4 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Eating
I love learning about who people are as eaters. In my work with clients, I’m fascinated to hear their food stories, memories about eating or special foods they got as kids. And I love to know what the traditions and customs were for them as children and how that impacts them and their food choices and eating style now. In the past, I’ve discussed at length my stop look and listen approach to slowing down and being mindful before eating. I want to expand on that concept now by learning how to do an “eating audit” before you even take a bite or even before you choose to eat at all!
Here are 4 questions to ask yourself in your eating audit and a few of the ways you’ll know how to become a more empowered and intuitive eater. Please know that you’re not always going to have the perfect reasons for eating (and that is ok!) nor will you always be able to honor what your specific needs are depending on the environment you’re in or the circumstances you’re in at the time. Use these as guidelines to understand yourself better, what triggers you and to gently guide you to a place of pleasurable and undistracted eating.
Is it physical hunger or emotional hunger?
Use this hunger timeline to determine where you are right now as you’re thinking about eating. If it’s above a 5 you’re likely eating for emotional reasons. Below a 5 and there’s a good chance your body needs food and nourishment. (Note: We’re an emotional species and we will sometimes eat merely for emotional reasons – no reason to chastise yourself for this but it is simply an area of inquiry for you to understand which emotions most trigger you to eat and why and then learning other methods to meet those emotional needs).
2. Am I craving something in particular (texture, flavor profile)
In addition to being an emotional species, we are also a tactile and sensory species and we derive pleasure from different tastes, sensations, mouth-feel and textures. We can honor this by choosing foods that will scratch that particular itch. Just because you are craving “carbs” or salt, doesn’t mean something is wrong with you or that you have a food addiction. We crave foods for many different reasons including the time of the month, other hormonal shifts, the weather and temperature and nutrients we may be currently lacking. Ditch the judgement morality and seek the foods that are the most nutrient dense as you can find that fulfills your craving.
3. Am I relaxed and undistracted?
This is a big one! Imagine for a minute that you are in a spa, getting a relaxing aromatherapy massage for an hour with soft, sweet music playing in the background. How do you feel? Are you relaxed and happy? Do you generally feel like pouncing on pizza and doritos right after? Likely not and that is because you are in a relaxation response. Humans are meant to eat when relaxed and aware to optimise digestion and our metabolisms. In fact, when we eat in a stress response, our bodies can literally shut down digestion (as it would if a lion were chasing you because all the blood rushes to our head and extremities to quickly react and run etc). To learn much more about mindful eating and relaxed eating, enroll in my free 7-day mindful eating course.
4. Am I eating this just because it’s there?
I call this the “It’s there so I eat it syndrome” (you can learn more about this syndrome and other reasons why we tend to overeat, binge, stress or emotionally eat by downloading my 3-part video series on eating empowerment here).
We will sometimes eat, not because we are hungry or stressed or having some other type of emotion but simply because it’s right in front of us and we instinctively grab or graze on food when it’s there. So what can we do about this?
#1 – if possible, move the food item out of view or tucked away in a cabinet
#2 – replace the food that is just lying around with a more nutrient dense option like carrots or trail mix
#3 – remove yourself from the table or place where that food is just lying around. Suggest a walk if you’re with someone, or go to a different room if you’re on your own.
#4 – If you’re at a restaurant, ask the waiter to take away your plate, or the bread bowl or left-over appetizers sitting there before your main course arrives.
Asking these 4 questions before you eat will give you a greater understanding of why you’re driven to eat in this moment and will give you some time and space to make choices that are aligned with both your short-term and long term goals around your health and nutrition.
Found this helpful? Learn even more about eating empowerment by watching my 3-part video series here.