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Published on July 12, 2018

The Best Benefits of Mindful Eating for Weight Loss and How to Start Now

The Best Benefits of Mindful Eating for Weight Loss and How to Start Now

Until recently, with documentaries like “What the Health”, we were never really taught about food and never really learned how to be mindful about consuming it.

Sure, we were taught about the pyramid; the triangle with 4 groups: fats, dairy and protein, fruits and vegetables, and grains/bread. But, we weren’t taught “how”, “how” to eat. Historically, we have been told what to eat and what not to eat; however, no lessons on how to select and consume, ultimately contributing to obesity.

Mindfulness isn’t taught in schools/colleges/universities, therefore, applying it to food and eating is almost foreign to many. Many of us have a strong misconception about food and the role that food plays in our lives and in our health, which creates unhealthy habits.

Food is generally a substance used for pleasure instead of nourishment. We devour most things on our plate without being mindful and aware about what we are actually consuming.

In this article, I’ll look into what mindful eating is, its many benefits and how you start to eat mindfully.

What is mindfulness — religion or practice?

Many times, mindfulness is associated with religion and meditation. Mindfulness may be considered “weird thinking” to some and just “weird” to others, when in fact, mindfulness is being taught in law practice, management/ leadership training, used to treat anxiety and bias, and a multitude of other areas.

Mindfulness is not a religion; rather, it is a state of active and open attention to the right now, this very moment, nothing else. It is the practice of observing your thoughts (looking at/seeing your thoughts), just observation, no judgment.[1]

Often times, our minds are so active thinking about the past and the future, that we let right now pass us by, mindfulness is the practice of not letting life pass you by, it’s about living in the moment with no judgment.

How mindful eating reduces obesity

The State of Obesity reports that adult obesity in the United States has exceeded 35 percent in 5 states, 30 percent in 25 states, and 25 percent in 46 states in 2017.[2]

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With advances in technology and information readily available at our fingertips; this increase in obesity rates is frightening. The U.S National Library of Medicine reports that obesity contributes to 300,000 deaths per year.

Mindfulness can help with the reduction of obesity.

Being mindful about the food you eat will contribute to healthier habits, which contributes to weight loss. Various studies have been conducted on mindful eating and obesity. In each one of the studies, participants lost weight, and continued to lose weight during the follow-up phases. Participants report ongoing weight loss success because they embraced mindful eating in their daily lives.

Mindful eating is about eating mindfully. It is about being fully aware of what you are experiencing; your cravings and physical cues. Physical cues are your warning signs and help you identify when to stop eating.

When thinking physical cues and eating, just remember that you are paying attention to things like how full or not full you are while eating; being mindful and knowing when to stop, contributes to weight loss/management.[3]

How mindfulness makes you healthier

Mindfulness also contributes to better health.

Harvard Health reports that mindfulness has been linked to improvements in patients with depression, stress, anxiety, and weight complications.

A meta-analysis of 39 studies conducted in 2010, by Hoffman et al., researched the use of mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. Researchers concluded that mindfulness-based therapy may be helpful in altering affective and cognitive processes that underlie multiple clinical issues.

Let’s take a look at the many benefits of mindfulness:[4]

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    How to start eating mindfully

    I’d love to start eating mindfully, but how?

    Congratulations! Wanting to begin is half the battle!

    Change is difficult to initiate and keep up with. See Lifehack article: The 6 Stages You Experience When You Try to Change Your Behaviors to learn about how to transform yourself and make changes that last.

    Generally speaking, mindful eating includes the following:[5]

      • Eating slowly without distractions (television/noise).
      • Paying attention to physical hunger cues and eating until you are satisfied and not beyond that.
      • Knowing actual hunger triggers for eating.
      • Using and embracing your senses: sight, smells, sounds, textures, and tastes.
      • Finding ways to cope with the guilt associated with food.
      • Eating for overall health and not just eating for pleasure.
      • Paying attention to the effects food has on your feelings, emotions, and overall health.
      • Enjoying and appreciating your food.

      Slowing down and practicing mindfulness ensures that you pay attention.

      Getting started means that you want to try and embrace change. It won’t work if you feel that it is an obligation. Your social environment is crucial, having a support system ensures higher chances of success.

      Mindful eating will ensure that you savor your food and nourish the experience. Here are a few ways and a few tips to get you started:

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      1. Start slow and gradually make changes.

      Try starting with one meal per day and then gradually increasing to 2 meals a day, then 3 meals a day.

      2. Turn off the noise.

      Eating in silence and away from distractions ensures that you can truly be mindful about what you are eating. It allows you to appreciate the time and effort that it took to prepare the meal that you are consuming.

      3. Slow down when eating.

      Eating slowly helps your brain communicate with your body. It takes about 15-20 minutes for your brain to tell your body that it is full.

      4. Actually, chew and taste your food.

      It may sound silly but, eating fast and not properly chewing your food is not good. It can contribute to complications in food digestion, bloating, and gas. Being aware and mindful of this when eating will help ensure a better digestive process.

      5. Turn the senses on.

      Try identifying ingredients and or spices with taste and smell. It’s a really good trick to being totally present in the moment.

      6. Be thankful.

      Being mindful, as mentioned before, ties into appreciation. Adopting the attitude of gratitude reminds us of how food sustains us.

      What if your family and friends don’t understand your mindfulness?

      Often times, when lifestyle changes are being made, family and friends don’t understand. Change is uncomfortable for most: so, when you are changing up the dynamic of the team, it may not be taken well.

      Having a supportive social environment is crucial to a smoother transition. Try these tips when putting out the news about your journey towards mindful eating:

      1. Communicate the importance.

      Tell your friends and family why you want to embark on this journey. Let them know the type of support you need from them and why it is important for your journey.

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      2. Help them understand what mindfulness is.

      Provide your support system with a tutorial on mindfulness and mindful eating. Help them see the positivity and the benefits associated with your decision.

      3. Educate and spread awareness.

      Though your family and friends may not embark on this journey with you, don’t assume that they don’t want to hear about it. Sharing information and experiences my help them transition. It will also ensure that they still feel like a part of your life.

      4. Don’t be pushy, respect different views.

      All things aren’t meant to be embraced by everyone. Though it would be great for the world to practice mindfulness and mindful eating, respecting different views and perspective is necessary. Find the balance between informing and being pushy.

      5. Do something with your family and friends that relates to mindfulness.

      Experience is always the best teacher. Show your friends and family what mindfulness is. It is important to show that you are growing; however, not away from them. Change is not only difficult for us but also our loved ones.

      6. Join networking and social media groups.

      Joining a community of likeminded people can make a huge difference for your transition and ongoing success. Search local groups and social media groups associated with mindfulness.

      Summing it up

      Mindfulness is a practice that can help transform many aspects of your life. Mindful eating is beneficial for reduction of obesity and obesity related illness, overall health including mental health.

      Mindful eating will turn around a lot of unhealthy habits getting you closer to awareness for mindfulness in all that you do.

      Mindfulness is the path to a conscious living; it is important to be conscious when eating because wellness is linked to everything.

      Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

      Reference

      [1]HuffPost: The Surprising Benefits of Mindful Eating
      [2]The State of Obesity: Obesity Report
      [3]Psychological Issues (V Drapeau and S Sogg, Section Editors): Mindfulness Approaches and Weight Loss, Weight Maintenance, and Weight Regain
      [4]Think Live Be Positive: Mindfulness Meditation & Addiction
      [5]Eating Mindfully: Mindful Eating

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      Veronica Castillo

      ADA Human Resources Specialist/ P & C Insurance Guru/ Plant based Cook/ Weight Loss Success Story

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      Published on November 14, 2018

      Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

      Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

      With our busy, always on lives, it seems that more and more of us are facing constant tiredness and fatigue on a regular basis.

      For many people, they just take this in their stride as part of modern life, but for others the impact can be crippling and can have a serious effect on their sense of wellbeing, health and productivity.

      In this article, I’ll share some of the most common causes of constant tiredness and fatigue and give you some guidance and action steps you can take to overcome some of the symptoms of fatigue.

      Why Am I Feeling Fatigued?

      Fatigue is extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness.  It is a reduction in the efficiency of a muscle or organ after prolonged activity.[1]

      It can affect anyone, and most adults will experience fatigue at some point in their life. 

      For many people, fatigue is caused by a combination of lifestyle, social, psychological and general wellbeing issues rather than an underlying medical condition.

      Although fatigue is sometimes described as tiredness, it is different to just feeling tired or sleepy. Everyone feels tired at some point, but this is usually resolved with a nap or a few nights of good sleep. Someone who is sleepy may also feel temporarily refreshed after exercising. If you are getting enough sleep, good nutrition and exercising regularly but still find it hard to perform, concentrate or be motivated at your normal levels, you may be experiencing a level of fatigue that needs further investigation. 

      Symptoms of Fatigue

      Fatigue can cause a vast range of physical, mental and emotional symptoms including:

      • chronic tiredness, exhaustion or sleepiness
      • mental blocks
      • lack of motivation
      • headache
      • dizziness
      • muscle weakness
      • slowed reflexes and responses
      • impaired decision-making and judgement
      • moodiness, such as irritability
      • impaired hand-to-eye coordination
      • reduced immune system function
      • blurry vision
      • short-term memory problems
      • poor concentration
      • reduced ability to pay attention to the situation at hand

      Causes of Fatigue

      The wide range of causes that can trigger fatigue include:

      • Medical causes: Constant exhaustion, tiredness and fatigue may be a sign of an underlying illness, such as a thyroid disorder, heart disease, anemia or diabetes.
      • Lifestyle-related causes: Being overweight and a lack of regular exercise can lead to feelings of fatigue.  Lack of sleep and overcommitting can also create feelings of excessive tiredness and fatigue.
      • Workplace-related causes: Workplace and financial stress in a variety of forms can lead to feelings of fatigue.
      • Emotional concerns and stress: Fatigue is a common symptom of mental health problems, such as depression and grief, and may be accompanied by other signs and symptoms, including irritability and lack of motivation.

      Fatigue can also be caused by a number of factors working in combination.

      Medical Causes of Fatigue

      If you have made lifestyle changes to increase your energy and still feel exhausted and fatigued, it may be time to seek guidance from your doctor.

      Here are a few examples of illnesses that can cause ongoing fatigue. Seek medical advice if you suspect you have a health problem:

      Anemia

      Anemia is a condition in which you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues. It is a common cause of fatigue in women.

      Having anemia may make you feel tired and weak.

      There are many forms of anemia, each with its own cause. Anemia can be temporary or long term, and it can range from mild to severe.[2]

      Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

      Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a condition that can cause persistent, unexplained fatigue that interferes with daily activities for more than six months.

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      This is a chronic condition with no one-size-fits-all treatment, but lifestyle changes can often help ease some symptoms of fatigue.[3]

      Diabetes

      Diabetes can cause fatigue with either high or low blood sugars. When your sugars are high, they remain in the bloodstream instead of being used for energy, which makes you feel fatigued. Low blood sugar (glucose) means you may not have enough fuel for energy, also causing fatigue.[4]

      Sleep Apnea

      Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder where sufferers briefly stop breathing for short periods during sleep. Most people are not aware this is happening, but it can cause loud snoring, and daytime fatigue.

      Being overweight, smoking, and drinking alcohol can all worsen the symptoms of sleep apnea.[5]

      Thyroid disease

      An underactive thyroid gland means you have too little thyroid hormone (thyroxine) in your body. This makes you feel tired and you could also put on weight and have aching muscles and dry skin.[6]

      Common lifestyle factors that can cause fatigue include:

      • Lack of sleep
      • Too much sleep 
      • Alcohol and drugs 
      • Sleep disturbances 
      • Lack of regular exercise and sedentary behaviour 
      • Poor diet 

      Common workplace issues that can cause fatigue include:

      • Shift work: Our body is designed to sleep during the night. A shift worker may confuse their circadian clock by working when their body is programmed to be asleep.
      • Poor workplace practices: This may include long work hours, hard physical labour, irregular working hours (such as rotating shifts), a stressful work environment, boredom or working alone. 
      • Workplace stress – This can be caused by a wide range of factors including job dissatisfaction, heavy workload, conflicts with bosses or colleagues, bullying, or threats to job security.
      • Burnout: This could be striving too hard on one area of your life while neglecting others, which leads to a life that feels out of balance.

      Psychological Causes of Fatigue

      Psychological factors are present in many cases of extreme tiredness and fatigue.  These may include:

      • Depression: Depression is characterised by severe and prolonged feelings of sadness, dejection and hopelessness. People who are depressed commonly experience chronic fatigue.
      • Anxiety and stress: Someone who is constantly anxious or stressed keeps their body in overdrive. The constant flooding of adrenaline exhausts the body, and fatigue sets in.
      • Grief: Losing a loved one causes a wide range of emotions including shock, guilt, depression, despair and loneliness.

      How to Tackle Constant Fatigue

      Here are 12 ways you can start tackling the causes of fatigue and start feeling more energetic.

      1. Tell The Truth

      Some people can numb themselves to the fact that they are overtired or fatigued all the time. In the long run, this won’t help you.

      To give you the best chance to overcome or eliminate fatigue, you must diagnose and tell the truth about the things that are draining your energy, making you tired or causing constant fatigue.

      Once you’re honest with yourself about the activities you’re doing in your life that you find irritating, energy-draining, and make you tired on a regular basis you can make a commitment to stop doing them.

      The help that you need to overcome fatigue is available to you, but not until you tell the truth about it. The first person you have to sell on getting rid of the causes of fatigue is yourself.

      One starting point is to diagnose the symptoms. When you start feeling stressed, overtired or just not operating at your normal energy levels make a note of:

      • How you feel
      • What time of day it is
      • What may have contributed to your fatigue
      • How your mind and body reacts

      This analysis may help you identify, understand and then eliminate very specific causes.

      2. Reduce Your Commitments

      When we have too many things on our plate personally and professionally, we can feel overstretched, causing physical and mental fatigue.

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      If you have committed to things you really don’t want to do, this causes irritability and low emotional engagement. Stack these up throughout your day and week, then your stress levels will rise.

      When these commitments have deadlines associated with them, you may be trying to cram in far too much in a short period of time.  This creates more stress and can affect your decision making ability.

      Start being realistic about how much you can get done. Either reduce the commitments you have or give yourself more time to complete them in.

      3. Get Clear On Your Priorities

      If working on your list of to-do’s or goals becomes too overwhelming, start reducing and prioritizing the things that matter most.

      Start with prioritizing just 3 things every day. When you complete those 3 things, you’ll get a rush of energy and your confidence will grow.

      If you’re trying to juggle too many things and are multi-tasking, your energy levels will drop and you’ll struggle to maintain focus.

      Unfinished projects can make you self-critical and feel guilty which drops energy levels further, creating inaction.

      Make a list of your 3 MIT (Most Important Tasks) for the next day before you go to bed. This will stop you overcommitting and get you excited about what the next day can bring.

      4. Express More Gratitude

      Gratitude and confidence are heavily linked. Just being thankful for what you have and what you’ve achieved increases confidence and makes you feel more optimistic.

      It can help you improve your sense of wellbeing, which can bring on feelings of joy and enthusiasm.

      Try starting a gratitude journal or just note down 3 things you’re grateful for every day.

      5. Focus On Yourself

      Exhaustion and fatigue can arrive by focusing solely on other people’s needs all the time, rather than worrying about and focusing on what you need (and want).

      There are work commitments, family commitments, social commitments. You may start with the best intentions, to put in your best performance at work, to be an amazing parent and friend, to simply help others.

      But sometimes, we extend ourselves too much and go beyond our personal limits to help others. That’s when constant exhaustion can creep up on us.  Which can make us more fatigued.

      We all want to help and do our best for others, but there needs to be some balance. We also need to take some time out just for ourselves to recharge and rejuvenate.

      6. Set Aside Rest and Recovery Time

      Whether it’s a couple of hours, a day off, a mini-break or a proper holiday, time off is essential to help us recover, recharge and refocus.

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      Recovery time helps fend off mental fatigue and allows us to simply kick back and relax.

      The key here, though, is to remove ourselves from the daily challenges that bring on tiredness and fatigue. Here’s how.

      Can you free yourself up completely from work and personal obligations to just rest and recover?

      7. Take a Power Nap

      When you’re feeling tired or fatigued and you have the ability to take a quick 20-minute nap, it could make a big difference to your performance for the rest of the day.

      Napping can improve learning, memory and boost your energy levels quickly.

      This article on the benefit of napping is a useful place to start if you want to learn more: How a 20-Minute Nap at Work Makes You Awake and Productive the Whole Day

      8. Take More Exercise

      The simple act of introducing some form of physical activity into your day can make a huge difference. It can boost energy levels, make you feel much better about yourself and can help you avoid fatigue.

      Find something that fits into your life, be that walking, going to the gym, running or swimming. 

      The key is to ensure the exercise is regular and that you are emotionally engaged and committed to stick with it.

      You could also walk more which will help clear your head and shift your focus away from stressful thoughts.

      9. Get More Quality Sleep

      To avoid tiredness, exhaustion and fatigue, getting enough quality sleep matters. 

      Your body needs sleep to recharge.  Getting the right amount of sleep every night can improve your health, reduce stress levels and help us improve our memory and learning skills.

      My previous article on The Benefits of Sleep You Need to Know will give you some action steps to start improving your sleep. 

      10. Improve Your Diet

      Heavy or fatty meals can make you feel sluggish and tired, whilst some foods or eating strategies do just the opposite.

      Our always on lives have us reaching for sweets or other sugary snacks to give us a burst of energy to keep going. Unfortunately, that boost fades quickly which can leave you feeling depleted and wanting more.

      On the other hand, whole grains and healthy unsaturated fats supply the reserves you can draw on throughout the day.

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      To keep energy up and steady, it’s a good idea to limit refined sugar and starches.

      Eating small meals and healthy snacks every few hours throughout the day provides a steady supply of nutrients to body and brain. It’s also important not to skip breakfast.

      Eating a balanced diet helps keep your blood sugar in a normal range and prevents that sluggish feeling when your blood sugar drops.

      11. Manage Your Stress Levels

      Stress is one of the leading causes of exhaustion and fatigue, and can seriously affect your health.

      When you have increased levels of stress at work and at home, it’s easy to feel exhausted all the time. 

      Identifying the causes of stress and then tackling the problems should be a priority. 

      My article on How to Help Anxiety When Life is Stressing You Out shares 16 strategies you can use to overcome stress.

      12. Get Hydrated

      Sometimes we can be so busy that we forget to keep ourselves fully hydrated.

      Water makes up about 60 percent of your body weight and is essential in maintaining our body’s basic functions.

      If we don’t have enough water, it can adversely affect our mental and physical performance, which leads to tiredness and fatigue.

      The recommended daily amount is around two litres a day, so to stay well hydrated keep a water bottle with you as much as possible.

      The Bottom Line

      These 12 tips can help you reduce your tiredness and feeling of fatigue.  Some will work better than others as we are all different, whilst others can be incorporated together in your daily life.

      If you’ve tried to make positive changes to reduce fatigue and you still feel tired and exhausted, it may be time to consider making an appointment with your doctor to discuss your condition.

      Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1]Oxford English Dictionary: Definition of fatigue
      [2]NHS Choices: 10 Reasons for feeling tired
      [3]Verywellhealth: What is chronic fatigue syndrome
      [4]Everyday Health: Why does type 2 diabetes make you feel tired
      [5]Mayo Clinic: Sleep apnea
      [6]Harvard Health: The lowdown on thyroid slowdown

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