Wait a minute–part of mindful eating is the philosophy that no food in itself is bad or good, and it’s OK to eat whatever you want as long as you eat mindfully. So how does the need to change habits relate to mindful eating?
Sometimes instincts need to be reinstated, especially when they have been dulled through years of poor eating habits, guilt feelings about what you eat or how much you weigh, or simply feeling overwhelmed by having to pay attention to what you eat.
Listen to your instincts. Practice paying attention to you body as soon as you begin to feel hungry. If you wait to eat until you are very hungry, you will eat anything in sight, regardless of whether it’s good for you and the baby. Postponing eating until you feel extreme hunger can actually dull your body’s cues as to what nutrients it really needs. Follow the principles of eating mindfully, and ask yourself, “What do my baby and I really need right now?”
Look for patterns in eating. Keeping a food diary for a week can be invaluable in helping you learn to listen to your instincts. Write down everything that goes into your mouth: what you ate, when you ate it, and any feelings you might have been having at the time. You might note feelings such as, “bored, tired, frustrated, irritable, sleepy, angry, lonely. . .” The purpose of this exercise is not to make you feel guilty over what you eat, but to help you identify patterns of eating.
Listen to your needs. If you notice a pattern of eating junk foor when you are tired, for example, you may be denying yourself rest you need and substituting food instead. If you find a pattern of eating when stressed, you may be substituting food for healthy ways of coping with conflict. Continually ignoring your real needs during pregnancy can lead to complications such as premature birth, pre-eclampsia, and other serious problems.
Lose the scale. If you are listening to your body, paying attention to your instincts, and making sure to meet your real needs, don’t worry about the scale! As long as you are not experiencing severe nausea/vomiting accompanied with weight loss of more than five pounds, and your baby is growing normally, your body will gain just the right amount of weight for you and your baby. Some women may even lose a few pounds initially, as mindful eating helps them to trust their bodies and make better food choices.
Changing habits. Eating mindfully can be a wonderful time of healing old hurts and learning to care for your true needs. When planning changes in your eating habits, ask yourself the following questions:
- What would I change about my habits–if it wasn’t too hard?
- What has kept me from being able to make changes in the past?
- What is one “baby step” I am willing to take this week toward making one change in my habits?
If you find yourself making unhealthy food choices, instead of feeling guilty, use it as a learning experience. Consider the situation which caused you to choose the food you did. Allow yourself to indulge occasionally. Don’t focus on the indulgence, but focus instead on the 95% of the time you are making terrific, instinctive food choices!