Signature Daily Food Practice

Daily Practice circle

The Signature Daily Food Practice will help increase your awareness of your current food practices. It encourages you to become mindful of your eating habits and understanding the nutritional value of what you eat. The objective is not to change your eating but to become aware of your choices and how they affect your body and mind.

You can expect: gain awareness, learn about portion sizes, explore feelings and thoughts about eating

Level of Effort: Easy

Time Involved: 1 to 3 hours per week

 

Getting Started:

  1. Maintain a food journal daily - gain awareness, learn about portion sizes, explore feelings and thoughts about eating.
  2. Begin to incorporate mindful eating habits
  3. Review your food journal at the end of each week - think about balanced meals, food labels and nutritional content of what you are eating
  4. Estimate your BMI and BMR - give context to your food journal review, give perspective to what is in common foods (average calories in popular foods).

 

What to Consider:

  • In the beginning focus on recording as much as you can, when you've become accustomed to writing everything down, you'll be ready to start keeping a more in-depth record.
  • Review Food Practice Recommendations and Considerations

 


 

1. Maintain a food Journal

A food diary is an excellent first step in assessing how you eat. The most important factor in keeping an effective food diary is to make it an honest one. You can keep a simple paper journal to record your daily food intake or there are several resources available online. You will find writing down and acknowledging these questions and your related answers will go a long way in helping you to understand what you eat, why you choose the food you eat and how what you eat makes you feel.

 

Track the following in your food journal daily:

  • What you ate - the types of foods you are eating
  • Your underlying reasons for eating - did you feel gut hunger
  • Your appetite and/or cravings
  • Your portion sizes - For portion sizes you don't need to buy a scale or pull out measuring cups. Use your own measurements (e.g. a salad bowl of popcorn, a fistful of M&Ms, a mug of hot chocolate); a rough estimate is better than not keeping one at all.
  • Your feelings before and after eating (e.g. satisfied, healthy, guilty)
  • Who were you with?
  • Did you eat hurriedly or calmly?
  • Were you doing another activity (like watching television) while you were eating?

Additionally we recommend you determine the following, which an online resource can help you provide:

  • Your nutritional intake
  • Fat grams, calories, carbohydrates, protein, fiber, etc.

 

2. Begin to practice mindful eating

Healthy eating is not about strict nutrition philosophies, losing weight, or depriving yourself of the foods you love. Rather, it's about feeling great, having more energy, and keeping yourself as healthy as possible, all of which can be achieved by learning some nutrition basics and using them in a way that works for you. Healthy eating begins with learning how to "eat smart" - it's not just what you eat, but how you eat.

Eating mindfully is being aware and attentive to all dimensions of eating, including thoughts, feelings, body responses and clarity of your mind. Mindful eating is about being conscious of why you are eating. It's about learning HOW and WHY you eat, and less about WHAT you eat. As you begin to keep track of what and how you are eating, begin to think about these elements in conjunction with your choices.

Among many things, mindful eating includes feeling the saltiness of each potato chip on your fingers as you pick it up, and noting the taste of the salt when you put the chip on your tongue. It's being aware of and listening to the loud crunch of each bite, and the noise the chewing makes in your head. As you eat the chips, you take note of the rough texture against your tongue, and the pressure of your teeth grinding together. When you are so closely in touch with what is going on inside, you know the exact moment you are satisfied rather than stuffed or starving. When you are watchful, you notice how your stomach expands and feels fuller. You experience each bite from start to finish by slowing down every aspect of the eating process to be fully aware of each movement, swallow, aroma and feeling derived from eating.

 

Use the following to determine how mindful you are of your eating:

  • Ask yourself, on a scale of 1-10, how aware am I at this moment?
  • Am I tasting every bite or am I mindlessly chomping away?
  • Identify whether you are mindlessly snacking or in touch with every single bite.
  • Do I pay attention to my body's feedback (like when it says stop) or do I ignore it?
    • Identify how your body tells you it's hungry and full.

 

Use the following activities to become more mindful when eating:

  • Observe the taste, texture, smell, and sound of food. This helps you to pay attention to what you are doing.
  • Pay attention to hunger pains, a rumbling stomach, your energy level, movement, body posture and muscle tension. If you don't respond, your body could stop giving you important information about how it is doing.
    • Learn to know the difference between emotional hunger (stress eating) and physical hunger.
  • Begin to notice feelings that start and stop eating, such as anxiety, guilt, stress, comfort, boredom and pleasure.
    • It's important to get in touch with your emotions. If you don't get a handle on your feelings, sometimes, coping with your feelings is more important that changing the type of foods you eat.
  • Observe your "should" and "should not" thoughts, critical thoughts (I'm so fat!), food rules, "good" and "bad" food categories.
    • Notice how positive and negative thoughts sway your behavior. A thought is just a thought; you don't have to respond to it.

Learn more about Mindful Eating...

 

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3. Review your food journal

To understand the why, what, when and how we eat, we have to be compassionate and nonjudgmental. This allows us to take a closer look at our behavior. Review your food journal entries on a weekly basis to build an understanding of how and why you are eating and making certain choices. Use the following guidelines for your review:

  • Could you recall everything you ate after a meal? In other words were you mindful of the eating process or were you focused on other things?
  • Review your portions to understand if they are "normal"
  • Your feelings (e.g. satisfied, healthy, guilty) before and after eating, determine if there are patterns or insights
  • Overall, do you have positive or negative eating experiences.
  • In assessing why you ate (hunger, boredom, etc.) and how you felt afterward (guilty, deserving, etc.) you might find areas that point to a lack of balance. If you tend to binge due to stress, or you regularly give in to emotional eating, your food diary can help you cope. When you catch yourself eating when you're not hungry or giving into a binge, spend some time in reflection so you can figure out why it happened.

This is not a way to "grade" yourself or create guilt. Review your journal as if you are doing it for someone else. Separate yourself and just look at the entries to gain awareness, without judgment and then make assessments as you would for a close friend. It's about learning HOW and WHY you eat, and less about WHAT you eat. When you are so closely in touch with what is going on inside, you know the exact moment you are satisfied rather than stuffed or starving. To understand the why, what, when and how we eat, we have to be compassionate and nonjudgmental. This allows us to take a closer look at our behavior.

 

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4. Estimate your BMI and BMR

To understand what your nutrition your body needs you need to understand the amount of calories your body needs to function. Then you can decide what to eat to meet your caloric needs. There is a right number of calories for you to eat each day, based on what your body requires. This number depends on your age, activity level, and whether you're trying to gain, maintain, or lose weight. You could use up the entire amount on a few high-calorie items, but chances are you won't get the full range of vitamins and nutrients your body needs to be healthy. You may be surprised to learn that you can make healthy food choices without giving up the things you love about food. Many of the foods you grew up with, and the foods you love most, can be prepared in a healthy way.

 

Assess your current health with BMI

BMI is an estimate of body fat and a good gauge of your risk for diseases that can occur with more body fat. Body Mass Index (BMI) is a number calculated from a person's weight and height. It is a fairly reliable indicator of body fatness for most people and while it does not measure body fat directly, research has shown that BMI correlates to direct measures of body fat, such as underwater weighing and dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA).


Calculate your BMI using one of the following options:

  • BMI online caclulator - you will be asked to enter your weight and height using either standard or metric measures.
  • BMI Tables - use the tables on the page linked below to determine your BMI from the tables

 

Assess how many calories your body needs with BMR

Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the amount of energy your body needs to function. We use about 60% of the calories we consume each day for basic bodily functions such as breathing. By using a simple formula called the Harris-Benedict principle, you can assess your basal metabolic rate, which tells you how many calories you should consume in order to maintain your weight. Factors that influence your BMR are height, weight, age and sex.

  1. Calculate your BMR with the following formula (Please note that this formula applies only to adults):
    1. Women:  655 + (4.3 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) - (4.7 x age in years)
    2. Men:  66 + (6.3 x weight in pounds) + (12.9 x height in inches) - (6.8 x age in years)
  2. Calculate Activity and add this number to your BMR.
    1. In order to incorporate activity into your daily caloric needs, do the following calculation:
      1. If you are sedentary : BMR x 20 percent
      2. If you are lightly active: BMR x 30 percent
      3. If you are moderately active (You exercise most days a week.): BMR x 40 percent
      4. If you are very active (You exercise intensely on a daily basis or for prolonged periods.): BMR x 50 percent
      5. If you are extra active (You do hard labor or are in athletic training.): BMR x 60 percent
  3. The result of this formula will be the number of calories you can eat every day and maintain your current weight. If you wish to lose or gain weight you can adjust your calorie intake or activity accordingly.


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