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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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      Last Updated on September 20, 2018

      How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

      How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

      Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

      If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

      1. Breathe

      The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

      • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
      • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
      • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

      Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

      2. Loosen up

      After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

      Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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      3. Chew slowly

      Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

      Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

      Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

      4. Let go

      Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

      The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

      It’s not. Promise.

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      Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

      Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

      21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

      5. Enjoy the journey

      Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

      Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

      6. Look at the big picture

      The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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      Will this matter to me…

      • Next week?
      • Next month?
      • Next year?
      • In 10 years?

      Hint: No, it won’t.

      I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

      Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

      7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

      You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

      Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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      8. Practice patience every day

      Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

      • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
      • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
      • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

      Final thoughts

      Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

      Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

      Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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