Dare to trust your true hunger

by Dr. Ellen Cullman, FLT Columnist

Mindfulness is a multipurpose skill that can be adapted to almost any habit you want to change. Applied to eating habits, mindfulness builds your awareness of what you think, feel and experience while eating. Over time, your new awareness nudges you to transform destructive eating habits to those that support your health and well-being. For example, if you are a yo-yo dieter, over time mindful eating helps you safely lose weight and sustain your loss. If you have diabetic tendencies, mindful eating helps you manage your pre-diabetic or diabetic blood sugar levels. Are you considering bariatric surgery? Again, mindful eating will prepare your mind and body for the upcoming changes and guide your adjustment to new eating habits as you recover.

Mindful eating begins when you use your mind to observe your body’s natural physical sensations to determine intuitively when your true hunger is “calling.” When you ignore your true hunger, you may eat because others are eating or your diet says you should eat. When you eat lunch, are you eating because you are truly hungry or just because it is lunchtime? In addition, you may misinterpret your emotions as hunger. Are you angry, tired, lonely or sad when you put that dollar into the candy-bar machine? When you repeatedly ignore your true needs and eat anyway, you train your mind to ignore your actual physical hunger leaving you on eating-auto-pilot at the candy-bar machine.

Mindful eating challenges you to replace your on-again-off-again diet rules with daring to trust your body to know your true needs. Diets tend to prescribe specific rules that overlook your natural hunger signals as well as your likes and dislikes. The most diverse diet rigidly adhered to can be as motivating as eating rice cakes all day. It is no wonder your weight yo-yo’s with out-of-control indulgences. Mindful eating teaches you how to eat sustainably for health and pleasure.

Whether you struggle with giving in to indulgences or have a medical condition requiring changes to your eating lifestyle, mindful eating can help you. Here is how you get started: Lean into eating only when you are hungry and stopping when you are satisfied. This teaches you to focus on discerning your true hunger from all the other reasons you may eat. It teaches you how unpleasant an overstuffed and bloated stomach really is when you compare it to a satisfied feeling and increased energy. In time, you will begin to recognize and understand your unique eating patterns and preferences. As mindful eating builds and strengthens your trust in your body’s wisdom, you will increasingly respond appropriately to your true hunger.

See more of Dr. Cullman’s columns at http://www.firstlocaltoledo.com/columnists/dr-ellen-cullman. Email mindfuleatingcoach@gmail.com or call 419-494-7699 for information about coaching sessions and mindful eating groups. Dr. Cullman is available for educational presentations, seminars and personalized retreats.