Mindful eating is one of the most important aspects of a healthy lifestyle, which focuses on both healthy eating and quality of life equally, which is crucial for permanent weight loss and type 2 diabetes prevention.
Exactly What is Mindful Eating?
Mindful eating is a key component of living a healthy lifestyle. It is not some airy-faerie-woo-woo mystical magic, It’s science, psychology and SENSUALITY! Mindful eating is taking your time and paying close nonjudgmental attention to everything about an entire eating experience with intention and awareness. You would pay attention to:
- weight (heaviness or lightness)
- immediate effect (emotions, digestive, energy)
- longer-term effect (reactions)
- hunger and satisfaction (before and after eating)
- motivation/triggers to eat certain foods
Mindful eating is like a foodie meditation, and just like the concept of meditation is generally way over-complicated than it really should be. So I’m going to break it down. All you do is be conscious and pay attention, and if your mind wanders, notice that it has and hook it and reel it back in.
Mindful Eating is the Cornerstone of a Nutrilicious Lifestyle
Your Nutrilicious Lifestyle is supposed to be enjoyable and it’s important not to get sucked into the rules mentality, when it comes to mindful eating, which is completely counterproductive. By rules mentality I mean getting all pious and trying too hard to be strict and “perfect”, as if there were such a thing. This is very important because being “perfect” is not something that anyone can maintain long term and failure becomes a devastating setback.
Now, there are experts who will tell you that you can’t do ANYTHING while eating because you need to FOCUS FOCUS FOCUS! Just no. In order to eat mindfully it’s not true that you must give food and eating your complete and undivided attention while floating in a sensory deprivation tank. But whatever you have going on should not be intense enough to distract you from eating. No multitasking. But non-stressful things like light conversation and nice music should be fine, but every individual is different so trial and error are the best bet. Be honest and gentle with yourself.
When difficulties arise, sometimes people find that they must make radical changes to their lifestyles, such as where they live i.e. a walkable neighborhood with short commute, or delegate activities, or the number hours they work all in the name of their health, which is priceless. It’s good to remember that quality of life is top priority.
Real Life Challenges to Healthy Eating
By now you might be asking yourself, “it sounds all good but can I really manage all this, with my busy life?
“Most of us have too much chaos going on in our lives to consciously focus on every bite we eat, and then ask ourselves if we’re full,” he told the audience of psychologists. “The secret is to change your environment so it works for you rather than against you.”~ Kelly McGonigal, Psychology Today
This is so true that healthy eating, let alone mindful eating can too time consuming to be realistically feasible…if you’re not prepared. Many mindful eating courses forget this part, which is guided by intention. We have to be careful that intention doesn’t morph into obsession. It’s smart to take it slow and make gradual changes and remember that what works for someone else might not work for you and vice-versa.
This is where many mindful eating courses fall short. There are a million practical ways to make home cooking, meal planning and prep, convenient and more delicious than any other healthy food options out there. And the way to find them is to experiment with what works for you. If one thing doesn’t work, try something slightly different, no stress and no drama.
Mindful Eating and the Mind Body Soul Connection
Mindful eating is not some nuisance chore that you must endure to lose weight and be healthy, it’s really a mind body and spirit uniter. I learned from Ayurveda that most of us have some imbalance between mind, body and spirit, especially those of us facing health problems. Mindfulness and mindful eating bring us back to the lost connection with our bodies and access to critical information necessary to give the body the nourishment it needs. In other words, mindful eating creates an intuitive guide to what and how to eat. Mindful eating is a tantric art that will improve other parts of your life because you practice being present and non-judgmental.
Mindful eating amplifies your body’s subtle signals that it’s hungry, and when it’s full, so you don’t overeat and also how certain foods make your body feel.
“Mindfulness gradually heals this “mind/body split.” The more you touch your body with awareness, the more you become aware of its cellular hunger for healthy nutrition, and moderate amounts of food. You will gradually but spontaneously find yourself drawn towards healthier dietary choices”.~Doug Hanvey, M.S., The Mindfulness Diet
Mindfulness Slows you down
People are living in increasingly hectic times. Because we have jobs, families, children, school… it’s easy to get caught up in the convenience food rut. The busy busy busy lifestyle creates almost impossible conditions for eating well. But when you make a commitment to your and your family’s health, miraculously you’ll find time. Just the same way a when you’re flat broke but somebody’s got some Prince tickets to sell and somehow you make it happen, you can come up with all kinds of solutions you never tried before, because you didn’t believe that what you were doing would work.
Slowing down eating also allows you to savor food in all its sensuous glory.
Savoring every morsel helps you to feel satisfied much earlier than you would from scarfing down food quickly. Did you know that it takes about 20 minutes of eating When you eat too fast you’re body’s signals that you are full are first delayed (until after it’s too late, you’ve already eaten too much) or altogether obscured and leave you feeling like you didn’t really eat anything which leads to the vicious circle of being unsatisfied and overeating.
Eliminate Stress around Food
The whole process is about trust and acceptance, rather than the self-loathing which keeps you from losing weight. Our culture has become seriously irrational when it comes to anything regarding physical weight on a scale.
The pressure caused by being fed all kinds of conflicting information about what to eat, what not to eat, what’s toxic this week, what the new trendy superfood is out, what some celebrity is doing is enough to drive anyone batty. And that stressful situation creates chronic stress that never really goes away and contributes to inflammation and hormonal imbalance. But when you practice acceptance and trust of your own body, it no longer matters what everyone else is doing and thinking, and you can calm those stress hormones down and get healthy.
Another way that mindful eating helps you stop stressing about food is that you eventually realize that you can have your favorite foods without restriction, eating them all at once loses its urgency and you no longer suffer from food anxiety.
Normalize Healthy Habits
Unlike diets, cleanses and fasts, that are abrupt and disruptive, mindfulness is achieved by tapping into your own unique lifestyle, beliefs, motivations rather than some one-size fits all weight loss system. Eating mindfully encourages healthy habits that are comfortable and easy to stick with because your brain is working together with your body. It takes lots of trial and error to fine tune your healthy habits but they stick around for the long run. Before long, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do this sooner.
Raise the Quality of the Food you Eat
It’s just basic truth that when you begin to get the hang of mindful eating, certain processed junk foods taste like crap when you actually pay attention to them. For example, sometimes I like to get some french fries as a snack when we are on a road trip and I’m hungry. Until the day when I REALLY took my time to savor those McDonald’s fries, I realized that they are nasty as hell. I could actually taste that there was something besides potatoes, oil and salt in them. It was particularly evident when I’m drinking a citrus drink with them, they turn into some weird bitter flavor that actually burns my throat.
Naturally, at your own pace you’ll start to want food that is more appetizing to look at, colorful and fresh. And walking past the fruits in the farmer’s market will stop you in your tracks. Trust me, I was not born a healthy foodie. Every now and then I get all nostalgic and taste some jank I used to eat a long time ago, and all I can say is the thrill is gone. And that’s a good thing.
Eating real fresh food re-sensitizes your palate and things that used to taste fine will suddenly become too sweet or salty. And you’ll be able to recognize all kinds of flavor nuances in the food you’re eating. I have taught my daughter mindful eating since she was born. I kid you not, one day I was in the kitchen cutting up a watermelon while she was upstairs in her room with the door closed. She smelled the watermelon from way up there and came running down to get some because she hadn’t seen it so she didn’t know I had it.
Also, you’ll notice the energies of the food you eat. Just like people, and things it has its own energy that affects your energy when you eat it. But more on this in another post sometime.
Some critics say that mindful eating is b.s. That it just adds to the existing diet craziness already out there thanks to the weight loss industrial complex. But, there are some things to consider in favor of mindful eating:
- Mindful eating does not work for everyone. NOTHING works for everyone, and you won’t know unless you try it, tweak it, and try it again. It takes time and work to discover what is right for you to be as healthy as you can be. And the best thing is you don’t need to buy any gimmicky paraphernalia to do it. You can start right now, at home.
- I don’t recommend mindful eating for people with illnesses or eating disorders. Mindful eating can be helpful to these groups, but it’s best to have your doctor involved.
- Some people initially gain (or stay the same) weight instead of losing it when they begin mindful eating, but they almost always keep at it and lose some weight and keep it off. That weight gain is within the period of realizing that you do not have to eat everything NOW. And the scarcity anxiety goes away.
- People who have not done any work on their mindset may get caught up and start making eating “rules”, just like with all the previous diets and strict nutriligions. That mindset work includes deprogramming what has been thrown at you for years and years and developing a more healthy relationship with food. Sign up below this post to get a free 7-day email course on getting your mind ready.
So, if you feel ready to commit to a healthy (Nutrilicious) lifestyle, ignore the naysayers. Unlike with diets and cleanses, I won’t trigger that competitive atmosphere of who is the most puritanical and noble just because you’re doing something so natural and attuned to your own body and circumstances. Here are a few tips to get started:
- Pay attention to hunger so you can learn to avoid eating for other purposes than to alleviate actual hunger.
- Raise the quality of the food you eat and crave, which means automatically healthier choices.
- Don’t eat until you’re stuffed, eat until you feel like you have energy.
- Use all your senses to enjoy what you eat.
- Take your time and give notice to every single bite. If you find that you can’t, then stop eating until you can.
- Most importantly, relax and enjoy (and celebrate) your life.
So the bottom line is that to lose the excess weight and maintain your health generally you really do have to consume less calories than you need to maintain your current wait. But willpower doesn’t work, and you can’t exercise away a poor diet. A Nutrilicious Lifestyle focuses on mindful eating which indirectly causes you to consume fewer calories by eating higher quality food. That higher quality food is nutritionally dense, particularly for the amount of calories they provide. Mindful eating gives your body exactly what it needs, when it needs it, without overdoing it.
I would say that mindful eating is the absolute most effective and natural way to maintain optimal health, a comfortable weight and piece of mind.