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Chapter 15 - Mindful Eating for Long Term Success

Mindful Eating

Introduction: The Role of Mindset and Weight Loss

People looking to lose weight typically focus specifically on diet and exercise to help shed the pounds. However, many fail to consider one of the most important aspects of any weight loss journey: mindful eating. Mindful eating refers to the practice of being present during meals and being cognizant of the emotions, thoughts, and feelings that impact our eating behaviors.

Mindful eating can be an important weight loss tool. Thus, this article will explore exactly what mindful eating is and how to effectively implement it into your day-to-day to support your health journey.

Understanding Mindful Eating

Mindful eating is a concept that refers to being present and aware while eating your food. It involves tapping into all of your senses while eating your meal and being more observant of how you are feeling in the process. This involves noticing your hunger and satiety cues and following those cues. For example, if you are beginning to feel full, you would stop eating. However, if you are still feeling hungry, you would continue to eat. Although this may seem intuitive, you’d be surprised how often we tend to ignore these signs.

Mindful eating is different than dieting. Dieting is characterized by restriction, be by avoiding certain types of food or lowering our calorie intake. Mindful eating, in contrast, is not meant to be restrictive. In fact, it involves listening to your body and adjusting your eating behaviors to respond to your body’s needs. Mindful eating typically takes on a less judgmental attitude than dieting and avoids strict rules.

Mindful eating can certainly be helpful for weight loss. However, the benefits extend beyond just shedding the pounds. By being more in tune with eating, you may experience better digestion, greater enjoyment of your meals, and less stress around food choices.

The Psychological Aspect of Eating

Our thoughts, feelings, and emotions are intimately linked to our eating behaviors. Negative feelings like boredom, depression, and stress can lead people to seek distraction and comfort in their food choices. Even positive feelings, such as happiness, can lead to overeating. When emotions fuel our cravings and eating habits, we end up in a cycle of guilt and regret, which can impede health progress.

Mindful eating is a powerful tool that we can use to combat emotional eating. By bringing mindfulness to the dinner table, you become more aware of how your body responds to the food. Thus, you eat in response to your hunger and fullness cues as opposed to your emotions.

Eating psychology refers to the psychological component of eating, including our habits, beliefs, and attitudes about food. Eating psychology is important to our weight loss journeys, as we know there is a close relationship between our mind and eating behaviors. By understanding this link, we can make progress towards establishing a better relationship with food.

Practicing Mindfulness: The First Step to Mindful Eating

Although we are talking about mindful eating, mindfulness starts outside of just mealtime. You can practice mindfulness throughout your day. To do so, carve out some time to incorporate deep breathing exercises. This will involve taking gradual breaths in and out, focusing in on the breath moving through your airways and body. You can also do body scanning, where you do a full-body scan, looking for areas of tension or discomfort.

As you become more aware of your body throughout the day, this will start translating into more mindful eating choices. Taking a pause, breathing, and scanning your body for how its feeling can help when practicing mindful eating.

Mindful Eating Techniques

The best way to practice mindful eating is to listen to your hunger and fullness cues. Prior to eating a meal, take note of your hunger level. Try to eat only when you are at least moderately hungry and stop eating when you feel you are comfortably satisfied. Check in on your hunger cues throughout your meal and respond appropriately.

It can also help to engage all your senses whilst consuming food. This means noticing the texture, flavors, smells, and colors of your food. Chew slowly and thoroughly until all your food becomes a paste-like consistency. Finally, limit distractions that could detract from being mindful, such as using your phone or watching TV.

If you have a craving, think about that craving before reacting. Perhaps you are truly hungry and should listen to that craving, but maybe you are only seeking comfort in that craving. If so, turn to other soothing mechanisms, like deep breathing, going for a walk, talking to a friend or family member, or engaging in a hobby.

Incorporating Mindful Eating into Your Lifestyle

Developing a supportive environment for mindful eating will take some practice and planning. You can start by stocking up on healthy, whole foods in your kitchen that are aligned with your weight loss and health goals. Plan your meals ahead, ensuring that your meals will be well-balanced and nutritious. Make sure you have healthy snacks prepped for when those true, between-meal cravings really do hit.

When in social situations or dining out, mindful eating can be a bit more difficult. Start by picking meals that align with your health goals. It may even be a good idea to look up the menu beforehand so that you don’t feel pressured into an unhealthy choice when you arrive. Then, incorporate the same practices you do at home, listening to your body’s signals whilst eating.

Overcoming Challenges to Mindful Eating

Mindful eating isn’t always easy. For one thing, busy schedules and emotional stress can make us pick more convenient and less healthy choices. To overcome this, set aside breaks throughout your day to eat mindfully. This may mean blocking off your calendar for lunch at work or avoiding scheduling a commitment during a meal. Additionally, incorporating mindfulness outside of meals, such as deep breathing and body scans, can do wonders.

It is important to understand that while you may experience setbacks, mistakes are part of anybody’s journey. In response to an obstacle, practice resilience by learning from the experience and recommitting to your goals. If you practice both patience and persistence, you will get closer and closer to success.

The Journey Ahead: Mindful Eating for Life

Patience and persistence are paramount on any health journey, particularly when it comes to mindful eating. Mindful eating is not an overnight solution, as it requires time and commitment to get good at. It involves a journey of self-discovery, in which progress may be slow but translate to long-term change.

Many individuals have found great success in implementing mindful eating into their health and wellness journey. From combatting emotional eating to maintaining sustainable weight loss, these people demonstrate the power of persistence and patience in redefining their relationship with food. Listening to the testimonials of others can be empowering and motivating on your own journey.

It is important to understand that mindful eating is not a temporary solution but instead a lifelong journey. It will involve establishing a deeper awareness of yourself and how you eat, and this process will change with time. By being consistent and patient, you can ascertain that mindful eating will be an investment into a healthy future.

Conclusion: Harnessing the Power of Mindset for Lasting Weight Loss

In summary, mindful eating is a powerful tool for both weight loss and as a path towards better health. It involves being present whilst eating food, tuning into your hunger and fullness cues, and responding appropriately. Mindfulness also extends beyond just food, encouraging taking pause throughout your day, being present, and taking note of how you are feeling mentally and physically. Simple mindfulness practices that you can start incorporating into your day-to-day are deep breathing and body scanning.

Mindset is often overlooked when it comes to weight loss, but it is perhaps the most important component. Your mindset will dictate your persistence and patience when it comes to weight loss. Over time, being more mindful throughout your day and at meals will become easier and easier. When you start listening to your body and reacting appropriately, you will see changes both physically and mentally.

For those embarking on their mindful eating journey, have no fear. Though it may seem difficult at first, a commitment to practicing mindfulness will only bring you great success.

Engage with Your Journey

If you are on a journey of mindful eating, I invite you to share your experiences and progress with others. Doing so can help further empower your own journey while inspiring and motivating others.

A great way to get started and stay on track with mindful eating is to keep a food and mood journal as a way to become more aware of your eating habits. Doing so can help you to understand and monitor your progress, helping you to maintain momentum. Additionally, if you feel as though you need additional support on your journey, there are plenty of resources available, including workshops, support groups, and consultations for further guidance.

David Bauder David J. Bauder, PA-C David Bauder, PA-C, is a certified physician assistant and the assistant medical director at Weight Loss and Vitality in Manassas and Alexandria, Virginia, Washington, DC; and Gaithersburg, MD. He enjoys helping patients optimize their physical and mental health to improve their overall well-being. He earned his physician assistant degree from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Afterward, he gained admission into the reputable graduate program for physician assistant studies at the University of Nebraska Health Science Center in Omaha. David has over 26 years of experience working as a physician assistant. He’s practiced in podiatry, family medicine, emergency medicine, general surgery, urgent care, and functional medicine.

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