Conscious Eating – Befriending Your Food

October 7, 2019
Do you ever feel guilty after eating? Do you always eat because you're hungry? Continue reading then, as we're about to tell you about the concept of conscious eating.

Interestingly, most of the good times often take place around a table. Unfortunately, for many people, this poses the eternal dilemma of breaking or following their diet, which leads to anxiety. Conscious eating may help you manage it because it’s about “befriending” your food and, therefore, improving your relationship with it.

In many instances, a bad diet is the collateral damage of a busy life that extends to your resting periods. Thus, we lose what should be a healthy relationship between our diet and our body. We only become aware of it when confronted with excess weight or when we feel bad after eating.

It’s at that moment when we begin to question whether we should stop eating certain foods and go on a diet in order to lose the extra pounds. Here come the feelings of guilt and internal disapproval about the food we eat… and even in regard to the food that we don’t allow ourselves to touch.

Conscious eating isn’t just about what you eat but also about how you eat it. It’s of little use to make changes in your diet if you barely taste your food, you don’t chew it enough, nor allow your senses to enjoy the moment and your eating experience.

Eating more than you need

A woman eating a salad.

Our brain needs about 20 minutes to receive and analyze the satiety signals emitted by the stomach. When we eat too fast, we’ll most likely end up eating more than we need.

However, chewing and swallowing aren’t “conscious eating”. The act of eating is always tied to your emotional state. It’s satisfying to eat consciously. However, when you don’t, the emotional state that ensues afterward is usually uncomfortable. You get too full, even lethargic.

A study by Langer, Warheit, and Zimmerman indicated that 44% of people who participated believed they had excess weight after they ate each meal. Similarly, more than 45% felt guilty after doing so.

“Don’t let your mind bully your body into believing it must carry the burden of its worries.”

-Astrid Alauda-

Conscious eating: Four questions

To become conscious about eating, you need to focus our attention. You need to strive to create a continuum of consciousness. Thus, the more aware you are of your relationship with food, the more possibilities you’ll have to improve.

Become aware of what you want and should eat before you do and during and after the eating process. To do this, begin by asking yourself these four simple questions:

  • Is my satisfaction with the way I relate to food high or low?
  • How’s the level of pleasure that food gives me during my eating process? High or low?
  • Do I consume normal portions of food or do I usually choose a larger portion than normal?
  • When I finish eating, do I feel happy or uncomfortable?

When you center your attention in answering these questions, you begin the process of conscious eating. Committing your awareness and attention is the path to a healthier diet.

On the contrary, you’ll lose control over what you eat when your consciousness and your attention are elsewhere. However, there’s an exception if you carefully planned what you’re going to eat and how much.

Emotional eating

A woman eating a doughnut.

Your eating habits are highly influenced by our socio-cultural environment, but they’re also, and very intimately, based on your emotions. Depending on how you develop the ability to regulate them, they can help you regulate the habit of conscious eating.

You eat emotionally when you’re unable to distinguish emotions, both pleasant and unpleasant, with the real feeling of hunger. Also, the low tolerance for emotional discomfort drives people to eat unjustifiably and unconsciously. This is popularly known as binging.

Food as a coping resource for managing emotions isn’t right and is also completely the opposite of conscious eating. Food isn’t a relief, entertainment, an anxiolytic, or an antidepressant. This way of using food is nothing more than a quick route that our brain uses to obtain a momentary decrease in vital distress. The problem is that this attitude ends up becoming a habit.

Become aware and adopt conscious eating

The regular practice of self-observation will help you better manage conscious eating. This is also a way to avoid self-sabotage. The solution is to build new ones based on consciousness. Begin by wondering if the hunger you feel is physical or emotional. Start identifying your emotions and manage them properly.

Begin by postponing food until it’s mealtime and save your excuses for your boss. Make a conscious increase in other pleasant activities that have nothing to do with food.

Conscious eating is a skill that you can acquire if you do it enough. When you move from emotional eating to conscious eating, you’ll feel much better because you’ll be taking care of yourself. You’ll know you’re in charge and, therefore, you’ll be able to stay in control of your body.

  • Vidal, Julia (2017) El comer emocional: Cuando nos alimentamos desde nuestras emociones. Area humana blog. Recuperado de https://www.areahumana.es/comer-emocional/
  • Churchill, Margaret (2002) Conscious Eating. Experience life blog. Recuperado de https://experiencelife.com/article/conscious-eating/
  • Nelson J. B. (2017). Mindful Eating: The Art of Presence While You Eat. Diabetes spectrum : a publication of the American Diabetes Association, 30(3), 171–174. doi:10.2337/ds17-0015
  • Frayn, M., Livshits, S., & Knäuper, B. (2018). Emotional eating and weight regulation: a qualitative study of compensatory behaviors and concerns. Journal of eating disorders, 6, 23. doi:10.1186/s40337-018-0210-6