6 Vital Questions For Exploring Your Eating Behaviors

by Katy Keogh, MS, RDN, LD

Last Updated: June 25, 2021

As dietitians, we often find that many people who embark on a “healthy eating” journey don’t dig deep enough into the psychology of eating. It’s not always what we eat - how we eat also may have a profound effect on our health. Therefore, we advocate for people to focus more on exploring eating behaviors rather than diets and food restrictions. Exploring the psychology of eating can help people enjoy all foods without restriction by fostering a healthy relationship with food, leading to true behavior change. That’s right…have your cake and eat it too!

The prominent evidence-based methods that use a psychology-based approach to nutrition are called Intuitive Eating and Mindful Eating. A popular related resource we recommend to our patients is the “Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating Cycle”, a model developed by Dr. Michelle May. Her Mindful Eating Cycle is comprised of 6 questions exploring eating behaviors, shown below.

Try answering the questions below as a mindful exercise. You can respond based on your general habits, or apply the questions to a recent day or meal. It is crucial to use non-judgmental, curious awareness when answering the questions. There are no right or wrong answers, and there should be no guilt.

Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating Cycle
  1. Why do I eat?” Is it based on physical hunger, a challenging situation, visual cues (e.g., advertisement or you walked by it), stress, fatigue, rebellion, boredom, happiness, celebration?
  2. When do I want to eat?” Is it based on the clock, physical hunger cues, triggers (like TV watching, getting home from work, being in the car), or emotions?
  3. What do I eat?” What factors do you consider when choosing food: convenience, taste, comfort, nutrition, cost, etc.?
  4. How do I eat?” Is it rushed, mindful, distracted, rebellious, secretive?
  5. How much do I eat?” Is the quantity based on physical fullness cues, package size, plate size, habit?
  6. Where does the energy go?” How do you feel after eating: invigorated, sluggish, guilty, shameful, neutral?

What answers stood out for you? What habitual behaviors could use more mindfulness? How would this change benefit you, and how would you feel better? Checking in with the answers to these questions a few times can: 1) Identify areas that may need more balance to improve our relationship with food, and 2) Improve our attunement or self-awareness related to food and eating behaviors. To get started on your Intuitive Eating journey or for more personalized nutrition advice, book a Telenutrition appointment with any of our talented Kroger Health Dietitians.

Sources:
  1. May, M. What is Mindful Eating? (n.d.) Am I Hungry? Retrieved June 14, 2021, from http://amihungry.com/what-is-mindful-eating/
  2. Harris, C. (2013, March). Mindful Eating — Studies Show This Concept Can Help Clients Lose Weight and Better Manage Chronic Disease. Today’s Dietitian, 15(3). https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/030413p42.shtml

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.


Katy Keogh, MS, RDN, LD

Katy Keogh, MS, RDN, LD

A mom of 2 little kiddos and over 15 years experience in nutrition, Katy enjoys helping her patients squeeze good nutrition and activity into an already “full” life and find their own balance with nutrition and health while still enjoying food to the fullest. She is an expert in weight management, mindful eating, digestive health, anti-inflammatory nutrition, culinary nutrition, cooking/baking, and any other topic related to food! Outside of work, you’ll find her traveling, walking, jogging, beer tasting, and eating gelato.