Putting Conscious Eating into Practice
Becoming a Conscious Eater means learning to stay connected to your bodily sensations of hunger and fullness, taking into consideration useful health and nutritional information to make appropriate and satisfying choices for yourself, while staying present and conscious of the people and the conversations around you. If your brain is hijacked by an eating disorder, you can’t do that because having an eating disorder transforms normal, healthy body signals into stressful, anxiety-provoking feelings. Although it can be very tempting to believe information you read, or hear from others, the truth is that your body is very wise and will give you the best and most accurate information about when, how much, and even what to eat if you take care of it and learn to listen to its signals. The more you diet, follow rules, count calories, or compare yourself to others, the more disconnected you will feel and the less you will trust your body and the less your body will trust you. Remember, your body doesn’t know you are intentionally depriving it, so it does what it can to slow down your metabolism and digestion so that you can hold onto as many calories as possible. The way to get it to speed up again is to eat. Eating communicates to your body that there is food around so you don’t need any help conserving energy.
Even if initially you need a meal plan to help normalize your body and retrain yourself to feel and respond to hunger and fullness, you can rebuild trust with your body as you start listening and responding to it again.
FOLLOW THE CONSCIOUS EATING GUIDELINES FOR ONE DAY
Using your Goals Sheet, pick one day to try Conscious Eating. Hopefully, knowing you only have to do it for one day will alleviate some of your fears or resistance. One day at a time is a common and helpful mantra when trying to change a behavior. Write about your experience in your journal, and if you want, let us know how it goes by visiting our Facesecrets page, 8 Keys to Recovery From an Eating Disorder Group and sharing your experience. You might get useful feedback or even be able to help and inspire others.
The Hunger Scale
Reconnecting with and learning to pay attention to your hunger and fullness is a very important part of Conscious Eating, which is why the hunger scale is part of keeping a food journal. The hunger scale is a continuum which starts at 1 for extremely hungry and ends at 10 for extremely full. The following is a brief description of each number:
Hunger Neutral Fullness
1. Extremely hungry, lightheaded, headache, no energy.
2. Still overly hungry, irritable, stomach growling, constant thoughts of food.
3. Hungry for a meal, sensing hunger, thinking about food and what would be good to eat. (This is the target hunger level.)
4. A little bit hungry, a snack would do, or making plans for eating soon.
5. Neutral: Don’t feel hungry or full.
6. A little bit full, not quite satisfied, have not eaten enough
7. Satisfied and comfortably full. (This is the target fullness level.)
8. A bit too full, a little uncomfortable. This is normal to do sometimes.
9. Overly full, uncomfortable (like on holiday or if unconsciously eating).
0. Extremely full, painful, (likely after an episode of binge eating).
You might find yourself resisting the hunger/fullness scale. It might make you overly conscious or rigid, or you might not truly understand the difference between an 8 and a 9. It is important to note that knowing your exact hunger level on a scale from 1 to 10 is not critical. What is critical is paying attention to your body and not letting yourself get too hungry or too full. The hunger and fullness scale can help reacquaint you with your body cues.