Eating With Intention
Written By: Heather Gerrish, MS, RDN
Intentional eating is...well, eating with some variation of structure or intent to focus on your meal or snack. Maybe that is to fuel your workout, satisfy hunger or because of an emotional component (sadness, happiness, boredom) or due to a celebration!
Eating with intention is defined differently for all of the above scenarios, but it’s how we apply “intentional eating” to our sustainable nutrition practice that helps us find success and balance long term - maybe that is to reach a certain goal or fuel for a rigorous workout, or to celebrate a special date!
The first application of how to eat with intention under these variable events and occurrences is to ensure that you are prepared (maybe not full meal-prepped prepared, but at least mentally prepared!). At a minimum, taking an inventory of your surroundings and taking a moment for a personal, introspective assessment of how you are feeling/hunger level/cravings and anything else that might be bothering you (maybe you are stressed at work, or hungry after a long commute home) will help you better approach the scenario with confidence and control!
Intentional eating looks a little different for everyone, but sitting down before a meal and evaluating what is important (are you fueling for a workout, providing recovery nutrition for your body to repair muscle tissue, or snacking on something wholesome to provide you energy to make it through the afternoon?) will allow you to eat with greater focus and intention, as compared to if you sat down, mindlessly consumed your meal and then rushed off to your next event and did not take inventory of your emotions or surroundings.
Here is a breakdown of how you can “eat with intention” during your next meal or snack!
Establish your time commitment for your meal/snack. Establishing how much time you have to enjoy your meal, specifically during a busy schedule or at work, will allow you to better plan and create an atmosphere that is supportive of your goal to eat with intention. If you find that you are often rushed or do not have time for a break or lunch, what factors in your schedule could be arranged to help you implement structure around your mealtimes and snacks? What other tools are available to you that might help you develop this further?
Focus. It’s difficult to fully focus on a meal in today’s world. Often we are multitasking (on the computer, on social media, talking with a coworker), but reducing or eliminating these additional distractions will help you focus on your goal to eat with intention, leaving room for those activities outside of your new “time frame” to enjoy your meal/snack. Not to say that all conversations or social discussions should be stopped, but that often when we are around others during a mealtime we often do not focus on our actual meal because we are busy talking and enjoying the company! If you are in a social situation or are striking up a conversation with a peer or coworker, take a moment to focus on your meal and take mini “inventories” throughout your meal to check in as you continue your conversation. Balance is key!
Implement “intentional eating” with a plan. Try out this new method a few times a week at first, develop your strategy and then continue to incorporate this method as you feel comfortable. Small modifications add up to big changes and do not feel discouraged if your plan to implement intentional eating, well - does not go as planned. Try again and see the benefit of focusing on your meal and snack times with purpose!
If you have never implemented intentional eating before, give this outline a try and see how your perception of your meals and snacks change over time - you might just be surprised how much our emotions and surroundings influence our food decisions!