If your brain is hijacked by an eating disorder, you can’t be what I call a conscious eater. Conscious Eating is a powerful alternative to restrictive food rules and chaotic eating behaviors. Eating consciously means using knowledge, awareness, and desire to guide you about when, what, and how much to eat. Conscious Eating includes being aware of, and learning to respond to, your body signals of hunger and fullness, incorporating accurate and relevant nutritional information, AND giving yourself permission to eat foods you truly enjoy.
Having an eating disorder transforms normal, healthy body signals into stressful, anxiety-provoking feelings. Although it can be very tempting to believe information you read, or hear from others, the truth is that your body is very wise and will give you the best and most accurate information about when, how much, and even what to eat IF you take care of it and learn to listen to its signals. The more you diet, follow rules, count calories, or compare yourself to others, the more disconnected you will feel and the less you will trust your body and the less your body will trust you.
CONSCIOUS EATING ASSESSMENT
Try seeing where you fall on the conscious eating scale. Rate yourself on the questions below using a scale of 1 (you do not follow the guideline) to 10 (you follow the guideline all the time). Write down your answers for each question then add up your total score.
1. I’m conscious of my hunger. I eat when I’m hungry and don’t purposely wait until I am starving.
2. I eat regularly and do not purposely skip meals, or snacks.
3. I allow myself to eat all foods and don’t exclude food out of fear. (This does not include foods you are allergic to or can’t eat due to a diagnosed health condition.)
4. I eat what I want while taking into account nutrition information such as getting enough protein or calories.
5. Even though some foods have greater nutritional value than others and are “healthier,” I recognize that all calories are equal when it comes to gaining weight and that no certain food can make me gain weight, but certain eating habits can.
6. For most meals, I eat a balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrates.
7. I am conscious of when I am full and satisfied, and for the most part do not overeat past this point. If I do overeat (which is normal to do sometimes) I don’t make myself compensate for it or beat myself up, but accept it as a natural human thing to do from time to time.
8. If I do overeat (which is normal to do sometimes) I don’t make myself compensate
for it or beat myself up, but accept it as a natural human thing to
do from time to time.
9. I enjoy food and the pleasure of eating.
10. I make conscious choices to avoid foods or amounts that make me physically feel bad or ill after eating them.
Your Total Conscious Eating Score: out of 100.
See where you fall on the scoring scale below, and read the information associated with your score.
1 to 20, severely compromised:
If your score is 20 or below, you probably already are aware that you have a distorted, unhealthy, compromised relationship with food. Your body and your psyche are suffering from this relationship. Your thoughts and behaviors around food are either too rigid, too chaotic, or both. Your eating is likely guided by fears, misconceptions, emotions, or external rules. You will need help knowing where to get started, but don’t be upset. You are where you are. We were once there too. We changed and you so can you.
21 to 40, unhealthy:
A score in this range indicates that your relationship with food is problematic and not a healthy one. There might be some areas where you score higher than others, or you might score low on all the guidelines but in either case you will need guidance and support to help get you on the road to becoming a Conscious Eater. As we say to everyone, it is important to assess yourself and be honest with those trying to help you. Look over your ratings on each guideline and see where you think you might want to start.
41 to 60, out of balance:
People in this range are out of balance when it comes to their thoughts and behaviors around food. You may have some very good ideas about eating, and yet many of your actions are misguided or unhealthy. If your score is in the 40s, you are far from being a conscious eater and will need a lot of help and practice. If you are closer to 60, you are making several Conscious Eating decisions, but something is in the way. Go back and determine if you are scoring low in all areas or your overall score is low because you follow some guidelines well, but others hardly at all. This will help you decide if you need to target specific guidelines, or work on all of them.
61 to 80, somewhat Conscious Eater:
If you are in this category, there are areas that need attention but you are already a somewhat Conscious Eater. Of course if your score is closer to 60 there will be more to improve on than if it is closer to 80, but in either case it will be helpful for you to carefully go over the Conscious Eating guidelines and see where you can make changes.
81 to 100, Conscious Eater:
Your score indicates that you are a Conscious Eater. You don’t have to follow the guidelines perfectly to be a Conscious Eater. Your score means you are, for the most part, eating with awareness of your body, your appetite, your hunger and fullness signals, and taking into consideration knowledge of nutrition in order to eat a proper, balanced diet. Even with this score it may be good to periodically check in with yourself and see how you are doing. With our busy lifestyles and the drama that can exist around food and weight in this culture, looking over the Conscious Eating Guidelines can be a good way to keep in touch with yourself and see if your relationship with food is where you want it to be.
Hopefully your Conscious Eating Assessment has highlighted where you stand and clarified areas for improvement regarding your relationship with food. For more on conscious eating, read the 8 Keys to Recovery From An Eating Disorder Workbook by Carolyn Costin and Gwen Grabb. If you feel overwhelmed or need help to begin making changes, working with a therapist, dietitian, coach or other professional might help you get over what’s holding you back. Whether doing this on your own or with help, you can put Conscious Eating into practice.