Mindful Eating Weight Loss: No More Dieting
Eating is such a routine behaviour that it can be done with little or no thought. The brain is very good at operating on ‘autopilot’, enabling us to do tasks with little thought or awareness, and this can be very useful. However, habits can be formed easily, with some habits being useful and constructive and others being less helpful, even harmful. The great thing about habits is that when we don’t have to think too much about things it enables the brain to save energy for more challenging tasks. An example of a useful habit we can do on autopilot is driving a car. An example of an unhelpful habit we can do on autopilot is eating in front of the TV but being unaware of how much we’re eating and maybe not even noticing the taste.
Mindful Eating Versus Mindless Eating
Mindless eating is where we consume food without awareness and with little thought. It can result in overeating, and it may not even be that enjoyable if we’re not savouring the taste of what we’re eating. If we eat mindlessly on a regular basis this may lead to weight gain and health problems. In contrast, mindful eating is consuming food with awareness, appreciation and enjoyment. Eating mindfully involves thinking before you eat, checking in with yourself to decide whether to eat, what to eat and how much to eat, and when to stop eating.
Mindful eating is therefore about paying more attention to the eating process, engaging the brain before and during eating to help you make better food decisions. In order to become a more mindful eater, it can be really helpful to go on a journey of self-discovery where you become more self-aware, you identify problematic eating behaviours and come up with strategies to help you deconstruct old behaviours and replace them with new, more helpful ones. Mindfulness itself is about adopting self-care practises, where your goal is to set up more helpful eating habits that are in your own best interest. It’s not about perfect eating, but ‘middle-way’, flexible eating. This is an entirely different approach to simply going on a strict diet, and instead takes into account the whole person- their needs, preferences, skills, personality and lifestyle.
Our behaviours are linked to our thoughts and feelings. I teach people to move away from mindless eating to more mindful thoughts, beliefs and behaviours. I encourage clients to address their mindset in terms of how they think and feel about food to help them manage the food environment. I help clients to address unhelpful thoughts, feelings and beliefs around food such as thinking that you deserve to eat a certain food (reward-eating), thinking that you’ve ‘blown’ it after eating a piece of cake (catastrophic thinking), thinking that you must clear your plate (excuses to eat and ‘crooked’ thinking) or telling yourself that you’ll start to eat better once you’re back from your holiday or weekend away (the ‘black and white’ mindset, and procrastination). To read more about how I work with clients, click HERE.
10 Mindless Eating Behaviours That Can Make Us Overweight And Keep Us Overweight
1. ‘Hoovering up’ any food in front of you (if it’s there you eat it, whatever it is and whether or not you’re feeling full)
2. Not planning your meals and snacks- just grabbing the same old foods with little thought
3. Not checking the calorie content on a packet
4. Clearing your plate despite it being a huge portion
5. Eating foods from large packets without thinking about how much of the packet you’re eating
6. Overdoing it on the food just because you’re at a social event and you’re faced with lots of choice
7. Mindlessly choosing foods that you know won’t really satisfy your appetite and have you reaching for more food soon afterwards
8. Eating with lots of distractions and very quickly, so you barely notice what and how much you’ve eaten
9. Automatically going for 3 courses in a restaurant, not just one or two
10. Making a beeline for food as soon as you feel stressed, upset, bored or lonely.
Any of these sound familiar? What do YOU need to work on most?
Busy Lifestyles: Distractions Whilst Eating
It’s easy to eat on autopilot particularly when you’re distracted by something else. Examples are eating in front of the TV, eating whilst chatting at a party, eating whilst ‘on the go’ or eating your lunch at your desk whilst working. If your mind is focused on other things it’s very easy not to notice what or how much you’re eating. Some people ‘graze’ throughout the day and pop things into their mouth without barely noticing. The manner in which you eat can really influence your enjoyment of food. The more you savour a food, the more likely you are to feel satisfied with less food; the less we notice what we’re eating and the faster we eat it, the more food we are likely to eat.
Perhaps you’re eating a main meal but you’re too focused on the dessert to follow, so not really noticing the main meal. Perhaps you eat when you’re not hungry and have a tendency to eat ‘with your eyes’ so that you end up eating any food that happens to look good, or you have a compulsion to eat food simply because it’s in front of you and in reach. Mindful eating is about slowing down the whole eating process and paying attention to what’s going on.
Awareness Is Power
If you’re aware of how you eat, you’re more likely to be able to change how you eat for the better. By becoming more aware, you can start taking steps towards improving the quality of your eating, both in terms of the actual behaviour of eating (how you eat) and actual foods (what you eat). Noticing whether you’re actually tasting (and therefore enjoying) a food, how fast you’re eating, or what situation has triggered you to eat something can be very valuable in helping you to become a more mindful eater.
Monitoring Thoughts and Beliefs
Learning to eat mindfully includes identifying your motivations and excuses for eating, such as ‘I can’t let it go to waste’, ‘You have to completely indulge when you go out for a meal’, ‘Once the packet is open I may as well eat the lot’, ‘Food is my crutch when I’m stressed’ or ‘I’m not going to miss out if everyone else is having dessert’. You might regularly eat when you’re not hungry because you’re an emotional eater- perhaps you automatically ‘soothe’ yourself with food when you’re bored, stressed, angry, unhappy or lonely. I work with individuals to help them become more aware of their own thoughts, beliefs, feelings, attitudes and behaviours in relation to food, enabling them to identify and address their underlying motivations for eating. For more information on emotional eating click HERE.
Planning your food in advance is an important aspect of mindful eating, as it can help you to be prepared in advance and provide you with some clarity and structure for making healthier food choices rather than more spontaneous, less healthy food choices you may regret or not particularly enjoy, such as when you’re very hungry in a restaurant and making a quick choice from the menu. Thinking about what you’re going to eat beforehand can help you to prepare for temptations as they arise- if you know in advance roughly what you plan to eat and plan to avoid, you’ll be in a stronger position to make better food choices.
If you’re interested in my mindful eating weight loss sessions and would like to arrange individual or small group sessions, then please contact me.
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For additional information and tips see my blogs.