Mindfulness. It seems that this is a concept that is sweeping through our society in this modern age. People are embracing yoga and meditation and reaping the benefits of these activities. Let’s discuss how mindful eating can help you avoid over eating, improve your relationship with food and in turn assist you in losing and maintaining your weight at a healthy level. To download a free checkist for Mindful Eating to assist you on your Mindful Eating journey, click here.
Have you ever arrived home after your commute and realized you were on autopilot. You don’t actually remember the journey home? Or 5pm arrives and the day has passed you by without you once taking a moment to pause and notice the world around you?
This mindlessness carries through into our eating habits. We eat mindlessly whilst walking somewhere, driving to work or while busy chatting with a loved one or friend over dinner. We are so busy with life that we don’t even taste our food.
Mindlessness can lead to overeating, malnutrition and unwanted fluctuations in weight.
Relationship with Food
Many of us have a poor relationship with food. We eat to self soothe after a difficult day. Who hasn’t had a tub of ice cream whilst watching Netflix?
So much of society is constantly dieting for their next holiday or to lose 10lbs. This can lead to stress whilst eating. We feel guilty for consuming certain foods that are ‘bad’.
Our problem is our relationship with food. It is important to realize and accept that everything we eat nourishes and helps maintain our health and overall wellbeing. Mindful eating can help build a positive relationship with food.
What is Mindful Eating?
Mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment experience. We then apply this to eating. By eating mindfully, we free ourselves from unhealthy relationships with food.
In a mindful state, we are attentive to our actions and fully engaged in one activity. Similar to focusing on the breath during a meditation, we change that focus to the task of eating.
When mindful, our senses are open and heightened allowing us to pay attention to the texture of food and the multiple colors on our plate. We notice the sound of our food whilst chewing, the bursts of flavors in our mouth and are able to enjoy eating more.
Mindful Eating gives us the opportunity to understand emotions that arise in regards to our meals. We are more capable of recognizing when we are full and can avoid over or under eating.
The Practice of Mindful Eating
Like anything else in life, practice makes perfect. At this time I want you to actually eat something and use this guide to eat mindfully. Begin your practice with something small and simple, such as a berry, piece of apple or a nut. As your practice improves, you can use this same guide on your entire meal.
Begin by closing your eyes and noticing your level of hunger. Do you feel famished, satisfied or neutral? Notice where you feel hunger in the body. Become aware of any physical sensations associated with your hunger. Is your mouth watering or your stomach rumbling? Observe and then rate how hungry you are from 1-10.
Open your eyes and take your gaze to your food on a plate in front of you. Observe it with childlike fascination, as if seeing it for the first time. With curiosity, notice the shape and color of the food.
Lift the food and hold it between your fingers, feel the texture and become aware of how it feels. Is it soft, smooth or firm? Try placing the food in your palm to feel it’s weight. Be curious.
Bring the food to your nose and smell it, what aroma does the food have? Is it sweet, earthy or maybe there is no scent.
Begin to notice what is happening in the body. Is the mouth watering? Maybe it is becoming difficult to resist.
Resist no longer, bring the food to the lips. Notice that our mouthes open in anticipation to greet the food. Place the food in your mouth or take a small bite. Avoid chewing yet. Instead, Rest the food on your tongue and roll it around without chewing. Explore what the feed feels like.
Begin to chew the food slowly and mindfully. Savor each of the flavors. Avoid swallowing the food immediately, instead notice the taste and texture of the food. What flavors can you taste? How would you describe the flavor? Maybe it is crunchy or smooth. Do you make any sounds as you bite?
Now swallow the food and observes what happens, the movement of the tongue, throat, belly. Is there an aftertaste in your mouth?
Rate again from 1-10 how hungry you are. It is important we pay attention to our levels of hunger of satiety to develop awareness of how much food our body actually needs.
If you are still hungry, continue to eat, one bite at a time. Avoid rushing your mindful eating practice. It might be a good idea to put your utensils down between bites.
Before each meal, take a moment to envoke gratitude and appreciate the food you’re eating. How it has come to be on your plate.
Think about where it was grown, the sun and soil required for that growth. Consider the workers involved with transporting the food to you. Our food comes from all over the world. By plane, boat, train and more.
The earth quite literally grows the nutrients we need to survive and maintain health. That is miraculous and remarkable.
Respect Your Body
I encourage you to bring this practice into your daily life. Mindful eating like other mindful activities keeps us present. Remember to pause and appreciate your food. Respect your body by eating slowly and gratefully. Allow food to fuel the body, nourish us and to heal us from the inside out.
Practice mindful non judgement towards yourself whilst eating. Respond to any negative feelings that arise with self love rather than self criticism.
Always eat slowly and fully taste each bite. Enjoy the experience of eating and watch your relationship with food change.
Thank you for joining us at Healthy Mind, Healthy Body, Healthy Life today. How do you practice mindful eating? How has it helped your relationship with food? Do you have any recommendations you would like to share with our readers? Please comment below.
Call To Action
For a free download of your very own Mindful Eating Checklist, click here.
Preventing or delaying type 2 diabetes when you have prediabetes is all about lifestyle choices: eating right, getting active, and taking care of yourself in other ways, such as getting enough sleep and using stress management techniques. You may already be making these choices or thinking about them if you are in a Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) or are thinking about joining one to manage prediabetes.
At some point, though, nearly everyone hits a snag. It can happen even when healthy choices had become habits and weight and blood sugar seemed to be under control. The lapse in great choices can lead to a stall weight loss, reductions in physical activity, or higher blood sugar, and it can be frustrating after things had been going well for a while.
Lapses can sneak up gradually and it may take a while to realize that you are in one. Once you notice, it is time to work through it. As the Lark DPP check-in suggested, identifying the problem or cause of the lapse is a first step to getting over it. Figuring out some reasons for it and working on increasing mindfulness can help you get over a lapse.
Possible Causes of Lapses
What may have changed between “then,” the time when healthy choices were natural, and “now,” when weight loss has plateaued or more sugary or starchy foods are creeping into your regular menus? There are some common changes in life circumstances that can affect food choices.
- Being busier. This can reduce time available to prepare food, plan meals, and exercise, so restaurant meals and skipped workouts become the norm.
- Feeling stressed. Whether from a new job, health concerns for you or a loved one, financial worries, or other causes, stress can lead to emotional eating.
- Losing motivation. Not meeting goals or seeing results, or losing sight of why you started your health journey in the first place, can lead to reduced motivation.
Feeling deprived or always feeling hungry can also lead to lapses. These are more likely to happen if you focus on what you cannot have instead of what you can (“I can’t have ice cream anymore,” instead of, “I get to have a frozen banana with dark chocolate”), or if you are not eating much fiber and protein in comparison to sugary or fatty foods.
Mindfulness and Its Connection to Healthy Eating
Practicing mindfulness is not a cure-all, but it is a trick for improving weight control and establishing healthier eating habits. Researchers have found that people who practice mindful eating have a better chance of getting the upper hand on binge eating and emotional eating, both of which are unhealthy practices because they can lead to weight gain and are linked to poorer mood and self-confidence.
Being mindful means being aware of what is happening while you are eating. It includes being aware of which foods you choose, how they taste and feel, what you are focusing on while you are eating, why you chose to start eating and why you are choosing to continue or stop eating, where you are eating, and what may be going on in the environment that is surrounding you.
Tips for Mindful Eating
Mindful eating has several aspects, and you can practice one or a few at a time to become a more mindful eater. These are a few tips to get you started.
- Eating slowly can give your brain a chance to feel full before you eat more than you need, since it can take about 20 minutes to feel full.
- Noticing why you eat, such as for hunger or for other reasons, such as boredom or stress or availability of food, can put you more in tune with your body’s hunger and other signals.
- Savoring each bite, while enjoying the flavors and textures, can help you slow down and enjoy the meal more, both of which help you eat less and feel more satisfied.
- Logging each meal and snack, such as with Lark DPP, can help you detect patterns such as snacking more frequently than you realized or eating bigger lunches than you thought you were.
- Thinking about how you feel while you are eating and when you are finished can help steer you towards more nutritious foods and smaller portions.
Lapses can feel tough, but almost everyone goes through periods of relapse when trying to follow a healthier diet. Being mindful and identifying the root causes of the relapse can help you make an action plan to get over it. Lark DPP can be there to support and encourage you in all of your efforts to reduce risk for type 2 diabetes.
First thing first – Mindful Eating is not a diet!
Food makes up your body. It is the reason why your body exists. So, besides what you eat, how you eat also plays a crucial role in the making of your body.
In today’s fast-paced world, where everyone is in a hurry and multi-tasking, being mindful, a Buddhist practice of being fully present and sensing without judging, connects you with the environment around you.
Similarly, mindful eating makes you fully aware of the eating experience and your thoughts and feelings about food. It helps in slowing down the eating process and savours every bite. When we pay attention to what we eat, it tastes better and more satisfying.
Understanding hunger, craving and fullness cues
Hunger can be deceiving. Many people may misunderstand the body’s sign of being hungry. You eat and still not satisfied, you don’t eat for a long time and still don’t feel hungry. Mindful eating encourages you to explore and understand the difference in advance of a meal and prevent unnecessary food intake. It may help you in cutting down on your food cravings.
When you pay more attention to the feeling of fullness or focus more on the flavours, you become aware that you have had enough.
Weight loss/ Fitness Goal
Weight loss can be another one of the benefits of mindful eating. It has been observed that when people start feeding actual hunger cues, they’re likely to lose weight.
Mindful eating can also help you change unhealthy eating habits. It can also help curb binge eating, emotional eating and hedonic eating. Because when you eat mindfully, you are not just sitting down and eating. You pay attention to your patterns around food, when you eat, where you eat and why you eat.
Mindful eating can be used as a tool to recognize and change your eating behaviours and thereby develop other benefits as well.
Mindful eating does not restrict any type of food and so allows you to have a wider variety of food on your menu.
Practising mindful eating can aid good digestion, reduce overeating, enhance the flavours of food and improve your psychological relationship with food.
How to practice mindful eating
Here are some tips that can help you practice mindful eating:
Come to the table with an appetite.
Take at least 15min to sit down and enjoy your meal.
Avoid distractions whilst eating.
Do not rush. Schedule time to eat your meal when you have adequate time.
Always sit and eat.
Eat everything on a plate or bowl even if it has come in a packet.
Make efforts to chew your food thoroughly and consciously.
Savour and taste your food using all your senses – look, feel, smell and taste.
We eat to nourish our body and provide nutrition to facilitate optimal functioning. Paying attention to what and how we are eating makes you feel better both physically and psychologically.
Learn how eating healthy to lose weight begins with being mindful
Mindful eating is a wonderful tactic to use on your weight loss journey. By eating intuitively you’ll enjoy your meals more and get better at listening to your body’s hunger cues. If you make this a lifelong daily habit, you’ll find your mindful healthy eating plan immensely helpful in your weight loss journey and beyond.
Fourteen ways to eat mindfully
- Before you eat, check in with yourself. Are truly hungry – or simply emotional or bored?
- Don’t eat by the clock. Only eat if you feel genuinely hungry, not because it’s meal time.
- Take a moment to enjoy the delicious aroma of your food.
- Notice the colours of the food on your plate.
- In your mind (or out loud) thank yourself for your nutritious, healthy eating plan. Congratulate yourself for making a choice that nourishes your body.
- Recognize the food you’re eating, and enjoy the textures in your mouth. Pay attention to the smoothness of yoghurt or the crunch of celery.
- By avoiding distractions you can enhance your mindful eating experience. Don’t scroll on the phone, watch TV or work on your computer while eating.
- Make mindful eating fun by pretending you’re the nice judge on a TV cooking show. What do you like about the dish? Get specific about the flavours you’re enjoying. (If you’re eating with kids you can make a fun game of it.)
- Chew each bite of food thoroughly so it becomes almost a paste until you swallow (this is good for digestion).
- Consciously put your cutlery down between each bite. This helps you focus on the food you are currently eating.
- Take a drink of water between mouthfuls of your food.
- Practice mindful eating by noticing your stomach reacting to your meal. Are you starting to feel full? If so, stop. You can always finish the meal later if you’re hungry again.
- Think about all the people who contributed to your food. A farmer grew the produce, a Jenny Craig chef or nutritionist designed the healthy eating plan. Someone made the dinnerware and cutlery. Take a moment to appreciate them.
- If you don’t want to do this at every meal, choose a ‘mindful snack.’ Whenever you eat this snack item, do so mindfully.
Start your mindful journey and eating healthy to lose weight with Jenny Craig today.
D o anything three times a day, every day of your life, and you’re bound to get bored. Eating is no different. Humans, however, are masters of distraction—which is how our screens became our loyalest dining companions. But they can get in the way of a healthy diet and a healthy weight in ways you may not realize.
Researchers in the fast-growing field of mindfulness research are learning that simply changing how we eat might be a key to weight loss. Mindful practices like meditation are being used as tools to improve health, lessen pain and dodge sickness in large part because they reduce stress. And since stress is often at the root of overeating, mindfulness seems to make us eat better meals, which means it’s likely possible to lose weight without dieting.
Mindfulness is the act of focusing attention on present-moment experiences. Apply that to a meal, and mindful eating means actually paying attention to the food you’re eating, making you less likely to thoughtlessly plow through a bag of potato chips, for instance. “The only thing you have to focus on is the food,” says Michael Mantzios, a mindfulness researcher and lecturer in health psychology at Birmingham City University in the U.K. “Mindfulness brings you back to the present moment, back to the present meal.”
According to new research, mindfulness sharpens a person’s ability to recognize internal cues that signal hunger and fullness. In a 2016 study, researchers taught people a short body scan meditation that primes them to become more aware of their own body. (Try out our guided meditation below to see what it’s like.) The meditators then received either a small or large Snickers bar. Later, they were allowed to eat as many chocolate cookies as they liked.
Something special seemed to happen to the people who did the body scan meditation. While they didn’t necessarily eat less than everyone else, they adjusted their cookie consumption to compensate for what they’d already eaten—meaning that people who had the large candy bar ate fewer cookies than people who had the small Snickers. “What’s interesting is it had an effect not so much on consumption, but on compensation over time,” says study co-author Evelien van de Veer, who at the time of conducting the research was a doctoral candidate at the Marketing and Consumer Behavior Group at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. The researchers saw no such compensation from people who hadn’t received mindfulness training, or from those who had been taught a mindfulness exercise focused on their environment instead of their body.
That caloric balancing act may be a long-term habit of the mindful. In the same paper, the authors tracked people for about three years and measured their mindfulness scores with questionnaires. People who were more mindful and paid more attention to body sensations didn’t weigh less than their less mindful peers, but they experienced fewer weight fluctuations over time.
Mindfulness also helps take the claws out of cravings. “When you see a cake or chips, you think about what it would be like to take some of it, what it would feel like in your mouth,” says Esther Papies, a social psychologist studying self-regulation and health behaviors at the University of Glasgow in the UK. “All of that is based on your previous experiences. In neuroimaging research, you activate the same areas in brain simulations as you do when you actually eat the food.” That’s what makes it so tempting to tear into something salty or sweet.
But mindfulness can disrupt that automatic reaction by reducing the appeal of unhealthy foods, Papies says. Through her research, she’s discovered that the trick is to think of your food craving, when it pops up, as nothing more than a mere thought. “It’s really like a soap bubble,” she says. “As soon as you touch it, it’s going to disperse.”
It’s not easy to get people to think mindfully about their food, however. “We cannot convince people to stay on a diet, to do very basic things,” says Mantzios. “How can they commit to a lifestyle change that involves meditation?”
Mantzios wondered if there was a shortcut to mindful eating that didn’t involve meditating. He created a food diary—with questions like “how does this meal smell?” and “what are the colors and textures of it?”—for people to fill in while they ate. Surprisingly, people who used the diary lost just as much weight as those on a meditation program. Three months later, they even surpassed the meditation group in maintaining their weight loss.
Best of all, people did not even have to write in their answers to reap the benefits. Another experiment found that just considering the questions in the diary, without putting pen to paper, resulted in a more mindful meal.
Now, Mantzios asks himself those same questions when he sits down to a meal. “I’ll try it, smell it and see whether this food is actually causing me any joy, and this will define whether I eat it or not,” he says. “I think this is the way we should live our lives, really.”
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Feel like your diet is in a rut? Or are you looking to breathe a little extra life into your healthy-ish diet? You’re not alone. Whether you’ve noticed that you’ve fallen into unhealthy eating patterns recently (many of us have) or if you want to give your diet a bit of a refresh, there is an easy way to do that—and it doesn’t require overhauling your entire pantry. On the contrary, according to Lauren Manaker MS, RDN, LD, founder of Nutrition Now Counseling and author of Fueling Male Fertility, you can start with one step to immediately set your diet on the right path to being healthier: adding salmon to your fridge.
“Salmon is chock-full of key nutrients to support overall health, including selenium, potassium, and vitamin B6. Plus, it is a source of high-quality protein that helps make any meal more satisfying,” she says.
All of these benefits are great, but you may be wondering why we’re calling salmon out, in particular, as a food that can immediately improve your diet. There are so many superfoods with incredible health benefits, right? Right. But the thing that stands out with salmon is its omega-3 fatty acid content.
Why the omega-3 fatty acid content of salmon makes it a food that can help you immediately be healthier.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat that is considered “essential.” What this means is that our bodies can’t make this nutrient—we can only get it from food, and salmon is one of those foods. In fact, it’s one of the best sources of omega-3s, containing the second-highest amount of these fatty acids out of all the fish in the sea.
“Salmon is known for being a rich source of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. Having adequate levels of these fatty acids [in your diet] is linked to a slew of health benefits, including a reduced risk of early death,” says Manaker.
While omega-3s are an essential, healthy part of a balanced diet, there’s an even more important reason why we recommend eating this fish: the majority of people are not eating nearly enough omega-3s, so adding salmon to your diet can immediately start repopulating your body with the fatty acids you need.
“Most Americans don’t get enough of these key fatty acids in their diet, which is concerning from a health perspective. Adding salmon to your diet is one easy way to bump up your DHA and EPA intake with little effort,” says Manaker.
Why we need to be eating more salmon and other omega-3-rich foods.
Humans evolved on a diet with a ratio of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids of 1:1; however, that ratio is now closer to 15:1. Like omega-3s, omega-6s are also essential, but they are also pro-inflammatory. As such, studies show that eating too much of them, as we do in Western diets, can lead to an increased risk of many diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, and obesity, according to a study published in Nutrients.
There are a few reasons why our omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is so much higher than it once was. One of which is that since the dawn of modern agriculture, there has been a noticeable decrease in omega-3 content of foods that traditionally contain high levels of omega-3s, including in fish, animal meat, and eggs. But more importantly, our intake of omega-3-rich foods has decreased significantly.
While we eat fewer omega-3 foods, we’re also eating more omega-6 fatty acids than we traditionally have. This is in due part to the prevalence of soybean oil—a vegetable oil high in omega-6s—in our diets. Soybean oil is the component in the American diet that has increased the most in the last 100 years, constituting over 60% of all edible vegetable oil consumption in the U.S. It’s commonly found in countless processed foods and fried foods, according to a study published in Scientific Reports.
While you can decrease your omega-6 intake by reducing your intake of certain omega-6-rich foods like soybean oil, it’s also, if not more, important to focus on increasing your omega-3 intake. That’s especially the case since, as mentioned earlier, omega-6s are still essential fats, and they do have health benefits when they’re eaten in moderation. Plus, replacing less healthy saturated fats with any polyunsaturated fat—even omega-6s—is good for you.
In summary, by eating more salmon, you’ll reap its nutritional benefits of micronutrients, such as vitamin D and B12, and quality protein. But perhaps best of all, you’ll increase your intake of anti-inflammatory, heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
To reap the benefits, the FDA recommends eating 2 to 3 servings of fish, or about 8 to 12 ounces, per week. While we recommend salmon because it’s widely available and one of the more popular fish, experts recommend eating a variety of fish as each has its own nutrient profile. So start with salmon, and then add more fish types like tuna, mackerel, cod, and flounder! Read more: Surprising Side Effects of Eating Fish, According to Science.
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After a dinner out with her family where the staff struggled to find a seat that she would fit into, Jennifer Butters knew she needed to lose weight. At the time, the 5-foot-5-inch woman weighed 410 pounds.
After three and a half years of hard work, she dropped a total of 275 pounds.
“The most difficult part for losing the weight was in admitting to myself that I was out of control with my emotional eating and that if I didn’t stop, I was likely going to die from the damage it was causing,” Butters, 53, of Lebanon, Pennsylvania, told TODAY via email.
Woman lost 275 pounds and has kept it off for 3 years
Like so many women, she put on weight during her three pregnancies and failed to lose it. That, combined with a love of baked goods and comfort food, meant Butters’ weight increased dramatically before she realized that if she didn’t change her habits, her high cholesterol and pre-diabetes would become bigger problems.
“I’ve learned that whenever we live in an unbalanced way … our lives can’t be truly healthy or happy,” she said.
For the past three years, she’s maintained her weight loss thanks to a focus on mindful eating.
“I hope that people know what seems impossible is possible with God and no matter what our stories have been in the past, we can write a happier ending,” she said.
Butters shared her advice for losing and maintaining weight loss.
1. Start now!
Before losing 275 pounds, Butters tried — and failed — to lose weight many times. People told her she’d “never lose weight and keep it off.” But she started anyway.
“Don’t let any excuses get in your way,” she said. “Choose a healthy, balanced weight-loss plan and surround yourself with as much support, encouragement and inspiration.”
2. Find a plan that works with your lifestyle.
Butters keeps a food journal — it helps her make smart food choices and count calories. She also walks and bikes for exercise instead of going to the gym. These changes make sense with her life, so adding them feels easy.
“I focus on keeping balance,” she said.
3. Shop around the outside of the grocery store.
Vegetables, fruits, lean meats, low-fat dairy and whole grains make up the bulk of Butters’ diet. She buys them and stays away from the center of the grocery store, often where processed foods, snacks and sugary beverages are.
“I basically stick to eating foods found in the perimeter of the grocery store,” she said.
4. Remember being overweight is hard work.
While Butters worked hard to lose weight, it did not feel as difficult as being overweight. Feeling exhausted from doing the smallest task or being humiliated when she couldn’t fit somewhere took more energy than eating healthfully and exercising.
“Being morbidly obese is harder. Choose your hard. I choose living healthy,” she said. “Staying healthy and keeping the weight off ‘tastes’ much better than any kind of food.”
5. Give yourself off days.
For birthdays, anniversaries or holidays, Butters enjoys foods that aren’t part of her eating plan. But she doesn’t worry about over-indulging.
“It feels so much better to be at a healthy weight and to be free of all the emotional baggage I carried around that I don’t completely enjoy eating ‘off plan’ for very long. After a day or so off, I am ready to get back on,” she said.
6. Be mindful about your eating habits.
Butters gained a lot of weight by simply not paying attention. She’d binge on food without thinking about it. But those habits make living a healthy life almost impossible.
“Continue focusing on healthy, balanced eating and living. Don’t think you can go back to mindless eating and careless living again and stay at a healthy weight and lifestyle. It’s not possible,” she said.
7. Be positive.
“Too often, we view our struggles as proof that we’re weak … and this leads us to more and more negative thoughts and doubts,” she said. “But I have learned that the struggles we go through are proof that we have not given up.”
For more inspirational stories, check out our My Weight-Loss Journey page!
Yoga Instructor and Writer in NYC
What if I told you that the best diet out there doesn’t involve food restrictions and all you have to do is think? It’s called mindful eating and it’s the practice of eating with awareness and intention. Researchers propose that by simply tuning into your food and the process of eating, we can change dietary behaviors and eat healthier.
A Buddhist meditation tradition, mindful eating teaches us to understand, respect, and value food. Running through our everyday lives means that we sometimes make poor decisions when it comes to eating—fast food instead of cooking dinner; emotional choices instead of nutritional choices.
These decisions can add up quickly, but mindful eating will fight negative behaviors while still ensuring satisfaction from eating.
Nope, It’s Not Just a Trend
More than just another fad diet, mindful eating has actually been coined the “anti-diet.” It’s a lasting practice that helps people make better decisions about eating, without eliminating any foods.
In yoga, we practice the philosophy of “moderation in everything,” and this extends to eating. Anything is an option, but we have the power of making the ultimate choice, not some crazy list of do’s and don’ts. With mindful eating, we learn the importance of food choices and how our actions affect our outcomes.
A growing body of research shows that mindful eating leads to changes in weight, distress, and self-acceptance. By eating mindfully—that is, attentively and intentionally—people gain more appreciation for food and it’s easier to change problematic eating patterns.
So How Can You Start Practicing Mindful Eating?
The best way to start eating mindfully is by implementing changes and thought processes gradually. Try one mindful meal a week, then ease into 1 per day, and so on. But how do you learn to eat mindfully?
According to many eating experts, it can start with a series of questions about your eating habits and food sources. Where is this food from? Why am I eating? What will this food do for me? How will I eat?
Below, we delve into the answers to these questions that facilitate mindful eating.
Where Did Your Food Come From?
Knowing where your food comes from extends beyond going to the farmer’s market to buy local tomatoes (although that is a wonderful practice). The where includes a deeper understanding of the evolution of the tomato (in this case)—from seed, to photosynthesis, to plant, to farmer’s hand, to transportation, and finally to you, the consumer.
Research suggests that by acknowledging the food process from germination to consumption, we learn to appreciate our food. This leads to more conscientious decisions when shopping for food—whether it be supporting seafood sustainability or choosing local produce.
Why Are You Eating?
Asking yourself why you’re eating a particular food is important for emotional and physical health. Are you eating because you’re actually hungry? Oftentimes emotions and a shift in hormones compel us to think that we want a tub of ice cream offset by a salty bag of chips.
Later on, our body will sometimes disagree with this irrational choice which can also inflict feelings of guilt. Knowing that emotional eating doesn’t help the underlying issue, and can even make things worse, is a key step in mindful eating. Research suggests that mindful eating teaches how to control emotions, specifically impulsivity, resulting in more nutritive food choices.
What Are You Eating?
Pretty basic, the what refers to the kind of food you’re going to buy or consume. Mindful eating includes knowing which food choices will nourish your body, so educate yourself!
In addition, the what can also refer to what experiences are arising during eating. Is the food spicy, sweet, soft, or cold? Try utilizing the senses to assess the texture, taste, temperature, color, and smell to become more mindful of what you’re ingesting.
How Do You Eat?
Do you eat hurriedly, on-the-go, while watching TV/Netflix, or while working through your lunch “break”? How you eat can actually play a significant role in your metabolism. Since it takes around 20 minutes for the brain to register satiety (fullness), slower and more mindful eating will help the body respond correctly to food intake and avoid overeating.
In addition, researchers also insist that distracted eating (such as eating in front of the TV or while typing emails) slows digestion. This interruption of digestion may halt absorption of nutrients, leaving our bodies devoid of the healthy benefits of our consumed food. Trying to eat slowly and without distraction will force you to focus on the food and the body will alert you when to stop.
Mindful eating helps with obesity, diabetes, cancer-related eating issues, and eating disorders. But evidence suggests that by learning self-control and awareness, mindful eating is a practice that everyone can benefit from.
We already know that food decisions have significant effects on health and well-being. So next time you’re at the supermarket or making a meal, make it a point to ask yourself these four questions: where, why, what, how?
Being overweight or obese is the medical condition that affects almost everyone who has type 2 diabetes and makes it harder to manage our blood sugar level. More than 85 percent of adults with diabetes were overweight in the U.S. government’s Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. And almost 55 percent of the adults with diabetes were obese. But we now have great tools to help us lose weight.
When Byetta, the first GLP-1 mimetic, became available 10 years ago, we got a drug to manage our blood sugar that also led to weight loss. Most diabetes drugs lead to weight gain. But Byetta helped me so much that in 22 months I brought my weight down from 312 to 170 pounds, and my book, Losing Weight with Your Diabetes Medication, focuses on it. (Note: Patients should discuss the side effects and contraindications of GLP-1 drugs with their health care provider first.)
Bariatric and metabolic surgeries are ways that people with diabetes lose weight. These procedures limit how much can be eaten. Since these operations are typically not reversible, doctors prescribe it only for people who are morbidly obese. It works well for some people, but not for others. Since it is expensive and may have complications, this is the last resort when other ways of managing weight don’t work.
Two small studies by British researchers show that eating an extremely low-calorie diet of 600 calories per day for a few weeks can take off a lot of pounds. You must be “strongly motivated to escape from diabetes” in order to lose enough weight this way, the lead author admits. But “substantial weight loss is entirely possible by decreasing food consumption.” (Note: The American Diabetes Association instead recommends medical nutrion therapy (MNT).)
A low-carb diet is another way for people with diabetes to manage blood sugar and weight without drugs. I’m one of those who follow this strategy and have brought my current weight down to 154 pound for a BMI of 19.5. A study compared people on a low-carb diet to those on a low fat diet, finding the participants on the low-carb diet lost more weight than those on the low-fat diet. (Note: Studies examining the ideal amount of carbohydrate intake for people with diabetes are inconclusive.)
The quickest way to lose a few pounds is to stop eating for a few hours. Fasting is a controversial subject and there is conflicting data about it. Experts believe that patients with diabetes who are on insulin therapy may develop hypoglycemia during fasting. Intermittent fasting should be done only with close medical supervision. (Note: Intermittent fasting is not recommended by the ADA or NIDDK.)
Weigh yourself every morning so you can immediately identify weight gain and make a plan right away.
The best time to lose weight is when you know you have diabetes. By taking off the pounds, you have a better chance of keeping your blood sugar and blood pressure levels under reasonably good control. If your BMI is over 25, anytime is a good time to start. Mine was 39.6 when I started to manage my weight 10 years after my type 2 diabetes diagnosis. According to the ADA, a weight loss of at least 5 percent benefits overweight or obese adults with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes.
Only when we set a weight loss goal can we be in charge of our weight. We need a nutrition scale and a way to record our diet. Lots of other tips and strategies are important, but counting is key and recording what you eat can double the weight loss.
Only when you accept yourself as you are can you make fundamental changes. It’s a sign of commitment. When you accept that you weigh too much, you can reinforce it by sharing how much you weigh now and what your goal is.
Have you ever finished a meal and realized soon afterwards that you don’t remember what it tasted like? When we give more attention to the food we eat as we eat it, studies have shown that we don’t eat as much. Mindful eating means that we need to think more — not less about what we eat. It helps to put down the knife, fork, and spoon between bites. When we eat mindfully, we eat slower and savor our food and we avoid eating more when we are already full.
My trick is to set my kitchen time to go off in 15 or 20 minutes after finishing a meal. I promise myself that if I am still hungry then, I will have seconds. But the amazing thing is that by that time I almost always feel full.
Portion control is one of the first steps in managing our individual food cravings. The biggest key is to avoid buying the food that we crave the most. For me that is cheese, so I don’t keep it at home. Our temptations disappear with time. Losing weight gets easier with practice.
David Mendosa was a journalist who learned in 1994 that he had type 2 diabetes, which he wrote about exclusively. He died in May 2017 after a short illness unrelated to diabetes. He wrote thousands of diabetes articles, two books about it, created one of the first diabetes websites, and published a monthly newsletter, “Diabetes Update.” His very low-carbohydrate diet, A1C level of 5.3, and BMI of 19.8 kept his diabetes in remission without any drugs until his death.