8 tips that take the stress out of eating for weight loss and wellness

We’re well into the new year now. How are those new year’s resolutions going?

If you resolved to lose weight, only to “fall off the wagon” before January was over, take heart.

Some time ago, I wrote here about the many benefits of mindful eating. If you still think being mindful about your eating habits has something to do with meditation, you’d not only be wrong — you’d be missing out.

Eating mindfully can be a better way to not only eat healthier but also a better approach to weight loss and avoiding metabolic diseases, like diabetes.

More and more research has shown that restrictive diets just don’t work. If anything, they make losing weight and keeping it off harder.

I’d like to share some further research and insights on mindful eating that I hope will convince you to give it a try.

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Success isn’t only about weight loss

When we talk about “mindful eating,” we’re talking about re-training your brain to slow down and think about what you’re eating and why you’re eating it.

Your goal is to focus not on losing weight or on eliminating certain foods, but rather on the tastes and textures of food, and on how you felt before, during, and after eating them.

It won’t happen all at once. Just like training a puppy, re-training your brain can take time. In one study, it took participants at least ten to 15 tries, and as many as 38 or more attempts, to bring this kind of awareness to their eating.

But there are benefits to sticking with this technique that go well beyond weight loss.

One recent review of mindful eating intervention programs found improvement in cardio-metabolic health markers across a variety of groups of people. This included:

  • Improved glucose levels among pregnant women, with or without gestational diabetes
  • Improved lipid profile among overweight or obese adults
  • Improved  blood pressure among overweight participants
  • Improved inflammatory markers in postmenopausal women who are obese

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Ready to give it a try?

Ready to give up restrictive diets that don’t work, and start re-training your brain for a lifetime of healthy eating?

Here are eight tips taken from readers of the New York Times who took part in the “Eat Well Challenge” during January. These are some things they did to ease themselves into a practice of mindful eating.

Eat on a fancy plate. Turn everyday meals into celebrations by creating a colorful and appetizing dinner (or lunch, or breakfast) plate.

Studies suggest that, for people in the Mediterranean region of the world, their healthy diet is even more beneficial because they tend to savor their food and turn meals into celebrations.

No multi-tasking while eating. This is a pretty simple one. If you’re answering texts or reading a book, you’re not savoring the flavors and textures of your food.

Put the fork down. Many people noted that they had a tendency to start scooping up the next mouthful of food before they’d even finished chewing the one they had. Mindful eating helped them realize how fast they’d been eating.

Use smaller plates. We’re all taught as children to “clean your plate.” And dinner plates are BIG. Using a smaller plate helps you start out with a smaller portion, then listen to your hunger and go for seconds, if you need to.

Ride the wave of food cravings. A typical intense food craving lasts about three to five minutes. If you can wait it out, it should pass. Or, give yourself a small taste of, say, chocolate, but don’t eat the whole bar. Savor and enjoy that taste.

Just add vegetables. Rather than restricting other foods, some readers just added more vegetables to their meals. They didn’t obsess about the carbs they were eating, and tried to be especially “present” to the tastes and textures of the vegetables.

Never grocery shop while hungry. Our brains are more reactive to “rewarding” sweet and salty foods when we’re hungry. Better to go shopping after you’ve had a good meal.

Eat better, sleep better. Mindful eating can make you aware of late-night snacking. Remember, foods affect your sleep and poor sleep affects your circadian rhythm and eating patterns. Think about how giving in to a late-night snack will make you feel.

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Sources:

Savor, Celebrate and Pay Attention: 8 Lessons From the Eat Well Challenge — NY Times

Comparison of dietary macronutrient patterns of 14 popular named dietary programmes for weight and cardiovascular risk factor reduction in adults: systematic review and network meta-analysis of randomised trials — the bmj

Awareness drives changes in reward value which predict eating behavior change: Probing reinforcement learning using experience sampling from mobile mindfulness training for maladaptive eating — Journal of Behavioral Addictions

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Joyce Hollman

By Joyce Hollman

Joyce Hollman is a writer based in Kennebunk, Maine, specializing in the medical/healthcare and natural/alternative health space. Health challenges of her own led Joyce on a journey to discover ways to feel better through organic living, utilizing natural health strategies. Now, practicing yoga and meditation, and working towards living in a chemical-free home, her experiences make her the perfect conduit to help others live and feel better naturally.