Mindfulness can be defined as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” Mindful eating focuses on the overall experience of food via “sensual awareness.” Mindful eating is not necessarily a weight loss strategy in itself, but it’s a means with which to help develop a healthier relationship with food, slow things down, and really appreciate satiety as a fuller experience. We live such rushed, distracted lives and mindful eating is one way to force us to pay attention to what we are eating and be present in the moment. Mindfulness also forces us to focus on the process, rather than the outcome of our meals. All fanciful intentions aside, can mindful eating really help with weight loss? Apparently, there is a small but growing body of research that indicates mindful eating may help people control their appetites and eat healthier diets.
Mindful eating begins well before mealtime. As I have advocated before in a previous blog post, meal planningis essential for weight loss. Mindful eating advocates for a more thoughtful, planned approach to grocery shopping. Your meals are not simply an end product and you should take the time to consider the quality of your food. When it comes to mindful eating, nutritionally healthy foods are preferable over unhealthy comfort foods.
Some mindful eating practices include: eating slowly and deliberately, learning to recognize your fullness cues, paying attention to the individual senses while eating, avoiding distractions at meal time, and eating at set times and places with others. Research has suggested that it can take up to 20 minutes for the brain to recognize fullness cues. Mindful eating may help treat people with binge eating disorder (BED). In a 2011 study at Duke University, researchers found that mindful eating helps people struggling with BED reduce depression, reduce binging episodes, enjoy their food more, and increase their ability to control their eating.
There are many ways to eat mindfully. Some interesting tips I found online include: using chopsticks or eating with your non-dominant hand to eat slower, taking smaller bites and chewing well, or taking five whole minutes to eat a raisin and experience it fully with all your senses. When you eat fast, like I do, you tend to miss out on the sounds, colors, smells, textures, and flavors of your meal. Mindfulness also helps you address negative emotions you may have regarding eating, such as guilt and anxiety. By eating your meals as a healthful experience, you can remove any judgement you have previously held against yourself at mealtime.
I’m personally a bit skeptical about any unproven weight loss strategies; however, I don’t find mindfulness as potentially harmful. Does mindful eating hold all the answers for weight loss? Definitely not! Can it be helpful? I don’t think giving it a try will hurt! I’m a very fast eater. I drink fast, eat fast, and half the time I watch YouTube or TV while eating. I think there’s many of us out there that could find some good in addressing our mindless habits and making them more mindful and conscious.
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Remember, be kind to yourself and keep moving forward.