Mindful eating for weight loss

When wanting to lose weight and adopt new habits –what you eat and how you eat matters!

Along with following the nutritional program I have posted on cityline.ca– successful weight loss also requires mindfulness. In other words, eating with intention and attention will bring about the change you would like to see and experience.

Emotions and food

Our eating patterns are typically intimately linked into our emotional state. In other words – if we are happy, lonely, bored, stressed or angry, food can become the vice that we turn to soothe and even sabotage our well-being.

On some level and at various times, we all have the capacity for emotional eating and using food or alcohol to soothe or “numb out”. Typically, emotional eating occurs:

  1. Between 3-4pm — to boost energy and ward off stress
  2. After dinner — cravings heighten and sweet binges occur to improve mood and get a temporary boost
  3. When you are alone at night — a reward for a hard, stressful day
  4. When you are socializing (weekends, evenings)

Rarely do I encounter a client who starts emotionally eating at breakfast. In fact, most people start their day off quite healthy and in control, only to crash and burn near the end of a long day. To determine if you are eating because of stress or for emotional reasons, see if you identify with any of the following questions:

  1. Do you find it hard to find food that satisfies you (i.e. often switching from a sweet to a salt craving)
  2. Do you find food occupies your thoughts a lot of the time?
  3. Do you experience food guilt after you overeat?
  4. Does your dietary intake determine your mood?
  5. Do you sometimes put food in your mouth without realizing it or often eat without being hungry?
  6. Do you eat alone?
  7. If you are stressed, anxious or worried, do you find yourself opening the kitchen cupboards or fridge?

If you do find you are an emotional eater – it is time to get mindful. It is very hard to “food binge” while practicing mindfulness or awareness eating.  Not only will this help you to enjoy your food more – I assure you, you will lose more weight. In fact, one study tracked more than 1,400 mindful eaters and showed them to have lower body weights, a greater sense of wellness and fewer symptoms of eating disorders.

How to start eating mindfully

Beginning to eat mindfully and with awareness can take time, so be patient with yourself. Mindful eating will become a new learned behavior and even a form of mediation that will bring you more enjoyment of your food, not less. A few starter steps include:

  • Tap into when you are hungry and tap into when you are using food for other purposes.
  • Identify your emotional triggers – are you eating because you are sad, feeling anxious, bored, lonely, angry?
  • Identify the time of day you fall off the wagon – (i.e. mid afternoon or after dinner) and create a healthy plan to overcome these predictable patterns (i.e. keep healthy snacks at your desk, plan your dinners ahead of time etc).

Other steps to take include;

  • Slow down your meals – it take 20 minutes for the brain to register a “full” sensation from eating. If you have to, you can even set a timer.
  • Take smaller bites and focus on the details.
  • Food journal – Research has shown those who food journal lose a significant amount more weight vs. those who do not. There is a free food journal available to you here.
  • Eat with chopsticks
  • Put a dot on your hand and prior to eating look at the dot and ask yourself, “Is this healthy, am I hungry?”
  • Do not eat standing up, in front of a TV, while on the phone or with your jacket on from work.
  • Try to focus on how the food your eating is making you feel.
  • Try to pay attention to every element of your food – smell, taste, texture etc.
  • Practice mindful eating while socializing with friends or family to sharpen your skills.