Want to lose weight? Then savour the flavour
Appetites can be driven by emotions and environment, the look or smell alone of food can prompt us to eat uncontrollably at times
Over-eating when not hungry is one of the leading causes of weight gain. But don't fret, we can retrain our brain to "eat when hungry and stop when full" by practising mindful eating to maintain a healthy weight.
Mindful eating may also be just the tool you need to improve your eating habits, develop a healthy relationship with food, and to overcome emotional eating.
Mindful eating brings a quality of consciousness and non-judgement to your eating behaviours. It teaches you to listen to your body's internal hunger cues and tap into your satiety mechanisms.
It teaches you how to make conscious food choices, to develop an awareness of physical versus psychological hunger, and how to eat healthfully in response to those cues.
Mindful eating can bring an awareness to your eating behaviours and help distinguish emotional and sensory cues from physical hunger cues, which is important for developing a healthy relationship with food.
It's an extremely useful tool to have in your arsenal for addressing the root cause of over-eating in the first place, which is crucial for long-term dietary success, and is typically not addressed in conventional dieting methods that mainly focus on calorie and food restriction.
Perhaps most importantly, mindful eating teaches you how to gain control (the healthy kind, not the OCD kind) over your food choices, which can help to overcome over-eating and binge-eating episodes, which can ultimately prevent you from reaching your dietary goals.
moderation in eating
The first step of mindful eating is to learn how to enjoy fun food in moderation, which is essential for long-term sustainable weight loss. This means avoiding extremes and quitting the "all or nothing" approach that is traditionally associated with dieting.
A good place to start is by avoiding any diet that has a restricted list of foods, detoxes, cleanses, juice diets, fasting, and other such extreme methods.
Next, try to quit the "all or nothing" approach. Just because you ate some of the cake, that does not mean that you have to go ahead and finish off all of the cake. Learn how to enjoy some of the cake, and then move on feeling satisfied and guilt-free.
retrain your brain
If you find yourself nodding in agreement to any of the following then perhaps learning how to eat mindfully is just the trick you need:
• You continue to eat even though you are full
• You eat for other reasons than hunger
• You mindlessly pick at food
• You don't taste each bite of your food
• You don't consider the nourishment factor when it comes to food
• You feel guilty and judge yourself when you over-eat
• You multi-task when eating
• You can't leave food behind even though you are full
• You don't take your time to chew your food.
Mindfulness is an intrinsic quality hard-wired into some people. But for those who are lacking, it can also be cultivated through practice, to ultimately retrain the mind to re-wire the brain.
EAT WHEN HUNGRY
Pay attention to your hunger levels. Notice your body. Is your stomach rumbling? Do you feel low on energy? Do you feel stressed out? Are you bored? Ask yourself, are you eating for some other reason than hunger? Plan regular meals to help overcome grazing and picking, which will work against your goals.
STOP WHEN FULL
Eat slowly and stop when full, regardless of how much food is left on your plate. Moderation plays a key role in preventing over-eating, so consciously choose smaller portions. Use a smaller dinner plate if it helps, and fill it only once.
SAVOUR THE FLAVOUR
Taste your food and savour the flavours, notice the texture and the aroma and how it makes you feel. Take your time to enjoy your food. This may help you notice when you are feeling pleasantly satisfied rather than feeling as though you have eaten all that you possibly can.
EAT TO NOURISH AND FOR PLEASURE
Instead of imposing a list of dietary rules and restricting foods from your diet, start adding food to your diet that will nourish your body. Stop thinking about food as being "good" or "bad" and instead use words such as "nourishing" and "fun". Choose nourishing food so your body can thrive and choose fun foods because you enjoy to eat them.
BE IN THE MOMENT
Be fully present when eating. Remove distractions, turn off the TV, sit down and be in a relaxed state. When you eat, just eat.
Be self-compassionate. Give yourself permission to enjoy food and banish feelings of guilt and judgement surrounding your food choices.
Mindful eating can help create more awareness surrounding our eating behaviours, without judgement, to help free us from the distress and suffering that is typically associated with dieting, and ultimately enhance our health and well-being.
Karen is a nutrition coach and personal trainer. She runs monthly online group nutrition coaching programmes and hosts nutrition seminars around the country. See www.thenutcoach.com