End Weight Loss Struggles with Mindful Eating
by Sherry Pratt
Mindful eating offers a radically different approach to weight loss, one based on awareness, intention, compassion, and respect for our bodies, rather than rigid and seemingly arbitrary rules dictated by fad diets. Mindful eating is more concerned with the “how” of eating versus the what. The essentials of mindful eating involve paying attention to your senses, your surroundings, and especially your thoughts.
Eat with all your senses
Use your eyes to observe and appreciate the colours, textures, and shape of the food. See your surroundings and those with whom you are dining with fresh eyes.
Listen to the sounds around you—people talking, music playing, silverware clanking, and the sounds you make as you chew your food.
Tune into the physical sensations of your body. Notice how hungry or full you are, the temperature in the room, your feet grounded on the floor.
Use your nose to note the delicious smells and aromas coming from the food.
Take a bite, chew slowly, pausing to discern flavours. Close your eyes and see if the taste changes or intensifies. Observe how your experience changes over the course of the meal. It’s not uncommon for the first bites to be really good, and then as our taste buds get used to the flavours and we get full, we experience less satisfaction and pleasure.
Observe your surroundings
We are highly influenced by our environment. When food is in plain sight and easily available, we are more likely to eat it. This is a natural biological instinct. Use mindfulness to observe how the various environments in which you spend your time positively or negatively influence your eating habits and routines. Do watching TV and snacking go hand in hand? Do you leave restaurants feeling stuffed? When you eat at a table, are you more present? Does eating together as a family bring more connection and enjoyment?
Notice your thoughts
One of the most powerful and potentially transformative benefits of mindful eating comes from becoming aware of thoughts. One of the most common sources of mindless eating comes from stress eating. We get caught up in thoughts—ruminating about a situation at home or work, thinking about the never-ending to-do list, worrying about children, family, finances, etc., and reach for food as a way to release tension. Rather than munching for stress-relief, mindfulness invites us to notice the source of the thoughts, and from that place of awareness choose a more effective course of action.
Another way in which thoughts influence our eating is through emotion. Difficult or unpleasant emotions generate discomfort. Food offers an immediate, easy, and socially acceptable source of comfort. Instead of eating to numb or stuff down emotions, mindfulness suggests that you recognize, acknowledge, and allow the emotion to run its course, as intense feelings come in waves that last a matter of minutes versus hours or days.
A thought pattern that can be particularly destructive is judging your food choices. Labelling foods as good or bad, healthy or unhealthy, on or off plan, etc. results in all-or-nothing thinking, where thoughts such as, “I blew it so I might as well eat it all now” or “I’ll start over tomorrow” or “It doesn’t matter now,” lead to a downward spiral of regrettable food choices, overeating, and beating yourself up. Mindfulness helps us step out of the loop and examine our thoughts with a judgement-free lens, to question their power, and see that what you ate in the past doesn’t have to dictate your food choices in the present or the future.
As a certified functional health coach, Sherry Pratt helps women struggling with cravings, stress eating, and emotional eating to find peace and freedom with food, so they can naturally reach their best healthy weight. She lives on a farm near Southey, SK. You can find her online at www.sherrypratt.ca and call (306) 537-6641.