Conscious Eating is a powerful alternative to restrictive food rules and chaotic eating behaviors. Eating consciously means using knowledge, awareness, and desire to guide you about when, what, and how much to eat. Conscious Eating includes being aware of, and learning to respond to, your body signals of hunger and fullness, incorporating accurate and relevant nutritional information, and giving yourself permission to eat foods you truly enjoy.
The philosophy is simple, but at first it won’t be easy to do because it will differ from what you are doing now, and you might have a hard time trusting it will really work. Initially, if you want or need more structure, you may choose to follow a meal plan, which is explained later on in this Key. However, if you are the kind of person who likes more freedom, and you know that a meal plan would likely trigger resistance or rebellion, the Conscious Eating guidelines will give you structure without imposing control. Regardless of where you are, Conscious Eating can bring you a healthy and balanced relationship with food you can continue for the rest of your life.
THE TEN CONSCIOUS EATING GUIDELINES
1. Be conscious of your hunger. Eat when moderately hungry, don’t wait until you are famished.
2. Eat regularly. Do not skip meals (eating at least every four hours).
3. Allow yourself to eat all foods (unless you are allergic or have some other serious health issue).
4. Eat what you truly want and like while being conscious of how foods make you feel, what you may need more of in your diet, and relevant health issues (for example, candy may not be a good conscious choice if you have diabetes or if you haven’t eaten any protein all day).
5. All calories are equivalent when it comes to weight gain. In other words, eating a 100-calorie cookie will not make you fatter than eating a 100-calorie apple. (See an exception, explained below.*)
6. For meals, eat a balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrates. (Your body needs all of these to function properly and efficiently. Deprivation of foods or nutrients leads to physical and psychological problems and can actually trigger eating disorder behaviors.)
7. Stay conscious of your fullness and your satisfaction. (You can eat a lot and not be satisfied.
Texture and taste of food are important for satisfaction, and eating enough is important so your body registers the experience of being comfortably full. The goal is to feel full and satisfied, but not physically uncomfortable in any way.)
8. If you overeat, which is normal to do sometimes, reassure yourself that your body can handle the excess food. You can wait until you are hungry again and then you are back on track.
9. Enjoy food and the pleasure of eating. (Try to be mindful while preparing and eating food. Turn eating into dining using candles, nice dishes, and flowers on the table. Enjoy meals with friends.)
0. Make conscious choices to avoid foods (types or amounts) that make you feel physically bad after eating them (i.e., caffeine makes you irritable and jittery, popcorn or raw vegetables hurt your stomach.)