Mindful eating and weight loss are two peas in a pod. If you’ve ever sat in the cinema and wondered how you managed to eat your popcorn before the film even started, you’ll know exactly what we mean when we say that mindless eating is way too easy.
But focus on eating more mindfully and you’ll soon find that you’re less likely to overeat, which is good news if you’re trying to lose weight.
Mindful eating and weight loss
What is mindful eating?
In its simplest terms, mindful eating is…well, being mindful of what you eat. That means being fully present and aware of what you’re eating, instead of wolfing down your food or eating while doing other things.
As with more general mindfulness, it’s all about being present in the moment and tuning into your body – how you feel, how you react and how you think.
How does it differ from regular eating?
We all live fast-paced lives and food can often be an afterthought. You might spend a lot of time thinking about food (don’t we all?!), but that doesn’t mean you’re eating mindfully.
Bad eating habits include:
- watching TV while you eat
- reading while you eat
- scrolling on social media while you eat
- walking while you eat
- eating when you feel bored, sad, stressed, etc. instead of eating because you’re hungry
- eating quickly
It’s said that it takes our brains at least 20 minutes to register that we’re full after eating, so if you’re quickly eating loads your brain hasn’t got a chance to register that there’s now enough food in your stomach. So we keep eating, and by the time our brains catch up we’ve already eaten way more than we need.
How do you eat mindfully?
To eat mindfully, you need to give eating your full attention. That means no watching TV, no reading and absolutely no eating at your desk while you try and bash out a bit more work over your lunch break. That doesn’t mean you need to shut yourself away to eat, as sharing a meal with others is actually considered a good thing as conversations don’t tend to suck our attention in the same way TV does, for example.
So eat with no distractions. Eat slowly, taking notice of the flavours and textures of what you’re eating. Listen to your body’s hunger cues and eat until you’re full, but no more.
Are you thinking “but the whole reason I’m overweight is that I don’t know when I’m full!”?
If you think this sounds impossible, we hear you. It’s ridiculously easy to keep eating past the point of fullness, as anyone who’s polished off a sharing-size bag of Doritos after dinner will tell you. You don’t have to do this perfectly. Simply asking yourself ‘am I full?’ and thinking about how much you’ve eaten is a great way to start applying mindful eating habits to your eating.
Like anything, the more you practice, the better you’ll be at this and the more it’ll be second-nature. Remember that it doesn’t have to be a big thing – there’s no need to bust out the fancy china.
What’s the link between mindful eating and weight loss?
Mindful eating has been shown to help with weight loss and reduce binge eating because when you slow down enough to listen to your body’s hunger cues you’ll probably find that you don’t need to eat that second helping, or that actually you can put the tub of ice cream back in the freezer. Cutting down on overeating will naturally reduce the number of calories you consume, which will lead to weight loss.
What other benefits does mindful eating have?
If you struggle with feelings of anxiety about food, or feel guilty about what you eat, mindful eating can help you identify the effect food has on your mental health. Research has shown that mindful eating can help you replace unhelpful thought patterns around food with more positive thoughts, so practising mindful eating habits can lead to a more positive relationship with food.
Give mindful eating a go by putting your phone down at mealtimes and making an effort to slow down. It’ll soon become a habit.