Mindful Eating: Relaxing into Food to Lose Weight

Spring Vegetable Soup

Spring Vegetable Soup

Losing weight can be difficult. Many of us go from diet to diet losing more self-respect than weight beating ourselves up that we have been unsuccessful again or not reached our goals fast enough. Mindful eating is a practice of slowing down and paying attention. In today’s stressful world of trying to get more done in less time, our eating is rushed, we seek out food to comfort us and don’t take the time to listen what our bodies and minds are telling we need at any given moment — and it may not be food. We lose the ability to pay attention to our inner selves and to recognize our hunger and satiety cues.

Mindful eating techniques bring a focused, yet detached, awareness to our physical body, and thoughts in relation to hunger, food and eating while maintaining a non-judgmental, self-accepting attitude. Mindful eating exercises to help us slow down eating to focus on the sight, smell, taste and texture of food, increase satisfaction and relaxation around eating and food, build awareness on physical sensations hunger and satiety and help us recognize eating triggers and unhelpful behaviors, thoughts and emotions that distract us from paying attention to what and how we eat. Mindful eating can help stop the slow steady weight-gain many of us experience and take the stressful emotions out of eating.

A study of obese women ages 27-62, who practiced mindful eating over series of several weeks, showed that the participants increased control over their eating, learned to better recognize hunger and satiety cues and experienced a decrease in frequency of times they overate (Kristeller and Brendan, 1999). Similarly, in a study of mindful eating as a weight management tool for peri-menopausal women who frequently eat in restaurant, researchers found that the intervention group had significantly less weight gain and a decrease in waist circumference than the control group. The intervention group ate fewer calories and had a lower level of fat intake than the control group (Timmerman and Brown, 2012).

Three strategies for practicing mindful eating are:
1. Remove distractions when you are eating. Sit down at the table and turn off the television, put the newspaper or other reading material away and just sit and pay attention to your food.
2. Eat slowly. Practice putting down the fork or spoon between bites and/or counting chews (15 or more per bite is optimal)
3. Keep a food diary noting what you eat, how hungry (on a scale of 1-10) you are before you eat and after you finish your meal or snack and what kind of mood you are in when you start your meal.

These strategies might be difficult to start. Pick one and practice it for a week before adding the next habit. Approach these changes in behavior with a beginners mind and with the goal of learning about yourself. I think that you will be surprised at what you learn.

Resources
Kristeller, J. L., and C. B. Hallett. “An Exploratory Study of a Meditation-based Intervention for Binge Eating Disorder.” Journal of Health Psychology 4.3 (1999): 357-63. Web. 17 May 2015. .

Timmerman, G. M., & Brown, A. (2012, January). The effect of a mindful restaurant eating intervention on weight management in women. Retrieved May 25, 2015, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3259454/