Are you on autopilot when you eat? Do you often find yourself struggling to remember what you ate for the day? After 20 years of working with teams and athletes, nutrition guru Craig Harper has found the biggest challenge people face when it comes to good nutrition is eating unconsciously. If this sounds like you or your clients, keep reading to find out how to re-establish healthy eating habits.
Many people eat what they don’t need, and then they wonder why they struggle to maintain their weight. They eat processed food. They eat socially, they eat because it’s expected, because it’s there. They eat emotionally or reactively. They reward themselves with food. They fantasize about food, or lie about it. They eat to give themselves instant physical pleasure. And then when they’re finished, they curse their lack of self control. If you recognize yourself or your clients in this viscous cycle, you’re not alone.
We live in a society of fast food, meals on the run and TV dinners, which sabotage healthy nutrition. We rarely take the time to prepare meals, eat together and enjoy our food. But we can stop this cycle if we focus on conscious eating.
What is Conscious Eating?
Conscious eating is the art of bringing mindfulness to eating. Through self observation, you can gain insights, self awareness and a deeper understanding of the root causes of unconscious over-eating. When you begin being mindful during eating, you become aware of the root causes and patterns that lead to unconscious over-eating. Once you become aware of these patterns, you can change them and get back in the habit of just giving the body the nutrition it needs for optimal health, function and energy. Nothing more or less. So, what’s the most conscious and responsible question you and your clients can ask in relation to your eating habits?
“Why am I eating this?”
If the answer is not “because I need it,” then you’re eating unconsciously.
Drug of Choice
For many people, food has become their drug of choice, 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 as well as emotional and psychological changes.
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 rationalized, 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.
We were trained to celebrate with excessive eating. We were taught to overeat on certain occasions. It was the rule and still is. Christmas, birthdays, reunions, anniversaries, engagements, New Years and Easter were (are) all legitimate times to abuse our bodies with food. We were encouraged to over-ride the “full” signal and ignore what the body was telling us.
The first step in conscious eating is being aware of your triggers. If you think you or your clients are guilty of unconscious eating, here’s something to put on the fridge:
- 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 rationalize poor eating.
- I will not lie to myself or others about my eating behaviors.
- 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.
Conscious eating is about reconnecting with the body. It’s about stopping the cycle of lies and excuses. It’s about slowing down and paying attention. It’s about honoring and respecting the gift that is the body. When we eat consciously, our body, mind and emotions all work in perfect harmony.
Craig Harper is one of Australia’s leading coaches, presenters and educators in the areas of health, fitness and personal development. Craig has been an integral part of the Australian fitness landscape since 1982. In that time, he has worked as an exercise scientist, corporate consultant, professional development speaker, university lecturer, AFL conditioning coach, radio host, TV commentator and writer.