10 Steps To Mindful Eating For Weight Loss
What if I told you that you can melt body fat without additional exercise?
Sound too good to be true? Maybe for some, but for others who have explored the benefits of mindful eating- it is a golden rule rather than a mythical tale.
Mindful eating is a way of connecting your mind & body in preparing and consuming food, as well as building awareness of how it affects you on a physical, mental, & emotional level. If you're still unsure what that really means, let me use an example:
> Rose stops by her favorite bakery on the way to work, every day. She loves the warmth of the inviting shop and takes in the wonderful scent of baked cookies, fluffy bread, and decadent brownies. Time seems to slow down a little. Even with a full schedule ahead of her, she is at ease as she orders an oat parfait with fruit and chocolate. Rose finds a quiet table by the window, saving enough time to eat and relax for a few minutes. She then takes the subway, using the ride as an opportunity to respond to a couple of emails. Her colleagues always ask how she eats dessert for breakfast every day and doesn't gain a single pound.
> Peach visits the same bakery a couple times each week. She quickly chooses a pastry at random and takes it to go. Late for work, Peach wades through heavy crowds to climb into the subway. These rides always make her feel slightly on guard and she scarfs down a few bites of her pastry before the next stop. Losing her appetite on the flight of stairs to exit the station, she throws half of the pastry into the trashcan. Peach has been struggling to lose some weight for weeks and she feels guilty for buying a pastry in the first place.
How does Rose keep off the weight that causes Peach so much frustration?
In both settings, these ladies' are subconsciously picking up on cues from their environments & their reactions.
Rose paints an example of mindful eating. She has allowed herself time to be present while she eats, instead of rushing ahead. Her body is able to digest her food comfortably, giving her the most energy and setting her up for success over the day. (& she isn't planning on feeling one ounce of guilt for her breakfast choice.)
Peach's struggle is real. No one likes being in a rush to get going, especially not to get to work. The subway ride feeds Peach's anxious state of mind, turning on her natural 'fight or flight' response. This creates deeper stress and her vulnerable feeling aboard the train. She is so tense that by the time she gets a few bites in, Peach's body doesn't focus much energy on digesting food at all. She allows guilt to set in, skipping out on most of the pastry. Her body feels tired already and stores whatever was eaten.
The science behind the scenes:
Our minds are powerfully connected to our bodies, especially to our digestive system. Any stimulus that we find stressful can trigger our nervous systems to send a message to slow down or stop digestion altogether. It can be work calls, driving, checking social media, or dwelling on a fight with a loved one while we eat. Any of these can lead us to become hurried, distracted, anxious, envious, sad, etc. This multitasking doesn't work in our favor, as it makes no difference whether the trigger is life-threatening or not. When the mind sees stress, protecting the body from harm is instinctive. With the stress response triggered, several hormones are released to activate fight or flight, causing an increase in how much food is stored as fat.
One of the best ways to practice mindful eating is to be aware of your surroundings and focus on the present experience. By creating a place for the mind & body to feel safe, food is digested in a relaxed state. This is how you get the most energy, endurance, and leveled moods from your meals. As promised here are some more ways to practice...
10 Steps to Mindful Eating for Weight Loss:
Upgrade your thinking around the idea of food. Instead of thinking of food as "junk" vs "healthy," consider the way food makes you feel and how well your body uses it for energy. Your thinking about how food affects you can have just as much impact, if not more, than what you actually eat.
- Take a few deep breaths before you begin eating any meal. Deep breathing is proven to transfer you into a relaxed state and prepare your digestive system for happy eating.
- When you prepare your meal, or if you've ordered it, take in the aromas and flavors. Share a moment of mental gratitude for the availability & access you have to nourish your body.
- Swap a few outings for home-cooked meals using only raw ingredients. Make it an experience for some solo self-care, or invite some friends over to try a new recipe together!
- Make it pretty! A variety of naturally colorful foods is an easy way to include more vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that help you stay nourished, satisfied, & get the most from your meals.
- Be responsible for the fuel you put in the tank and try to avoid processed foods. These can put stress on your digestive system, cause an excess of sodium/sugar intake, & contribute to excess weight.
- Keep your phone in your purse or pocket- for the whole meal! Unless you seriously need it at quick-draw distance, nothing is so important that you must stare at a phone on the table. It's habit-inducing & distracting.
- Chew your food... for real! Your system needs food to be chewed well in order to digest it completely. Try taking breaks between every few bites by putting your fork down, chewing thoroughly, & swallowing before your next bite.
- Listen to your hunger honestly to see if you really need the entire meal or if you are satisfied after half of the portion. There's nothing wrong with saving some for later!
- Give yourself some grace. Guilt never motivated anyone to make lasting changes, it only makes you feel worse about your choices. Enjoying food is a part of life! Try planning most of your meals around wholesome, nutritious combinations ahead of time, so that you don't have to settle for quick bites & foods that don't serve you. Then allow for your cheat meals and little indulgences without feeling ashamed of it!
Over time, mindful eating will become a natural habit- resulting in weight loss and a peaceful balance. I focus an entire session on mindful eating in the 90-Day Mind & Body Reset, while working with clients. It is a huge game changer, especially for those that struggle to lose weight and don't really have time to add in additional workouts or don't see results even if they do. As always, it's about getting to know your unique body in progress, not perfection!