Mindfulness is not just for hippies and yogis anymore. Using the practice of mindfulness in multiple areas of our lives has gained notable popularity as of late, and for good reason. Research supports the premise that connecting with the present moment with acceptance—while not dwelling on the past or fearing the future—can increase happiness and improve physical and emotional health.
Does eating mindfully work for weight loss?
But how do these benefits translate to the idea of “eating with intention”? Although more research is needed to conclusively determine the effects of mindful eating practices on weight loss, paying closer attention to how our bodies and minds are feeling before we head for the fridge can be a huge factor in overcoming emotional, mindless eating.
Let’s face it—Emotional eating is a huge barrier to weight loss. Studies tell us that emotional eating is correlated to obesity, weight gain and BMI. When we’re chronically stressed, depressed, lonely, angry or anxious, mindless bingeing becomes an easy coping mechanism. Trying to eat mindfully isn’t going to be a quick fix in terms of weight loss, but it can help you develop healthier eating habits and an overall healthier relationship with food.
How to Begin…
Ask yourself—What are your life values? Yes, we’re getting that deep. What makes you truly happy, and how is your desire to lose weight tied to this? No, it’s not because you want to fit into those jeans. Get down to the nitty-gritty reason about how and why losing weight will make you happier. Pause to think about this motivation every time you feel the need to overeat. Think about it when you want to skip your workout–and accept that you may need to experience periodic moments of physical discomfort to get to that point, ultimately becoming the fulfilled person you want to be.
When you can, put the following new habits into practice:
1. Don’t diet, and don’t “start eating well on Monday.” Right now, at this moment, begin listening to what your body is telling you about the food you put in your mouth. Eat when you’re hungry and stop eating when you’re almost full. I know what you’re thinking–Easier said than done. Old habits die hard. But we did this naturally as babies, and we can do it again—with a little practice. Accept that you’ll make mistakes along the way, and try a little every day.
2. Eat well, and cook more. Eat fresh, whole foods that are made by nature, not factories. Invest time in preparing foods with protein and healthy carbs and fats. Then, pay attention to how your body feels after your meals. If you feel more energy and less fatigue, take note of it. Look forward to this feeling of well-being and use it as motivation for reaching for these foods (you can use this mindfulness technique for exercise motivation, too!).
3. Give up zombie eating. Eat at a table, sitting down. Enjoy your food. Chew slowly. Look at your food. Note its texture, complexity of taste, and aroma. Don’t talk while you’re eating. Make an event of mealtimes.
Mindfulness–and mindful eating–isn’t about perfection, but acceptance. It isn’t by any means a quick solution for weight loss. But bit by bit, practicing mindful eating habits regularly over time can help to transform your attitude about food, and can improve your emotional and physical health in the long run.
Sources: ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal, Vol. 21