What is mindful eating and can it help you to lose weight? Although these are common questions the concept of eating mindfully does not get as much attention as it deserves.
The truth is, eating mindfully can be a very effective weight loss tool. However, if you think that’s all it’s good for, you are selling it short. Mindful eating can benefit your health and enrich your life in several ways. It’s not just a good way of burning extra fat.
In this article, I am going to provide a brief introduction to mindful eating and the benefits it provides. I’m also going to explain some of the ways mindful eating may help you to lose weight. I’ve got to do that. Helping people to lose weight is the primary aim of this site.
What Is Mindful Eating?
Mindful eating is a technique that helps you to control your eating habits. It’s based on the Buddhist concept of mindfulness.
When Buddhists practice mindfulness, they hope to gain a greater awareness of their present thoughts along with all the sensations they are presently experiencing. They often access this state of “bare awareness” or “no self” via meditation but people who are accomplished in becoming aware can carry the state into their everyday lives.
Research published in Frontiers (respected scientific journal), shows attaining a state of mindfulness can bring many physical and mental health benefits.
As you are likely more interested in using mindfulness to get slimmer, I should also point out that the technique has been shown to be useful for supporting weight loss and reducing binge eating.
Mindful eating allows you to maximize the attention you place on the food you are eating and, indeed, the whole eating experience.
One of the main benefits of mindful eating is that, by helping you to get rid of distractions, it allows you to obtain a greater appreciation and enjoyment of your food.
But how does mindful eating help you to lose weight? We will get to that shortly.
Mindful Eating In a Nutshell
When done correctly, mindful eating allows you to give your full attention to your eating experience. It also helps you become aware of the factors that influence it such as cravings and feeling full.
Mindful eating involves:
- Eating your food slowly and not paying any attention to outside distractions.
- Becoming aware of your hunger level and stop eating when the craving subsides.
- Learning to distinguish the difference between true hunger and other (non-hunger) eating triggers.
- Learning to appreciate the smell, colour, texture, and flavour of your food (and even the sound)
- Eating to maintain overall health
- Learning to cope with anxiety and guilt about food
- Noticing the ways the food you eat affects your emotions and figure.
When you are concentrating on these things, you are better able to fully appreciate your food and develop a healthier relationship with eating.
Should You Try Mindful Eating?
Although mindful eating can help you get greater enjoyment from your food and may also help you to become slimmer, it isn’t for everyone. If you are unsure if it is likely to be a good fit for your life, the best thing to do is try it and see. You have everything to gain and nothing to lose.
Today’s society has a very different relationship with food than early man did, back in the caveman days. Back then, if you wanted to eat you had to go hunting or see what you could forage. There were no “fast food” or options for quick and easy meals.
These days, we are surrounded by fast food outlets and takeaways and be it a supermarket or corner shop, every retail outlet has an abundance of food choices, many of which are far from healthy. It’s become ridiculously easy to overeat and pile on the pounds.
It’s not just the availability of food that encourages weight gain. Today’s fast-paced society is a contributing factor as well. It’s very easy to become distracted.
Many people no longer concentrate on their food. They just shovel it into their mouths without thinking while their attention is held hostage by television screens or smart devices.
This lack of focus while eating not only reduces feeding to a mindless act, it also leads to faster eating. Gone are the days when people were encouraged to chew each mouthful 30 or more times before swallowing. That’s a great pity.
When you chew your food well, it gives you more chance to enjoy the texture and flavour. Aromatic options such as curries offer an additional sensual sensation as well.
Mindful eating encourages you to chew your food longer. This causes you to eat more slowly. When you eat slower there is a good chance you will also eat less. It can take your stomach up to 20 minutes to get a signal to your brain that says it is full.
When you are shovelling your food into your mouth and swallowing it down fast, it’s easy to overeat and gain weight. By the time your brain understands the situation in your stomach, you will have already eaten far more than you need.
So, one of the ways mindful eating supports weight loss is by helping you not to overeat. Eating becomes an intentional act instead of something you are doing on autopilot while you are checking what’s happening on your favourite social networks.
This basic mindful eating benefit also encompasses additional benefits. When you are eating slowly, it allows you to recognize true hunger and fullness cues.
Once you know it for what it is, it becomes harder to confuse hunger with other sensations, such as thirst.
Although it may seem strange, research shows, that it’s quite common for people to mistake thirst for hunger.
As you can probably now understand, there are many advantages to learning to eat mindfully.
Mindful Eating and Weight Loss: A Look at the Facts
Binge eating, comfort eating, and eating in response to other emotional triggers – all of these things can cause you to pile on extra pounds. By teaching you to have a better relationship with food and to savour instead of rush, mindful eating can help you to make unhealthy eating triggers a thing of the past.
Research proves mindful eating can reduce stress, change your eating behaviour, and help you to lose weight.
This isn’t a subject I would have expected to have sparked much interest with scientists but there has been a surprising amount of scientific investigation into the benefits of mindful eating.
Data from one six-week study shows mindful eating helped the obese participants to achieve statistically significant improvements in weight loss.
The participants undertook six weeks of two-hour classes in mindful meditation and mindful eating. The sessions also included group discussions that encouraged them to become aware of their emotions, body sensations, and the triggers that encouraged them to eat.
Additionally, the study also had a 12-week follow-up period. During the full six-week study period and 12-week follow-up, the average weight loss was 9 pounds.
Although the level of weight loss may not appear that much, you have to remember that the participants achieved this purely through mindful eating, without any additional help from diet pills or increasing their levels of physical activity.
After evaluating the data, the scientists concluded:
“This study provides preliminary evidence that an eating-focused mindfulness-based intervention can result in significant changes in weight, eating behaviour, and psychological distress in obese individuals.”
The results of a longer study are equally supportive of using mindful eating for weight loss. The study ran for six months and the participants lost an average of 26 pounds and did not show any signs of weight regain in the three months that followed. This is not surprising because the value of mindful eating is primarily teaching people to have a healthier relationship with food.
How to Learn to Eat Mindfully
Although it’s possible to teach yourself mindful eating at home, you will likely have greater success if attend a series of professionally prepared series of meditation classes.
If you are unable to find a good place to learn mindful eating locally, it’s also possible to do mindful eating courses online.
Personally, I think it’s best to attend local classes if you can. It will force you to commit to a regular learning pattern and also allow you to get help and support from other members of the class.
If you prefer to study mindful eating online or have no other option. There are many options available but some of them are quite expensive.
For instance, Bernadette Keogh is a mindfulness trainer and nutritional coach based in the Netherlands who offers a 7-week online course for €200.
Although €200 may seem like a lot of money, a course of this nature helps you develop lifelong good eating habits that have the potential to help you to ditch your excess flab and make sure it stays off.
I’ve seen alternative courses that cost a lot more. I’ve also seen cheaper ones. If you do an internet search for “mindful eating course” you should find plenty of options.
However, in my opinion, Bernadette Keogh’s online mindful eating course ranks among the best. She doesn’t just provide her pupils with e-books and/or similar mindful eating information, she provides 90-minute interactive group classes via Zoom with a maximum of eight participants.
As with attending local classes in mindful eating, this type of approach encourages you to commit to learning at a specific time, while also allowing you to become part of a group instead of trying to go it alone.