Each year the month of march is National Nutrition Month – a campaign from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. From their website:
?The campaign focuses attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.
The theme for 2016 is ?Savor the Flavor of Eating Right,? which encourages everyone to take time to enjoy food traditions and appreciate the pleasures, great flavors and social experiences food can add to our lives.
How, when, why and where we eat are just as important as what we eat. Develop a mindful eating pattern that includes nutritious and flavorful foods ? that?s the best way to savor the flavor of eating right!?
I can totally get behind this year?s theme. In fact, the 10th principle of Intuitive Eating is ?Gentle Nutrition?. I love that, it feels nurturing and kind. I also love the meaning behind it: finding the balance between taste, flavor and health. Essentially, respecting your taste buds, desire for pleasure and satisfaction along with your need for nourishment.
For a healthy relationship with food, I wholeheartedly believe we need both nutritious foods + fun, play foods. This prevents the all-or-nothing mentality that is bound to result in disordered eating. Making a food forbidden just increases it?s allure. It has very little to do with self-control or willpower and everything to do with allowing yourself to fulfill your innate drive to feel satisfied, while trusting that you can (you can).
The benefit of developing a mindful eating pattern is the opportunity to live your life to the fullest. It doesn?t mean sticking to a meal plan while allowing a cheat meal or a cheat day here and there. It means developing the ability to savor your food, social experiences and food traditions without waiting for your cheat meal. It means giving yourself permission to eat, and permission to stop eating when you feel satisfied because you know you can have that food again anytime you would like it. The very interesting part is that your body will naturally find it?s balance with food if given the opportunity (read: without your self-imposed restrictions on when, how, why, what and where.) Commit – and recommit when needed – to listening to your body signals and they will guide you right.
We are constantly bombarded with food rules that tell us how and what to eat. In order to truly Savor the Flavor of Eating Right, I encourage you to make a list of foods you really enjoy. I?m sure that this list will reflect childhood memories, cultural preferences, fun traditions and flavorful foods. Next, choose one and plan to enjoy it sometime this week. Maybe you would like to invite friends to enjoy it with you, include it in a family dinner, order it at a restaurant or just savor it by yourself. However you choose to do it, I invite you to practice mindful eating:
1. Bring your awareness to how it looks, tastes, smells, feels and sounds (if applicable).
2. Let yourself enjoy it, and if judgmental thoughts come to your mind, observe them and gently bring your attention back to your meal.
3. Notice intuitive signals of hunger, fullness and satisfaction. Remind yourself that you have permission to eat and can have this again when you want it, which will allow you to stop when truly satisfied.
4. Also note impressions such as: Is this as good as I remember it? Is it what I am truly hungry for? How is the temperature of the food? Do I like the texture? Flavor? How does it feel in my mouth? This sensory input creates positive experiences with food, which increases self-trust and decreases fear. Curiosity allows you to learn through experience, cultivating your innate ability to moderate food choices.
All of this feedback not only brings enjoyment back to food, it also puts you back in the driver?s seat of your food choices. Not diets, lists of rules or mindless eating. As you savor the flavor, you can trust you are eating right.
For more information on Mindful Eating, you can visit this article.
Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD