I used to eat 5 pieces of pizza in one sitting.

Okay six.

My favorite would be to eat all the cheese and toppings off with a fork and then sprinkle the sauce-covered crust with grated parmesan cheese (or Frank’s Red Hot). Bonus!

Pizza was not the only thing that I could eat a lot of. I’ve had a history of loving seconds and thirds.

When I think about how I used to eat and how I used to feel, as you probably suspect, they were related.

I became a patient of Dr. Pauslon’s because of experiencing IBS with white-knuckle, need-the-bathroom-now episodes. It was not a great way to live. This was partnered with extreme nausea at bedtime that would linger until morning – impacting how I would eat throughout the day, if I ate. My appetite would be ravenous in the evenings due to not eating enough during the day. Hence, the pizza and other food-of-choice binges. Wash, rinse, repeat.

When my health improved and I could properly digest good-for-me foods, my appetite was more controlled and I wasn’t eating as much. But I was still guilty of eating habits that I know weren’t working for me. I would eat super-fast and not at all connected to my hunger signals. That meant I would eat well past the point of being full, not really taking the time to enjoy my food.

Some of the things that would happen because of this were indigestion, gas and bloating, discomfort from being overly feel, and feeling fatigued after eating. If I didn’t change things, I would be on the fast-track back to IBS.

Knowing that my habits needed revamping, I started to practice more mindful habits around eating. Here’s what I recommend:

  • Sit down. At a table. With a plate and fork and napkin. We are so accustomed to eating on the run. Maybe you find yourself eating in your car, standing at the kitchen counter, or on the couch while you’re watching your favorite show. When you’re eating while doing anything else but eating, you’re not typically focused on the food itself or how you feel while you’re eating. That means that you’re missing opportunities to really experience your food – how it looks, how it tastes, and paying attention to how you’re eating it.
  • Prepare your own food when possible. Food prepared in a restaurant typically isn’t cooked with love. I doubt your seventeen year old line cook cares much about whether or not you are going to really enjoy that salad he’s throwing together.
  • Be grateful for your food. Take time to look at it, smell it and taste it. Sometimes, I demonstrate “Angry Food Prep,” where we feel like we, “…have to wash and cut the freaking vegetables,” paired with aggressive chopping. Not ideal. Slow down a bit, have gratitude for the food you have.
  • Connect with your food by asking, “What is my body receiving from this?” Through a personalized nutrition consult, I can help you determine the appropriate balance of nutrients that would help you feel your best. Knowing what macronutrient balance works best for you can help you maintain proper blood sugar levels and appetite control.
  • Connect with your hunger. There are times when we are hungry so we go into the kitchen or other area where we stash food to grab something to eat. But what if it’s not food that we are hungry for? This question and way of connecting to our food is the number one thing to practice for those that feel like food is controlling them. When talking about this in one-on-ones, the question that I often ask is, “Where do you feel there is a ‘lack’ of in your life right now?” Maybe it’s love, free or play time, money, time in general, self-care, a job you love…these areas of lack or void are often the ones that we will with food. It is a big question to ask with often overwhelming insights. Instead of being overwhelmed, I invite you to stay curious and connected. Knowing something doesn’t always mean having to do something about it. It’s okay acknowledge your experience and bring awareness to it but not do anything more. Awareness is key. If this is an area you do need support in, let’s talk.

We cannot separate our lives from health or our health from our lives; they are intertwined. The path to health often starts with the foods that we are eating. And what we are eating is often determined by what is going on in life. By choosing to be mindful and connected, to both our lives and our food, we can reshape the path of our health. Here’s to mindful eating!