One of the most often question I get as a health coach is “How many calories should I eat in a day” Well… there are sooooo many factors that go into answering that question. It actually drives me bonkers when I hear some “diets” give every single person a specific amount they should be taking in. There is no way on earth that a 300-pound man should be eating the same amount of calories as a 100-pound woman, whether they are “dieting” or just maintaining their weight or whatever. With that being said:
When you’re using a traditional diet it’s easy to get caught up in crunching numbers and evaluating progress that you can graph and chart. You look at your calorie and carb intake, how much and how often you work out, the up and down rollercoaster that is your average weight (which has so many factors that can affect it day to day even without dieting) and all those numbers can actually be what’s getting in the way of real progress you can be making instead. With mindful eating there’s no calorie counting, no charting (unless you’d like to keep a food diary), and best of all no rigid guidelines you have to worry about failing or falling short of.
Don’t get me wrong, traditional diets can be great for a lot of people. There are even many diets that work well hand in hand with mindful eating. The key to mindful eating over traditional dieting, however, is feeling your needs and progress rather than following and charting them. Much like how pregnant women have particular strong cravings, their bodies are telling them they need certain nutrients. The signs for the average person aren’t nearly so powerful, but anyone can feel the basic signals their bodies are sending them.
The first and most basic of these signals is when you’re hungry and when you’re full. The average traditional diet is a “one size fits all” type of deal. You get a certain list of foods to eat, a schedule of when to eat them, and portions on how much to have when you do eat. Instead of going through all that trouble, simply have healthy, delicious foods ready and on hand to eat whenever you’re hungry and simply stop when you feel satisfied. The most important part of mindful eating isn’t what or when you eat, but taking the time to savor and feel the impact of your food, giving you time to enjoy your meal while your body has time to let you know it’s done eating.
Where traditional diets and calorie counting gives you a schedule to follow, mindful eating helps you create healthy habits and lifestyle changes that feel natural. Rather than doing something because you have to or because it was part of a program, the choices you make yourself become a part of your new lifestyle as you form new, healthy, long lasting relationships with food and your body. When people look at a diet they tend to see something that will be over when they’ve reached their goal, but mindful eating is something that will stay with you forever, helping you to maintain your health long after you’ve reached your weight loss goal.
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