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Mindfulness basically just means paying attention to something - without judgment.
Mindful eating is paying attention to your food, and to your appetite cues - again, without judgment (that's the hard part!).
Dieting vs. Mindful Eating:
- Weight gain: 95% of people who diet will regain the weight they lost within 5 years. 2/3 of those people will regain more than they lost, ultimately resulting in overall weight gain.
- All about willpower and rigidity.
- Relies on external cues.
- Restrictive and depriving.
- Food & body are the enemy.
Mindful Eating =
- Weight loss: Studies show that mindful eating programs result in weight loss, fewer calories consumed, lower fat intake and increased self-confidence (Timmerman et al., 2012)
- All about trust and acceptance.
- Relies on internal appetite cues.
- Permissive and satisfying.
- Food & body are the ally.
Which would you prefer? For me, I'd much rather give mindful eating a shot. Especially since dieting was what led up to most people having bariatric surgery in the first place.
Step-by-step how to eat mindfully:
- Pick a calm and quiet place to sit down and eat.
- Check in with your hunger. Are you physically hungry? If not, wait until later when you are hungry. The food will be much more satisfying if you enter the experience hungry.
- Choose a food that will be satisfying.
- Give yourself permission to eat that food without judgment (toward the food or yourself) or guilt.
- Use all of your senses - look at the food, touch the food, smell the food, taste the food, feel it in your mouth, move it around and notice the way the texture and taste changes as you chew.
- Chew slowly and thoroughly.
- As you swallow, feel the food going down your esophagus and into your stomach.
- Notice how the food feels in your stomach.
- Ask yourself if you want more. If so, take another bite and repeat until you feel satisfied.
- At the end, take a moment to express gratitude for the experience, for the food, and for your body.
- Carry the awareness of mindful attention to other areas of your life - you'll be shocked at what a big difference this makes!
Be patient with yourself. The practice of mindful eating is just that - a practice. Your mind and attention will wander, you will inevitably catch yourself judging yourself or the food. That's ok - it's normal. Just notice it, and return your attention to the experience.
Practice this as often as you are able. Of course, it's not possible to eat mindfully 100% of the time, so don't be rigid with it.
As you get more skilled at mindful eating, it will become more effortless and second nature.
See, I told you this wasn't just for hippies! Mindful eating is very doable for all of us. We just have to make the conscious decision to do it. Paying attention to our food and our bodies allows us to get infinite more pleasure out of life.
Give it a shot and let me know what you think. Share your experience in the comments below.
What was it like to pay close attention to the taste and texture of the food?
What was it like to refrain from judgment about yourself for eating the food?
What surprised you about mindful eating?