By: Dr. Scott Perryman
Mindful eating is a proven strategy that has helped many of our clients improve their diet and overall health. What we eat, how much we eat, and the way we eat have a major impact on both our physical and mental health. In many cases, overeating, food addiction, and other food-related behaviors are a result of our responses to stress, trauma, and other emotional stimuli.
Unlike strict diets and self-shaming tactics, Mindful Eating is doable, positive method of emotional analysis and controlled decision-making.
Thankfully, we can regain a healthy relationship with food by practicing Mindful Eating. Mindful Eating is the practice of eating with intention.
Mindfulness can release us from negative, self-critical beliefs, as well as help us become aware of and manage the triggers that influence our food-related decisions. Mindful Eating habits make it far easier to maintain a healthy weight, as well as to improve your physical and mental health overall.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the awareness of our physical and mental state from moment-to-moment. By maintaining an awareness of our emotions, we make it easier to identify what we are thinking and feeling. When we stay aware of how we feel, we can reduce the influence our thoughts and emotions have on us.
Mindfulness is about living in the present. Mindfulness is not about judgment.
The goal of living mindfully is not necessarily to label what we think and feel as positive or negative: the emphasis is on awareness and observation.
Mindfulness, based on Buddist meditation, is a great way to reduce stress, improve focus, and enable yourself to lead the life you truly want to lead.
A major part of mindfulness is acceptance. It is not about denying or avoiding our emotions and experiences completely, but instead, about pausing to think about what we are feeling, how it affects our body, and why we feel what we feel.
Mindfulness takes practice, but with time, we can learn to observe our emotions and control how we decide to respond.
What is Mindful Eating?
Mindful Eating is a tried-and-true way to take control of how and what we eat so that we can reap the health benefits, today and in the future.
For many of us, our emotional state ties into our food choices.
Mindful Eating is about observing and learning from the emotional and environmental stimuli that lead to unhealthy eating habits. Mindful eating also involves practicing kindness. It is healthy to acknowledge your feelings and food cravings; this does not necessarily mean that you should label your emotions or eating habits as something worthy of judgment.
The goal is not to feel shame for how we feel, but to understand the causes and thought-patterns of these feelings, and ultimately to become aware of how these causes lead to our poor eating habits and choices.
Mindfulness can help us identify the emotions and experiences that encourage us to eat when we are not hungry and instead, learn to eat with intent. Eating is an essential, nourishing, part of life that helps us function and feel well throughout our day. We each deserve to feel healthy and live the best life possible!
Recent research by USC suggests that mindfulness is a highly-effective means of overcoming addiction cravings and trauma. Mindfulness has helped countless people regain balance in their lives.
As we learn to be mindful and control our responses to our emotions, we will enable ourselves to make beneficial eating decisions. This involves making choices that promote our health and happiness. Mindful Eating is a guaranteed way to do just that.
How Can I Become a Mindful Eater?
Mindful Eating is the daily dedication to thoughtful food intake. This includes choosing not only how much we eat, but also what we eat. Our goal is to benefit our bodies, not be a slave to it! Mindful eating comes from an awareness of the emotions that encourage us to overeat, feel ashamed of eating or fixate on food. Once we are aware of when and why we want to eat, we can push back on cravings and establish eating habits on our own terms, for our health and long-term wellness.
An awareness and understanding of our emotional connection to eating will take time.
This level of awareness and mindfulness requires practice to observe our emotions and reduce their control over our actions.
As you begin to practice mindfulness, try some of these exercises to help you become aware of your thoughts and feelings:
LOOK AROUND AT YOUR IMMEDIATE SURROUNDINGS:
Gain an awareness of your present by focusing on your senses. Give yourself perspective by looking at the horizon, and then at the space around you. What do you hear, smell? Are there birds chirping, people talking? Pay attention to the colors and textures around you. Pausing to observe our environment is a healthy way to extract ourselves from our thoughts and stress.
It can be easy to get wrapped up in thoughts and the demands of our day. By focusing on our physical stimulus, we break ourselves out of our mental funks and fixations. Take time during these reflections to think about the emotions you were feeling in the moment previous (Were you thinking about eating? What led you to this food craving?), and why.
Our emotional stress can often manifest as physical tension. When we are tense, our mind becomes clouded. We increase our likelihood of experiencing stress, depression, or anxiety. Relax your body by breathing deeply and calmly. If we take time to focus on our breath in times of stress, we will improve our ability to think clearly. Regular breathing exercises can help improve our awareness of our thoughts and feelings. With improved awareness comes mindful decision-making.
Set time in your schedule for meditation. Meditation is the practice of reflection. Meditation looks different for different people. Some may meditate sitting up, some may lie on their backs, and others may prefer to go for a walk in the park. The goal of meditation is to open our minds and achieve a relaxed, open state. This is, of course, easier said than done! Our minds are often busy places.
Start with five minutes a day.
Turn the TV off and put your phone away.
Stay aware of how your body feels in the present moment. When you have a thought, observe it and aim to let it pass without acting on your emotional reaction to the thought. Each individual is capable of millions of thoughts, constantly streaming in an out of minds with many of them easily triggering our stress, raising our cortisol (stress hormone) levels and ultimately leaving us vulnerable to stress-eating behaviors. If we make time to meditate and breathe deeply, we will greatly improve our ability to counter our triggers and replace them with healthy eating habits.
Seek Positives in the Moment
Actively seeking positives in your present life, according to well-established mental health research, is an important coping skill and strategy for maintaining a positive outlook and building one’s own resilience against daily stressors. Make an exercise of trying to find the positive in every situation and you will greatly improve your ability to overcome stressors and have better success against the impulse to stress-eat.
Mindful eating can be amplified by breathing, guided imagery exercises, and any practice that works for you that relaxes your body and mind.
Meditation and other centering exercises are a great way to improve our awareness of both our physical and mental states.
If you are having trouble finding an ideal environment for meditation, consider sitting or lying in a place you feel comfortable and listening to meditation music or a guided meditation video.
What Does Conscious Eating Look Like?
Mindful Eating is a valuable part of our Whole Health approach. This approach acknowledges that our thoughts and feelings are closely tied to our physical health and habits. As you learn to monitor your thoughts and feelings from moment to moment, you will become better and better at making mindful eating decisions.
Mindful Eating Quick Tips:
Eat When You’re Hungry. With practice, you will learn to listen to your body. With mindfulness, you can identify cravings and choose to eat when you are truly hungry.
Focus on Your Food As You Eat. Eating is a nourishing act that supports our well-being. When you eat a meal, focus on eating. Do not multitask during meals, as this increases the likelihood that we may miss our body’s signals telling us we are full.
Eat with Others. Many of us turn to eating alone to hide eating habits that we feel ashamed of. Find a group of supportive people who will make meals together enjoyable and rewarding.
Plan Ahead. Strategize healthy meals for your week. Buy groceries and prepare meals ahead of time to reduce the chances that you’ll be tempted to buy unhealthy foods or respond to cravings during your day.
Think About the Kind of Food You Are Eating Presently. Choose food based on what it will do for your body. In order to maintain a healthy weight, you will want to pursue a diet that is rich in produce, protein, healthy fats, and low on sugar and processed food. It also helps to assess the impact our food choices will have on the world as a whole. Studies show that when we spend more time with our food, including selecting and preparing it, we increase our feelings of satiation and satisfaction when we finally consume the food.
How Whole Health Weight Loss Can Help
Mindful eating is a major part of improving and maintaining the results of any bariatric or weight loss surgery. With the help of mindful eating, you can achieve a healthy weight, reduce your risk of health problems, and increase your happiness and energy levels throughout your day.
Mindfulness is not only about awareness but about learning to be kind to yourself so you can do what you need to do to be the best version of yourself.
Whole Health Weight Loss offers seminars, support groups, and nutritional services to help you build a mindful relationship with food.
Our Nutritionists will work with you to help you create healthy meal plans. Our support and nutritional services will work with you to answer these common Mindful Eating questions:Why is mindful eating important?Can mindful eating help me lose weight?Why do I feel hungry so often?What are mindful eating practices?
Mindfulness will not only improve your diet and relationship with food, but it will also help you reduce stress and improve your quality of life overall.
If you have questions about how you can start your journey to Mindful Eating, call Whole Health Weight Loss today! We look forward to serving you along your Mindful eating journey.