With the growing popularity of yoga, feng shui, reiki, and spiritualism, mindful eating does sound like yet another hyped up pseudoscientific approach to weight loss, but as we’ve learned, appearances can be deceptive. Mindfulness has been the subject of research for a number of studies and what we are learning is surprising and encouraging.
What Is Mindfulness?
“In the context of eating, mindful eating refers to the practice of eating without other distractions and instead focusing on the food you eat”
Mindfulness is a practice in which you focus your attention purposefully on an immediate experience or object. It is a practice that picks up on meditation, which has already been proven to offer a variety of health benefits, especially in the context of stress reduction. As stress and boredom are among the main causes of overeating and making unhealthy food choices, it seems logical that mindfulness should have the opposite effect, easing weight loss or weight management.
In the context of eating, mindful eating refers to the practice of eating without other distractions and instead focusing on the food you eat. Theoretically, this practice lowers the risk of you inadvertently downing an entire bag of chips or a whole pizza in one go. It increases your focus on the food, making you more conscious of what you’re eating, how much you’re eating, and whether you really want to or need to eat more.
Seems simple enough, but where’s the proof that it works?
How Mindful Eating Helps With Weight Loss
“Research shows that mindfulness promotes healthier habits, giving you greater control over your food choices, & reducing impulsive or instinctive behavior”
Several studies have supported the use of mindfulness for weight control and reduction, as the practice has been found to strengthen sensitivity to the body’s internal cues indicative of hunger or satiety. In other words, you are more attuned your body and are less likely to binge eat or make impulsive choices or confuse thirst with hunger. The most recent study that lent credence to the practice appeared in the Journal of Consumer Research last year.
Researchers trained participants in the study in basic meditative practices to become more attuned to their own bodies. What they found was intriguing – participants who had been practicing meditation did not eat less than other participants, but they compensated on food choices and amount eaten. This has an effect of balancing caloric intake, which was simply not observed in people who never practiced mindfulness exercises.
Mindfulness also reduces the severity of food cravings, with practitioners showing greater awareness to body sensations and less impulsiveness when presented with cravings. The practice makes you less likely to react spontaneously and more likely to confront and challenge such cravings. These behavioral or response changes indirectly promote weight loss, as they make it much easier to maintain healthy eating patterns, while avoiding bingeing, overeating, or giving in to unhealthy food cravings.
To get started with mindful eating, take up a basic yoga class to learn some simple techniques of meditation. To use the practice to control your dietary choices, observe these simple rules.
– Before you shovel food into your mouth, focus on the food, and your body’s feelings.
– Watch your serving size, going for small portions.
– Chew each morsel slowly and thoroughly, savoring every taste.
– Put away all distractions while eating, including digital screens or books.
– Wait for 5 minutes before you reach for a second helping.
Most importantly, be attuned to your body and enjoy your meals. Don’t give in to greed, but don’t allow yourself to be overcome with guilt!