‘I want a brownie’ means:
I want a break,
I want to talk, or
I want to scream.
And sometimes
it just means
I want a brownie.”

-Michelle May

I gained a lot from the Dietitian’s of Canada National Conference that I attended during the past 3 days. I anticipate my next couple posts will incorporate takeaways from this well-rounded conference. One of my favourite talks was done by Michelle May, author of “Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat” (highly recommended read!). This talk resonated with me because it went beyond the quantitative nutrition talk regarding portion sizes, number of servings, intake recommendations, etc. Instead, it focused on the everyday psychology  behind our food choices. The information that the presentation communicated was not necessarily new or groundbreaking, however it brought forth a realization regarding the thought processes around eating, which separates us into instinctive eaters and struggling eaters.

Before continuing on, think about your typical eating pattern. Think about how you ate yesterday. Ask yourself these questions:

1. Why did I eat?
2. When did I eat?
3. What did I eat?
4. How did I eat?
5. How much did I eat?
6. Where did I eat?

Do you resonate closer with an instinctive eater or a struggling eater?

Instinctive Eater
Why: An instinctive eater eats to fuel their body. 
 They eat when they need to, when they are hungry.
What: They eat whatever they choose with the intention of feeling better.
How: They eat intentionally.
How Much: They eat enough to satisfy hunger.
Where: They eat living their life.

Struggling Eater
Why: Triggers such as stress and boredom drive them to eat. They also eat socially and for reward – not always due to hunger.
 They eat when they receive external or emotional cues to eat.
What: They try to eat only ‘good’ or ‘allowed’ foods. However cues can lead them to turn to comfort foods.
How: They eat mindlessly, quickly or secretly. Perhaps while at their desk while at work (I am guilty).
How Much: They eat until the food is gone or are uncomfortable – not in a controlled manner.
Where: Excess energy is spent on dieting and exercise.

Often you will hear struggling eaters use the words “I can’t, I shouldn’t, I was bad, I was good.” They restrict their eating to feel in control, however this leads to a great potential for ‘failure’. These types of eaters are likely to go through a diet-binge cycle as they shift from being in control and out of control of their eating. They are essentially disconnected from the eating experience. They associate exercise with punishment.

In contrast, and instinctive or mindful eater is aware of their options to eat – ‘healthy’ and ‘un-healthy’. They are in charge of their eating and get to decide what to eat – it may not always be the healthiest option, however they don’t feel guilty if they make a less-than-optimal choice. They eat a brownie because they want a brownie. They are aware what drives them to eat. They don’t blame themselves after eating. This is what makes balanced eating.

How to be a Mindful Eater

  • Always check in and ask yourself “AM I HUNGRY?” before you eat. Be aware of other triggers – stress, boredom, social triggers, eating for reward or even eating because that’s the time you normally eat. Think of your body as a car. You pass a gas station (trigger). What do you do? You check your fuel gage. You wouldn’t fill up if your tank is full. You also wouldn’t stop at a gas station every time you pass one to get gas. You shouldn’t feel you have to eat every time you are presented with a trigger to eat.
  • Remember that when a craving comes from something else than hunger, eating will never satisfy it. Get to the bottom of why this craving is being triggered and find another way to satisfy this craving. Are you a stress eating? Acknowledge this. Habits can be changed with awareness.
  • Notice the taste and texture of the food as you eat it. Take your time and don’t eat as you are doing something else. Enjoy the experience and you will feel more satisfied.
  • Use nutrition information as a tool, not a weapon. Use it as a set of guidelines and don’t set out to eat perfectly all the time.

“Eating the right
amount of food
isn’t about
being good.
It’s about feeling good.”

-Michelle May


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