Eating with is that secret sauce that helps you find ease with food because it allows you to find alignment with what you want and your actions.
What is an intention?
According to Merriam-Webster, intention is what someone intends to do or bring about (1). This definition is pretty broad because intentions can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people.
People can hold intentions to be more present, go to bed earlier, make more me-time. There really isn’t one right or wrong way to make an intention. What makes intentions special is that it means something to you.
What is eating with intention?
Eating with intention means you’re eating with a purpose and that purpose is something special and meaningful for you.
When you think about it we eat for a lot of different reasons. We might eat because we are hungry, or we’re socializing, or because we just want to.
What are some intentional ways to eat? We can eat to celebrate a special occasion, to have a meal that is healing for us, or simply because we are hungry.
A misconception around eating with intention is that you can only have one intention at one time and that these intentions are set in stone. This belief sets up for failure because it means that we have to be on point 100% of the time. And you know what? That’s absolutely false. There is no such thing as perfect eating or a perfect gut for that matter.
Keep in mind that….
- Intentions can be grounded in your health and wellness goals, but not always.
- Intentions are fluid and change meal to meal, day to day.
- Intentions can be influenced by factors outside of our goals.
The importance of eating with intention
Our choices are shaped by our intentions. This is why eating with intention matters so much is because it’s the root of why and how we eat.
Think of eating with intention like looking out of a different camera lens. Sometimes the lens might have you more focused on a specific goal and other times the lens might be more zoomed out for a broader focus.
For example, if your intention is to save time and money you might pack leftovers from the night before for your lunch the next day.
Or maybe your intention is to have a special treat so stop the ice cream man as he makes his way down the street (or in my case he completely misses you and you’re left standing on the porch sad, lol).
When our actions aren’t lining up with our intention, that is when we feel like we’re struggling or disappointed. This happens when we are reacting which is the exact opposite of being intentional. Intention is action with meaning and purpose. Reaction is action without thought and doesn’t come from a place of meaning.
Eating with intention gives us alignment with our actions and our purpose.
How eating with intention helps your gut health
Eating with intention can help you improve your gut health which is why it’s a part of The Mindful Gut™ Approach and it can help you with different parts of your gut health.
Intentions help you identify what’s the most important goal for you. When it comes to gut health there are so many different ways you can eat and honestly the messaging can feel really conflicting.
Your gut is unique to you. No one will have the same digestion, microbiome, or life experiences that have shaped your gut feelings therefore your gut-friendly foods and lifestyle will be unique to you.
Make intentions that feel right for you, that is when you find your flow and ease with food.
Rest & digest
Eating with intention helps you be more present with your meal, think of it as a way of mindfully eating. Why does this matter? Because there is a mind-gut connection and it can affect your digestion.
When you’re stressed out it can move blood away from your digestive system (2). So if you’re coming into your meal thinking about the million things to do on your list and not present you’re more likely to have indigestion.
Take a breath before eating so you can shift blood to your digestive system.
Good gut health also extends to your gut feelings.
When we hold in our emotions we might be more likely to experience digestive concerns like diarrhea or constipation. I talked about this with a clinical psychologist, Samatha Gambino on this topic during an Instagram Live, check it out here.
Eating with intention helps you listen to your gut which builds trust in yourself.
How To Write Intentions
Now let’s get to the juicy part of how to write intentions. Think of the following questions as a guide rather than rules set in stone so take what works for you and leave the rest.
What health and wellness goals are important to you?
Start with jotting down health and wellness goals that are top of mind.
For example, two health and wellness goals that are important to me are eating more fiber foods every day and being mindful of the amount of simple carbohydrates I eat daily.
As you write them down you can group them into different themes. Maybe some of the health and wellness goals center around digestion or improving your gut microbiome.
Use your goals as a lens
Intentions are fluid so think of them as a different camera lens. With each day and meal, pick which lens you want to look out.
What if you want to hold space for multiple intentions at one time?
It’s possible to hold two different intentions at the same time. What is important here is deciding which intention is the most important at that moment. Think of it like the larger lens you are looking out of.
I’ll give you a personal example. Blood sugar and enjoying special meals are intentions I often hold at the same time when I go eat at In-N-Out, one of my fave burger spots in California. In-N-Out is a special food for me and at the same time I want to be mindful of how many simple carbs I eat.
So how I hold these two intentions is with a protein-style cheeseburger (aka lettuce wrapped) and a fry. This helps me balance out fun food with keeping my simple carbs at a level that feels good for me. Does this mean I never get a burger with a bun? Nah. I still do, I just save it when it counts.
Create a gut game plan
You can take your eating with intention goals one step further and create a gut health game plan. Create intentions around the 5 pillars of The Mindful Gut™ Approach:
- Trusting your gut
- Eating with intention
- Rest and recharge
- Kitchen confidence
- Purpose over perfection
Download my gut health game plan and it will walk you through how to create intentions.
Amanda is a pizza loving registered dietitian nutritionist specializing in mindfulness and gut health. She quickly realized that gut health goes beyond the gut; it is also about honoring our gut feelings. She is the creator of The Mindful Gut™ which uses science and strategy to help people improve their gut health.