Mindful eating is the secret to helping you stop yo-yo dieting. It involves maintaining an in-the-moment awareness of the food and drink you put into your body. This awareness should result in observing rather than judging how the food makes you feel.
Weight-loss experts agree that mindful eating can help you to lose weight. More importantly, eating mindfully helps to keep the weight off. This is very important, because the majority of people (about 80%) who lose weight will eventually return to or exceed their starting weight.
The more you understand the pitfalls of yo-yo dieting, the better suited you are to avoid them. People who are successful in maintaining weight loss make lasting changes. By adjusting the way you think about food, the negative feelings that may be associated with eating are replaced with awareness, improved self-control and positive emotions.
If you are trying to lose weight and want to keep it off for good, mindful eating can be a powerful tool. Use these six tips to get started:
- Be aware.
Why are you eating? Are you hungry, or is it there another reason? Boredom, sadness, and stress can all lead to mindless eating. When you begin a meal or a snack, check in with yourself to determine if you are satisfying a physical hunger or an emotional hunger. Learn the difference between the two.
- Slow down.
Eat slowly. Don’t rush mealtime. Chew thoroughly. Put your fork down in between bites.
- Be fully present.
Eliminate distractions. Turn off the phone, TV, laptop, tablet or smartphone. Sit down. When you eat, just eat—do nothing else.
Notice your body. Recognize how your body feels when you are hungry. Do you have low energy? Is your stomach growling? Are you stressed? Notice what happens when you eat. How does the food make you feel? Eat until you are satisfied, not full. Learn the difference.
- Savor your food.
Notice the texture, aroma and flavor. Is it crunchy, juicy, sweet, salty or spicy? Enjoy every bite. Think about the benefits of the foods you are eating. Think, “these strawberries are full of Vitamin C and antioxidants”, or “this high-protein snack will help me feel full for hours and make me less likely to have cravings later.”
- Do not judge.
This one is tricky. Encourage yourself to be present and observe without judgement. Speak mindfully and compassionately to yourself. Notice when rigid rules or guilt pop into your mind. Allow yourself to learn from your choices.
I encourage my patients to reflect on their food choices. This reflection should lead to one of two outcomes: being happy with your choice and incorporating it into your routine; or being unhappy with your choice and plan to learn from it. Think about how you could have changed the situation or what you plan to do differently the next time you face a similar situation. Assigning value to all of our choices helps us to establish healthy habits. Do more of what makes you proud.
This may seem like a lot of work. In the beginning, it definitely takes effort. My suggestion is to start with one meal per day to focus on these points. Once you have some practice, it starts to feel more natural, and you can start implementing it into more meals.
Eventually, mindful eating can be a valuable tool to help you regain control of your eating and maintain a healthy weight. If you want to give it a try and would like some support, we are here to help. Contact our office to schedule an appointment.
About the author: Megan Zakarewicz, DO, is a primary care physician with certification in obesity medicine. She leads the Grand View Health Medical Weight Loss program. She is accepting new patients for in-person or telemedicine appointments. For more information, call the Grand View Health hotline at 215-453-4100 to schedule an appointment.