Mindfulness & Mindful Eating – What is it?
Mindfulness is just what it sounds like: being aware; being focused on the moment; being conscious of your thoughts, feelings, sensations, and environment. This is a concept used in many meditative and spiritual traditions. And practicing mindfulness on a regular basis is shown to help you reduce stress and anxiety, gain a higher sense of well-being, get more restful sleep, and put you in closer touch with your own mind and body.
When practicing mindfulness, you are allowing yourself to be “in the moment”. Being in the moment is being engaged with your actions and environment and allowing yourself to be immersed in the present. You notice things as they happen rather than your mind being somewhere else. For many of us, a good example of your mind being somewhere else is driving your car. You probably know this well: You have become so comfortable with driving (especially to someplace familiar) that it is automatic and you don’t have to think about it – your mind can wander to other thoughts. So, being mindful is just the opposite. In the example of driving, mindfulness would require you to really pay attention to and take note of everything: all of the other cars around you; the street signs; the traffic far ahead; the sounds your car makes; even how the steering wheel feels in your hands.
Mindful eating is simply about applying the principles of mindfulness to your food and eating practices, as well as how your body feels before during and after eating.Practicing mindful eating has been shown to help people make better food choices and get more satisfaction out of less food. Therefore, mindful eating can be an effective tool in a weight loss plan or weight management program. Mindful eating can be particularly effective if you are prone to emotional eating.
The Principles of Mindful Eating
The basic principles of mindful eating are really quite simple. First, assess if you are truly hungry. When you reach for food or have the first thoughts of eating something ask yourself, “Am I thinking about food because I am truly hungry? Or, am I reaching for food out of habit, boredom, stress, or for some other emotional reason?” If you answer “No, I’m not really hungry”, then simply occupy yourself with an activity that engages you – preferably something that you enjoy doing. That engagement means being mindful of something other than the food so thoughts of eating just naturally fade.
However, if you are truly hungry, ask yourself this question: “What should I eat?” Simply taking the time to ask yourself this question and then thinking about your food options can have a positive effect. You are more likely to make better choices than if you just reacted mindlessly to the urge to eat. This is because you are more likely to think of the consequences of the choices you are about to make. Regardless, once you have decided what you will eat you should actually eat the food mindfully.
Chewing your food slowly is essential to mindful eating. This means purposefully slowing down and taking more time to eat. This allows your food a chance to get into your digestive system and start sending signals to your brain that you are beginning to become satisfied. On the other hand, when you eat too fast you can short circuit that process and get too much food in your system before your brain gets the signal to stop eating. This can result in that uncomfortable feeling of being overfull and also potentially negative emotions because “I ate too much again”. But by slowing down and looking for those signals of starting to feel full, you can stop eating before getting to that overfull point and be comfortably full instead. Therefore, you will be eating a lot less calories and feeling better about yourself at the same time.
Savoring is another mindful eating principle. It’s simply a matter of paying attention to the textures and flavors of your food. As you are chewing slowly, actually think about your food and allow yourself to fully enjoy it. By doing this you will get a lot more emotional and sensory satisfaction from the food you are eating even as you are eating less food.
Mind-body Weight Loss Programs
As you can see, mindfulness can be an effective part of a weight loss or weight management program. And simply by incorporating these practices into an eating or nutrition plan, you are taking a mind-body approach to weight loss. But, you can take this mind-body weight loss approach to another level by incorporating additional mindfulness practices. Other effective practices are guided imagery, creative visualization, and hypnosis for weight loss. Hypnosis for stress and anxiety can also have a big impact on emotional eating. These are all things that help to maximize the effectiveness of a mind-body weight loss program. And when incorporated with other positive health tools like nutritional guidance, health coaching, meal plans, and supplements, you can be assured that you are addressing all of the essential elements to help you reach your weight loss goals and better health.
The Flourish for Life Center for Positive Health is a positive health & hypnosis center located in Apex, NC, serving Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Cary, Morrisville, Holly Springs, and other areas of the Triangle. They can be reached at 919-468-3900.