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How to Become a Conscious Eater

How to Become a Conscious Eater

     

    Food-Ology

    For many of the people I’ve mentored, coached and educated over the last two decades (yep, I’m that old), their biggest day-to-day challenge is managing their food intake in a healthy, intelligent and responsible manner. On a practical, emotional and psychological level, it’s also been one of my biggest challenges over the years. If you happen to ‘live’ somewhere on the scale between disordered eating and eating disorder, then today’s post is for you. It might be time to pay attention.

    While I don’t have an eating disorder (as such), it’s fair to say that my eating has been disordered from time to time over my journey. Especially when I was a fat teenager. Who became an obsessive skinny teenager. Who became an obsessive bodybuilder in his late teens and early twenties.

    Knowing Isn’t Doing

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    Sure, I might seem mild-mannered, measured and disciplined from the outside but not too far below the surface lives an eating machine that’s capable of caloric suicide and dietary behaviours which belie my alleged intelligence and knowledge. I keep that guy in check most of the time, but we all understand that knowing isn’t doing, so even somebody like me still has to work at being a conscious eater. Being an exercise scientist and coach doesn’t mean that I don’t have the ability to make stupid, irrational or irresponsible decisions. Or to eat my own bodyweight in cheesecake.

    Nutritional Dysfunction

    Many people eat unconsciously. They eat on autopilot. They eat what they don’t need. Every day. And then they (strangely) wonder why they’re fat. And unhealthy. They eat processed crap. They eat socially. They eat because it’s expected. Because it’s there. Because it’s free (wouldn’t want to waste anything). They eat emotionally. Reactively. They reward themselves with food. And their children too. Sometimes they bribe (motivate, manipulate, control) their kids with food. “If you do… (insert task)… I’ll take you to McDonalds for dinner”. Awesome parenting! They fantasise about food. Lie about it. They eat to ease the pain. To give themselves instant physical pleasure. To numb out. To escape. To fit in. To forget.

    And then when they’re finished, they hate themselves all over again. Until the next episode. And the cycle continues.

    What is Conscious Eating?

    “Conscious eating is giving our body the nutrition it needs for optimal health, function and energy. Nothing more or less.”

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    Simple huh? In theory anyway. If only we lived in the theory – we’d all be freakin’ amazing. So, what’s the most conscious and responsible question you and I can ask in relation to our eating habits?

    “Why am I eating this?”

    If our answer is not “because I need it” then we’re eating unconsciously. Irresponsibly. Emotionally. When we eat consciously, our body, mind and emotions are all working in harmony.

       

      Drug of Choice

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      For many people, food has become their drug of choice. Their medication. Their refuge. And don’t think I’m being melodramatic when I use the term drug. Food is indeed mood altering. It can produce high highs and low lows. It can be addictive and destructive. Over time, we might need more of it to produce the same ‘high’ or feeling. It affects our nervous system. And our endocrine system. It (like other drugs) produces biochemical changes. Emotional changes. Psychological changes. It can be both life-enhancing and life-destroying. Sometimes, the distance between ‘use’ and ‘abuse’ is not far at all.

      The Psychology of Overeating

      Many of us were raised in a situation (environment, mindset, group-think) where eating food that we didn’t physically need (that is, consuming excess calories, salt, sugar, fat) was rationalised, explained, justified and even expected. The fact that we weren’t hungry or actually requiring food was irrelevant. We often ate because that’s what the situation, circumstance or moment dictated. And when we didn’t eat (the food we didn’t need) we were criticised. “Don’t you dare leave anything on your plate.”

      No wonder we have issues.

      We were trained to celebrate with excessive eating. That is, disordered eating. We were taught to overeat on certain occasions. It was the rule. Still is. Christmas, birthdays, reunions, anniversaries, engagements, New Year and Easter were (are) all legitimate times to abuse our bodies with food. Apparently. We were encouraged to over-ride the ‘full’ signal. To ignore what our body was telling us. To unbutton our pants and keep eating.

      Such an intelligent species.

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      Justifiable Gluttony

      I’m still amazed at how many people become defensive, emotional and even angry (in my presentations), when I suggest that none of us need to overeat on Christmas day (for example). Amazingly, it’s actually possible to have a great day (maybe even a better day) without having to gorge ourselves on food that our body doesn’t need.  Apparently, some people can’t celebrate that way. The date (on the calendar) determines the behaviour. The notion of avoiding excess calories seems almost irrational to them. This is simply another easy-to-understand example of the dysfunctional attitudes, beliefs and expectations that so many of us have around food.

      Conscious eating is about reconnecting with our body. It’s about stopping the abuse. The lies. The excuses. It’s about slowing down. It’s about paying attention. It’s about honouring and respecting the gift that is our body.

      I’m not really an affirmation kinda guy (no shit Sherlock) but when it comes to this issue, I’ll make an exception.

      Here’s something you might want to copy and put on your fridge (pantry, forehead) for a month or ten.

      • I will not eat food I don’t need.
      • I will not reward myself with food.
      • I will not medicate with food.
      • I will not allow situations, circumstances or other people to influence or dictate the way I eat.
      • I will not rationalise poor eating.
      • I will not be a food martyr; I will simply do what I need to.
      • I will not lie to myself or others about my eating behaviours.
      • I will not eat in secret.
      • I will not repeat the mistakes of my past.
      • I will not allow my mind or emotions to sabotage my physical potential.

      I will eat consciously.

      More by this author

      Craig Harper

      Leading presenter, writer and educator in the areas of high-performance, self-management, personal transformation and more

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      Last Updated on May 12, 2020

      8 Steps to Continuous Self Motivation Even During the Difficult Times

      8 Steps to Continuous Self Motivation Even During the Difficult Times

      Many of us find ourselves in motivational slumps that we have to work to get out of. Sometimes it’s like a continuous cycle where we are motivated for a period of time, fall out and then have to build things back up again.

      There is nothing more powerful for self-motivation than the right attitude. You can’t choose or control your circumstance, but you can choose your attitude towards your circumstances.

      How I see this working is while you’re developing these mental steps, and utilizing them regularly, self-motivation will come naturally when you need it.

      The key, for me, is hitting the final step to Share With Others. It can be somewhat addictive and self-motivating when you help others who are having trouble.

      A good way to have self motivation continuously is to implement something like these 8 steps from Ian McKenzie.[1] I enjoyed Ian’s article but thought it could use some definition when it comes to trying to build a continuous drive of motivation. Here is a new list on how to self motivate:

      1. Start Simple

      Keep motivators around your work area – things that give you that initial spark to get going.

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      These motivators will be the Triggers that remind you to get going.

      2. Keep Good Company

      Make more regular encounters with positive and motivated people. This could be as simple as IM chats with peers or a quick discussion with a friend who likes sharing ideas.

      Positive and motivated people are very different from the negative ones. They will help you grow and see opportunities during tough times.

      Here’re more reasons why you should avoid negative people: 10 Reasons Why You Should Avoid Negative People

      3. Keep Learning

      Read and try to take in everything you can. The more you learn, the more confident you become in starting projects.

      You can train yourself to crave lifelong learning with these tips: How to Develop a Lifelong Learning Habit

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      4. See the Good in Bad

      When encountering obstacles or challenging goals, you want to be in the habit of finding what works to get over them.

      Here are 10 tips to make positive thinking easy.

      5. Stop Thinking

      Just do. If you find motivation for a particular project lacking, try getting started on something else. Something trivial even, then you’ll develop the momentum to begin the more important stuff.

      When you’re thinking and worrying about it too much, you’re just wasting time. These tried worry busting techniques can help you.

      6. Know Yourself

      Keep notes on when your motivation sucks and when you feel like a superstar. There will be a pattern that, once you are aware of, you can work around and develop.

      Read for yourself how the magic of marking down your mood works.

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      7. Track Your Progress

      Keep a tally or a progress bar for ongoing projects. When you see something growing, you will always want to nurture it.

      Take a look at these 4 simple ways to track your progress so you have motivation to achieve your goals.

      8. Help Others

      Share your ideas and help friends get motivated. Seeing others do well will motivate you to do the same. Write about your success and get feedback from readers.

      Helping others actually helps yourself, here’s why.

      What I would hope happens here is you will gradually develop certain skills that become motivational habits.

      Once you get to the stage where you are regularly helping others keep motivated – be it with a blog or talking with peers – you’ll find the cycle continuing where each facet of staying motivated is refined and developed.

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      Too Many Steps?

      If you could only take one step? Just do it!

      Once you get started on something, you’ll almost always just get into it and keep going. There will be times when you have to do things you really don’t want to: that’s where the other steps and tips from other writers come in handy.

      However, the most important thing, that I think is worth repeating, is to just get started.

      Get that momentum going and then when you need to, take Ian’s Step 7 and Take A Break. No one wants to work all the time!

      More Tips for Boosting Motivation

      Featured photo credit: Japheth Mast via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Ian McKenzie: 8 mental steps to self-motivation

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