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Mindful Eating: A New Way to Eat

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Dieting usually doesn't work long-term. Learn about how mindful eating can prevent the pitfalls of yo-yo dieting below.

There are dozens of new eating plans that come on the market each year. But not all eating plans are healthy and many are overly complicated. Instead of trying a new fad diet, try mindful eating instead.

Mindful eating takes the techniques of mindful meditation and applies them to dieting and healthy eating. In mindfulness, a person focuses on how emotions and feelings translate to physical symptoms and how to promote positive feelings and energy.

How Mindful Eating Works

The idea behind mindful eating is that rather than eating without realizing what it feels like, which often causes a person to miss fullness cues or cravings for healthy foods, the eater pays attention to the full experience of eating. Although mindful eating is based on Buddhist culture, it is similar to how many other cultures eat, including the French who typically love savoring food. Mindful eating is simply paying attention to the experience of eating.

Basics of Mindful Eating
  • Eating slowly
  • Not having distractions while eating, such as movies, TV, phones, etc
  • Listening to hunger cues and stop eating when full
  • Understanding the difference between real hunger cues and stress or boredom-triggered eating
  • Noticing how certain foods make you feel while eating them and afterward
  • Dealing with guilt or food anxiety
  • Trying new foods and textures
  • Eating for health rather than simply to get full
  • Appreciating the experience of eating

Is Mindful Eating Effective?

A study analysis published in The Journal of Psychosomatic Research in 2004 found that mindfulness applied to eating not only has benefits on mental health and physical well being, but it could also have positive benefits for eating disorders, anxiety, and other food-related behaviors.

When mindfulness techniques were applied to eating, full attention is placed on the experiences and physical cues surrounding food, which can lead to a healthier relationship with food.

Should You Try Mindful Eating?

Today's eating patterns are largely centered on convenience and speed. Most meals today take place either on-the-go or while the eater is busy doing something else such as reading work emails or watching a movie. But these habits can cause health problems.

One of the biggest problems with the modern style of eating is that it can take about 20 minutes for the body to feel full. Eating quickly does not give the body enough time to signal that it is full, which can easily lead to overeating. But with mindful eating, you are forced to slow down and pay attention to your food, which means you are less likely to overeat.

Most weight loss programs do not work. A study from 2000 published in Obesity Reviews found that about 85 percent of obese individuals who go on a diet or lose weight will either return to their original weight or even gain weight in just a few years. However, focusing on the emotional, mental side of eating could be the key to permanent weight loss.

Reducing stress and changing poor eating patterns can go a long way toward reversing obesity. A mindfulness eating study from 2010 published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine found that mindful eating resulted in an average weight loss of 9 pounds. Six months later, study participants had lost an average of 26 pounds with no regains.

Changing how one looks at food is an incredibly important part of the weight loss puzzle. In one mindfulness eating study, women who binge-ate regularly reduced their binge eating sessions from 4 to 1.5 episodes per week after receiving mindfulness training. The binge-eating episodes also had a total reduction in calories consumed during each session.

How to Eat Mindfully

There are a few simple tips and tricks you can employ to become more mindful of how and what you eat. If you can, attending a seminar on mindful eating can be extremely helpful in addressing unhealthy eating patterns.

However, you do not have to take any special classes or read any special books to eat with mindfulness. The basics of mindful eating require a few simple eating changes:

  • Eat slowly.
  • Do not rush meals.
  • Don't eat just for convenience.
  • Eat in silence.
  • Pay attention to your food.
  • Figure out how each food makes you feel.
  • Don't eat when you are full.
  • Ask yourself if what you are eating is healthy or beneficial.
  • Don't eat while distracted by TV or movies.

Companion Weight Loss Tips

Mindful eating can go a long way toward supporting other healthy changes you are making to become a healthier person. One of the weaknesses of standard diet programs is that they often focus on weight loss rather than improving health.

During any new eating plan, the focus should be on what you will gain by eating that way, not what you will lose. If you practice mindful eating, you will find that many foods restricted by extreme diets can actually be full of beneficial nutrients. For example, many diets restrict certain foods, such as avocado, which are high in fat.

But when mindfulness eating techniques are employed, it makes sense to eat avocados because they are high not only in healthy fats but many other nutrients. In addition to eating mindfully, the following tips can help prevent diet disasters:

Eat Weight Loss Nutrients

Some nutrients and herbs have been linked with boosting weight loss efforts. Use these nutrients to ensure you maximize your dieting potential:

Exercise Regularly

Exercise not only burns calories but it makes it easier for your body to let go of excess pounds. Regular exercise boosts metabolism and makes it easy to lose weight and be healthy. Eat in a Window. Numerous studies suggest that eating in a targeted window can boost weight loss efforts. Either restricting calories for one day while eating normally the next day or eating in a targeted 9-hour window each day can both benefit weight loss efforts.

Eating Mindfully Boosts Diet Efforts

You don't have to follow an extreme diet plan to become healthier. Mindful eating is effective at preventing weight gain and promoting weight loss because it brings dieting to the mental and emotional levels. Many of us have emotional reactions to food, and paying attention to those reactions can prevent binge eating, overeating, and other common pitfalls of traditional diets.

Sources


http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15256293/

http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/why-eating-slowly-may-help-you-feel-full-faster-20101019605

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12119984

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