Mindful eating is unlike any other diet out there. It is not based on what you eat. Instead, it is based on HOW YOU EAT.
When you’re on a diet, there will always be an internal battle you have to face every day, every time you open your mouth and feed yourself.
Should you eat more rice? Should you eat another slice of cake?
The battle is between your cravings or desire to eat and your willpower to have a healthier lifestyle, and, for some, to lose weight.
And when the former wins, we end up beating ourselves up for “caving in.” We are disappointed in ourselves, and then we just eat anyway because, why not?
More snacks, more junk food, then one cheat day turns into several cheat days.
We are in this endless cycle of succeeding and failing at every meal.
Earlier in the day, you eat an avocado toast – good fat, healthy. No sugar!
So, you congratulate yourself up to lunchtime when you just eat a healthy salad. The workday ends and you’re alone at home or you’re a Mom who’s perpetually tired, so you indulge after a stressful day.
The truth is, controlling what you eat is incredibly hard!
If you relapse, all your efforts to abstain from unhealthy foods will be put to waste. You’re like an alcoholic who just gave in and like most addicts, you regret doing it.
The following day, a cycle of yet another internal battle begins.
What is it about eating that we like? We think that we lack SELF-CONTROL.
Mindful eating could potentially fix your relationship with food. Food is not the bad guy. It’s not the one making you gain weight. The key is how you treat food.
It’s your relationship with food that we need to change.
When you change the way you think about food, you will be completely aware, your self-control will improve, and guilt will be replaced with positive emotions.
Initial research suggests that mindfulness meditation may be an effective intervention for binge eating.
What is mindful eating?
It is based on the Buddhist practice of mindfulness.
According to these studies, Mindfulness Moderates the Relationship Between Disordered Eating and Disordered Eating Behaviors, mindful eating is a form of meditation that allows you to be aware of and cope with your emotions and physical sensations in the present.
Mindful eating is the application of mindfulness while you eat to reach a state of full attention to your cravings, your full experience, and your physical sensations while eating.
Will mindful eating work on weight loss?
Weight loss programs will ask you to lower your caloric intake and/or remove a food group (carbs or sugar or fat).
According to a study on ten obese patients in a 6-week group seminar, mindful eating:
“Provides preliminary evidence that eating focused mindfulness-based intervention can result in significant changes in weight, eating behavior, and psychological distress in obese individuals.”
How does it address unwanted eating behaviors? I will provide more details on how it does this.
Could this be the key to weight loss? Well, studies prove that it is. But the real question is: will it be effective for you?
Binge eating is when you eat copious amounts of food in a single serving or a short amount of time, without control or paying attention to what you’re eating.
It’s linked to stress, weight gain, and obesity.
When you pay attention to what you eat and the sensations you feel (your satiety), you will decrease the frequency and severity of your binge.
How to apply mindful eating?
Eat more slowly and let your body catch up to your brain. Stop eating when your body says it’s full, and pay attention to physical cues.
One of the reasons people overeat is because it takes 20 minutes for the body to send its satiation signal. Put down your fork in between bites, chew more.
2. Know why you’re eating
Are you eating because you’re bored? Or sad?
Are you eating emotionally comforting food or nutritiously healthy food? Don’t think of food as your refuge when you feel sad. When we are stressed, many of us reach that for tub of ice cream and eat it by ourselves.
We’re not saying you should never eat sweet, decadent, and delicious ice cream, but be aware that what you’re eating doesn’t provide much nutritional value and has a lot of sugar.
And, there’s no need to finish the entire tub when you can have a scoop or two.
3. Avoid distractions
When your attention is focused on other things or if you’re multitasking, it is more difficult for you to listen to your body’s cues.
For example, when you’re watching a movie, your hand automatically reaches for a handful of popcorn whether or not you’re hungry.
You can still enjoy your meal mindfully when you’re sharing a meal or having a conversation with a friend or your partner. Try eating without a screen in front of you with just your meal and the person you are sharing it with.
4. Pay attention to your body
While writing this article I actually tried eating slowly within the 20-minute window, chewing slowly, putting down my fork in between bites of my homemade pesto breast chicken.
Surprisingly, after 20 minutes (I timed myself eating), I feel so full. (It was funny-I actually burped.)
I didn’t finish the usual amount of food that I eat every day.
Enjoy your meal. This is quite vague, so I will explain what I mean: enjoy every slow bite, the taste of all the ingredients to make the meal.
Stop eating when you feel full. Also, reflect on how the food was made, did your Mom make it? Think of everyone involved in the meal you’re enjoying including who prepared it, who planted and harvested the ingredients.
Eating mindfully is changing your perception about food. With that, you will improve your self-control. You will think of food as fuel and not as entertainment.
Mindful eating creates a positive relationship with food and removes negative thoughts such as guilt and self-blame.