Start with mindfulness to lose weight

Loose Weight Eating with Mindfulness

Do Diets Work?

It is a well-established belief that the key to losing weight is simply burning more calories than we consume. There are countless diets and weight loss programs out there to advise us on how to do this. Most involve carefully monitoring everything we eat while urging us to keep within a pre-determined, and often quite low, calorie range. Others present us with entire categories of food to avoid entirely. “Goodbye, fat” or, “Goodbye, carbs.” (“I’ll miss you!” Sigh.)

Following these diet programs to the letter can often lead to temporary success. Unfortunately, for most of us, dieting is unsustainable and doomed to fail. Eventually we get tired of feeling deprived and hungry all the time. Not to mention having to weigh food and count calories. Ultimately, it all becomes too much, and we give up and go back to our old ways. Then we feel guilty and depressed and before long, we are ready to jump into a different diet program…and thus continues the vicious cycle of yo-yo dieting that plagues so many of us.

Is There is a Different Way?

Perhaps there’s a different way that doesn’t involve hard and fast food rules. With no deprivation. No starvation. No calorie counting. No feeling left out during social engagements. Bringing mindfulness into your weight loss journey can help rewire your mind-body connection so that you truly can enjoy what you eat, all the while choosing foods that truly nourish your body. There’s no right or wrong way to cultivate mindfulness; the only “rule” is to pay attention.

That’s right. Simply pay attention. If you pay attention to what you eat, why you eat, and how eating certain foods makes you feel, you can set yourself up for true weight loss success because slowly you will adopt new, healthier habits that support positive food habits. Below are some positive habits to adopt. Pick one or two to start with that sound doable, and then, write them down on a little note and post it where you are likely to see it (refrigerator, mirror, smartphone reminder, etc.). The more often you engage in mindfulness, the sooner you will start seeing positive changes manifest.

Before You Eat

As you find yourself opening the refrigerator, or preparing dinner, or looking at a restaurant menu, stop yourself for just a minute. Pause. Take a deep breath. And ask yourself:

“Am I hungry right now?”

It’s a simple question, but one that we may not actually know the answer to. So many of us eat out of habit or out of boredom, that we no longer know what it truly feels like to be hungry. True physical hunger is often recognised as a grumbling stomach, a slight tugging sensation in the throat, or even light-headedness. Whenever food’s around, the habit of asking yourself if you truly are hungry is a good practice for becoming aware of your body’s physical cues.

If the answer is “No” or “I don’t know”: If you find that you are reaching for food even though you are not actually hungry, ask yourself why. Do you feel bored? Lonely? Sad? Angry? Pause and take a moment to think what other activity besides eating might be helpful or fun or satisfying in that moment.

If the answer is “No, but I really want to eat it!”: Just wait. Set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes. Be mindful of this craving and how it makes you feel. Imagine how it would make you feel both during and after eating it. Once the timer goes off, ask yourself if you still want to eat it. If the answer is still “yes,” then feel free to indulge. Chances are, though, that the craving will have passed in those few minutes, and you have made a small but powerful step in the right direction towards mindful eating.

If the answer is “Yes”: If you find that you are hungry enough to eat, then take a deep breath, and ask yourself one or more of the following questions, and please keep in mind that there are no right or wrong answers:

  • What am I hungry for?
  • What foods would make me feel satisfied at this time?
  • Will this food nourish my body or help me in my goals to lose weight?
  • If I eat this food, how might I feel afterwards? Energized? Satisfied? Guilty?

Once you’ve chosen what to eat, pause once again and practice some of these mindful habits.

  • Take several deep breaths before eating. Remind yourself of your goal to eat nourishing food without overindulging and gaining weight.
  • Think of where your food came from and/or who prepared it. Give thanks, either out loud or silently, for the gift of this food.
  • Take a moment to truly appreciate your food. Now that it’s in front of you, are you looking forward to your meal? Does it smell good? Are you going to eat all of the food on your plate or just some of it?

As You Eat

No matter what you choose to eat, try to get into the practice of eating without distraction. Try to avoid eating while working, driving or watching TV whenever possible, as all of these activities can distract us from tasting, smelling, or enjoying the food we eat.

Eat slowly. Take time to chew your food well. Take only one bite at a time. Really taste your food. The benefit of eating and truly tasting your food could mean that you may find that foods you frequently ate in abundance (or while distracted, or too quickly) actually don’t taste nearly as good as they once did. On the other hand, eating slowly and mindfully could lead you to find that foods you once avoided actually taste much better than you thought.

As you eat, check in with your body periodically. Are you getting full? Is it time to stop eating (even though there’s still food on the plate)? Or are you still physically hungry?

After You Eat

Once your meal is over, ask yourself, “How did that food make me feel? Do I feel energized now? Sluggish? Guilty? Did I eat just enough? Too much? Or am I still hungry?”

If you frequently find that certain foods taste good while eating them, but leave you feeling tired or sick afterwards, you can mindfully make different choices about the choices and/or quantities of the food you eat in the future.

Tips for Success

Mindfulness is a gentle approach. Don’t beat yourself up for “messing up.” It’s okay to indulge when it feels right, but only if you pay attention to how you feel before, during and after you eat.

Release all notions of “good food” or “bad food.” Instead of telling yourself that you’re not allowed to eat a certain food, remind yourself that no matter what you thoughtfully choose to eat, it is your intention to make choices that make you feel physically and spiritually well.

Wishing you the best of luck on your journey to healthy, sustainable weight loss!


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