Weight Loss Tip #4 : Think Before You Eat. And During. And After.
Ever notice that the will power and determination is often easier to muster in the gym than it is in the kitchen? For many of us, making nutritious food choices can be the most difficult part of the health and fitness equation. And if loosing weight to find a healthier body composition is one of your fitness goals (and let’s face it… whose isn’t?), this common difficulty is a real challenge to that goal!
One of the reasons many people find discipline in the kitchen more difficult to cultivate than discipline in the gym, is because food — and especially unhealthy, processed food that is high in sugar — is addictive. Sugary foods in particular have been shown to illicit a craving/reward response stronger than cocaine. Additionally, we are constantly bombarded with marketing for this unhealthy fare, triggering these cravings quite frequently, often beneath our conscious awareness.
We can train our minds to overcome these unconscious cravings however through a simple practice called mindfulness. Mindfulness is a practice of “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, without judgment.” Mindfulness has been used to help people overcome addictions to smoking, alcohol and other drugs, and addictions to food as benign as having a sweet tooth, to as severe as Bulimia.
Implementing a mindful eating practice is simple, but requires focus and consistency to engrain the habit into our lives. When we first start to feel sensations of hunger, we must mindfully ask ourselves if we are experiencing physical hunger or psychological hunger. If we determine that our hunger is psychological — stemming from a craving or even an unmet need completely unrelated to food — it is important to then sit with that feeling. When we do this, the truth behind what we are actually feeling will become clear and we can address its root rather can cover it up with food.
When we do decide that our hunger is physical, eating mindfully would then require us to ask ourselves what our bodies are hungry for. Perhaps our bodies are asking for protein or fat, or maybe they’re asking for a piece of refreshing fruit. This may take some time, but eventually we will develop a keen sense for what foods the body needs and when.
During our meal or snack, eating mindfully requires us to eat slowly, paying attention to every detail of our eating experience. What does the food taste like? What does it feel like as we bite into it? Chew it? And begin digesting it? By doing this, we get to be incredibly present with our food — which is the only way to truly enjoy it.
A mindful eating practice also helps us to become more sensitive and aware of when we become satiated. The moment of fullness is much easier to detect when we are already paying attention to our bodies, bite by bite. This can help us determine when eating for nourishment turns into eating for pleasure or out of habit.
The benefits of mindful eating on weight loss are multidemenional and of great depth. By becoming aware of our unconscious eating patterns, we gain the self-knowledge we need to regrow our relationship with food from one craving/reward to to one of nourishment and self-care. Instead of being subject to impulses, we are empowered to determine what foods our bodies need most and when, and precisely how much of that food is needed. A natural result of developing this awareness and is that our bodies naturally gravitate to our healthiest weight.
Try mindful eating at your next meal. Pay attention to what you notice draws your attention away from experiencing your food fully. Make note of any tendencies that make it difficult to stay present, likely eating quickly or feeling guilty for eating. Its ok if you find this practice difficult. With time it will become easier and easier, until mindful eating becomes your habit.
By practicing mindful eating you will develop an easiness about your food and your weight. That weight will start to come off with out any further effort. And though mindful eating does take practice, the effortlessness in losing weight that it brings makes it the ultimate lifestyle hack!