03/31/2016 Mind-Body Health
Tired of trying fad diets for weight loss or better health? Mindfulness can offer an effective alternative. Here are four ways that you can increase mindfulness while eating to help improve your relationship with food.
Do you struggle with maintaining a healthy weight and a balanced relationship with food? Almost every week, a new diet emerges in the media, proclaiming a quick fix and promising better health. These are hard to ignore when we’re on a mission to shed pounds.
Unfortunately, most fad diets don’t address the underlying mindset and ingrained habits that can trigger your struggles with weight and unbalanced eating. With all the conflicting information, it can be easy to slip into a repeated cycle of losing and gaining weight, or to get trapped in overly strict diet rules and an unhealthy relationship with food.
Mindfulness offers an alternative strategy for losing weight and having a healthy relationship with food. Approaching food mindfully involves paying attention to your own physical and mental processes while eating. The awareness that emerges through paying attention, on purpose, in a non-judgmental manner, can allow you to remain in the present moment, dismantle old patterns, connect with your true internal motivation, and break the cycle of losing and regaining weight.
Mindfulness is an empowering approach with results that are grounded in science. For example, researchers have found that mindfulness can help regulate plasma glucose levels, partly because those who are mindful tend to have a healthier weight. Mindful people are also more likely to believe they can change many of the important aspects of their life.
Having the ability to slow down, pause, and remain calm in the present moment can allow you to decrease stress, better recognize hunger signals, and eliminate out-of-control binge eating and overall anxiety. Mindful eating—paying attention to the smell, taste, temperature, and texture of the food; being aware of your dining experience; recognizing your hunger and level of fullness; and being aware of your surroundings—can add to satisfaction, balance, and more intuitive eating.
4 Steps to Trying Mindful Eating
If you are ready to free your mind and trust your body’s cues for eating, you can start bringing more mindfulness to your life with some simple shifts. Begin by bringing greater mindfulness to the table each time you eat to reconnect with an intuitive, natural way of eating.
1. Sit down and unplug during your meals. Instead of making eating another item on your to-do list, give your mind and body the break they need to be truly nourished. Sit down and enjoy your food without distractions. Avoid multitasking when eating. Turn off the television, computer, and phone during meal time. This will allow you to be more relaxed and focused on the act of eating and enjoying your food.
2. Eat slowly and savor your food. As you enjoy your food, take time to savor it, enjoy the flavors, and chew well. Your brain needs time to register that you are eating to communicate to your body when you are full and satisfied. Pausing between bites and chewing thoroughly allows you to taste your food more fully, digest more completely, and notice when you are full before becoming overly stuffed. This can prevent over and undereating and digestive distress.
3. Make eating a sensory experience. Mindfulness can transform your meal into a more vibrant experience. There are many aspects of your food to appreciate, including the colors, textures, and aromas. Take the time to relish the sensory experience of eating.
4. Be your own hunger expert. Instead of searching for the answers from outside experts, get in touch with your body’s needs. This will help tell you what food and how much your body truly needs instead of how much you think you should be eating. You are your best expert, and only your body can tell you what and how much you need to consume.
Before you eat, get in touch with how you feel, your hunger level, and any emotions you are experiencing. Check in with yourself at some point during the meal and notice any sensations of decreasing hunger and increasing fullness, and if you are satisfied or would like to continue eating. Adding mindfulness to your approach can help you avoid mindless or emotional snacking and provide your body with the nourishment it need—when it needs it. This will help you enjoy food without guilt or fear.
Mindful eating can bring a fresh awareness to your relationship with food and help you reconnect with yourself! Try these strategies to begin and see how your experience of eating and health shift. You will find that it is not just what you eat but also how you approach food that matters.
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.
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