Mindful Eating for Weight Loss
Mindfulness has been a hot topic for almost a decade now, and it is only increasing in popularity. This is because we are slowly returning to the philosophy of mind over matter, and of controlling our destiny via calculated choices, rather than instinctive behaviors.
And, naturally, nowhere is the principle of mind over matter, of mindfulness over instinct, more powerful than in the area of diet.
For many of us, eating is an instinctive process. We see something we like the look of, we get it, put it in our mouths, and enjoy it. We don't really have meal times anymore, so we may be snacking frequently. The easiest foods to pick off the shelf and eat tend to be full of salts, sugars, oils, and not much else. And the foods which humans are instinctively drawn towards are high calorie ones.
But the problem here is that these things all make us more likely to put on weight. Our instincts evolved at a time and a place where there was not a lot of food around. So in the modern era, we will just eat too much if we follow our instincts. Instead, we need to adapt to the modern era, by using our brains to control our instincts.
Mindfulness can correct these flaws in how we eat. Mindfulness is the practice of thinking carefully about the different elements of something. Of being aware of all the facts, all the information, and all our options before making a choice. Where food is concerned, mindfulness means being aware of what we need, when we need it, and how much of it we need. Rather than eating based on instinct, we eat based on our own wisdom.
Adopting a healthier mindset can really help get you started. A big reason why dieting fails us so often is because the battle between mind and body becomes the battle between good and evil. We see our instincts as good and pleasurable, and our mind as evil and depriving. So eventually the voice of mindfulness becomes a mean voice, a voice telling us that we are failures, undeserving, etc. Which makes us more likely to give up our diet anyway.
Instead, we need to focus on a positive voice. We need to tell ourselves that we are doing this for our own wellbeing, that we deserve to be healthy and happy, that we need to treat ourselves with kindness. We need to show love and respect for our bodies as they are, whilst at the same time putting in the effort to be healthier. Only then can we lose weight in a safe, relaxed, positive way.
Meditation teaches us how to get in the habit of mindfulness. When we meditate we focus on a series of thoughts so as to make them into automatic processes. For example, by repeating positive affirmations like “You deserve to be thin and healthy,” we embed this idea in our minds and are more likely to think it when we have a setback, or a challenge. You can also work on visualizing your goals, or things you like, to create a more positive frame of mind.
When faced with options and decisions, we need to start by stopping, breathing, and asking ourselves what serves our best interests. Don't let your instincts take over and tell you what to do. So before buying something, before every mouthful of food, before ordering at a restaurant, stop and ask yourself whether it is your instinct or yourself speaking. Ask yourself what advice you would give to someone with your choice. Ask yourself whether either choice will have an impact on your future and goals. And make the right decision.
One final note: You can make mindfulness easier by creating a trigger or a reminder. A great one is a note on the fridge, or on your wallet, reminding you to stop, breathe, and think before you buy or eat anything. You need to be purposeful, powerful, and happy when you make a food decision. When eating becomes a conscious, purposeful action, you will be able to feed yourself for your own health, not for your instincts.