. It can also be taking a piece of cake at a birthday party or ordering the slice of pizza while you’re out with your family for dinner.
Sometimes mindfulness is about indulging… so just eat the dang donut, feel amazing about how delicious it was 😉
Of course, mindfulness is about that balance of eating healthy and indulging – and that balance is unique to you. So indulge in your favorite foods – whatever they may be, then go back to eating real food because that definitely makes you feel good too. The point is, doing what’s healthy for you doesn’t always mean you have to eat healthy… and that’s what listening to your body is all about.
HOW TO START PRACTICING MINDFULNESS
Eating mindfully isn’t as hard as we make it out to be. Does that mean it’s easy? Hell no. But it gets easier the more you practice… and then eventually being mindful becomes a state of healthy mindlessness, just like riding a bike. We just have to learn to put the “healthy eating” rules everyone is fighting about aside – and do what we already know feels good. Here’s how…
1. Ditch the diet label.
While diets can absolutely teach someone to be healthy (they’re not all bad), they don’t teach you to be mindful. Instead, they give you strict rules about what you can and can’t eat.
Losing my diet label gave me the food freedom to eat mindfully.
I was a strict paleo follower for over a year… and it was probably the absolute rock bottom of my eating disorder. While everyone isn’t going to have the same experience, I can speak to the fact that I’m so much happier and free without the label. I still tend to eat a lot of paleo meals (because I love the way it makes me feel). But NOW, when I actually want to eat something that’s not paleo, like a piece of cake or slice of pizza, I don’t feel GUILTY about breaking the paleo “rules”. Learn more about how I broke free from my paleo diet restrictions, here.
2. Create your own idea of healthy eating.
If you want to start eating mindfully, you have to know what works for you… and what doesn’t. If you don’t… it’s basically what they call “going in blind”. I wouldn’t throw you into the Superbowl if you’ve never played football before, right? Yeah, that’d be awful! Which is exactly why getting clear on what works for you, before going all in with mindful eating, is incredibly helpful. So, gaining an idea of…
- What foods you like the most
- Allergies and sensitivities you have to specific foods
- Digestive issues (like IBS)
- How much you actually enjoy cooking
- The amount of time you want to spend cooking
- And any underlying eating disorders
….will all make it so much easier to practice mindfulness.
3. Understand your emotions.
Lastly, you have to learn to understand your emotions…. because they will happen. And if I know anything, it’s that: if you give up every time you have a small setback, you’ll never accomplish what you set out to do. So trust me, there are times when you’ll…
- Be upset you ate dessert even though you were actually stuffed.
- Regret having that third slice of pizza instead of stopping at 1 or 2.
- And be angry that “mindfulness” isn’t happening as fast as you want it to.
But guess what: whether you like it or not, you will struggle with mindfulness – and that’s NORMAL.
Honestly, following a restrictive diet is easier at times – which is why so many people “diet” instead of learning how to eat by their own rules. Mindfulness is challenging and there’s no specific rule book, but once you figure it out… there’s nothing better and it’s all worth it.
TAKEAWAY: DON’T MISTAKE HEALTHY EATING FOR MINDFULNESS
Mindfulness isn’t the easiest practice to get down pat – but it’s 10000% worth it. Don’t let the idea of “healthy eating” by someone else’s standards hold you back from figuring out what works for you.