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Mindful Eating: Why my New Year’s resolution is to eat more mindfully, not to diet or lose weight

table with various foods with black heart stating mindful eating

It’s January 1st I’m excited and motivated to lose weight. I cheer myself on. “It’s a new year; a new beginning. Things are going to be different this time. I can do this! ” I choose a diet, stock the refrigerator and cabinets accordingly, and begin anew. Things go well for a few days, a week, a month or more, but inevitably my bad eating habits seep their way back in and I’m left feeling defeated and discouraged; lacking the motivation that had empowered me just a short time ago.

The following January rolls around and once again I find myself excited and motivated to lose weight and finally have the body I desire. But again I fail to follow through and so the cycle continues; year after year.

Like millions of others, my New Year’s resolutions have often involved dieting and weight loss and like the majority I too haven fallen short of my goals time and time again. Why are so few of us successful?

Truth be told there are many reasons that we fail to follow through with our weight management resolutions. Some of us are battling eating disorders, some can’t afford to maintain a diet consisting of healthy food or don’t have access to healthy food options, some purely lack motivation, and others are fighting mental/emotional issues and/or physical illnesses that hinder their ability to stay on course.

For many of us the fact that we are not eating mindfully plays a big role in why we have issues with weight management. Have you ever sat down to watch a movie with a new package of Oreo’s or a bag of chips, eat one after another, reach down to grab more and they’re gone? You just ate the whole entire package without realizing it. This is a prime example of what may happen when you do not eat mindfully.

woman laying on couch (head cut off) with remote in one hand reaching for chips on table with plate of cookies.

What is mindful eating?

You may be familiar with the term mindfulness, meaning to be aware or conscious in each and every moment. When applied to food mindfulness means being present and aware as you purchase, prepare, serve, and consume your food. It entails being conscious of your senses as you see, hear, feel, smell, and taste your food. It means being aware of the bodily sensations you experience when you are truly hungry and when you are full and noticing how both your mind and body react to specific foods both in the moment and thereafter.

Tips for practicing mindful eating

  • Cut out distractions: In order to eat mindfully, you will need to focus all of your attention on your food. This means you should not eat while watching television, while driving, using your phone, etc. It is also helpful to eat in silence.
  • Slow down: Allow yourself plenty of time to consume your meal. Eat slowly so that you are able to savor each and every bite. Thoroughly chew your food.
  • Focus: Concentrate on your food. Explore it with your senses. How does it look, feel, smell, and taste? How does it make your feel?
  • Eat just until you are satisfied, being mindful not to overindulge. Listen to your bodies signals.
  • Contemplation: Reflect on where your food came from, who handled it, and what processes took place in order for you to consume it in it’s final form. Connect with the source. Practice gratitude.
women sitting at table eating alone with smile on face

Benefits of mindful eating

  • Appreciation for and enjoyment of food: Taking time to slow down and explore the sensations that food produces is a magical and beautiful thing. Savoring all the unique flavors and combinations of flavors, examining the various textures, perceiving all the magnificent colors and patterns, and identifying the numerous scents can be highly enjoyable. Being aware of the sensations aroused by food and contemplating the journey the food took will undoubtedly give you a whole new appreciation for it.
  • Control: If you struggle with overeating, stress/boredom/emotional eating, binging, and/or caving into sugar or carb cravings, mindful eating can be of great benefit to you. Mindful eating establishes control of your eating habits, rather than your eating habits controlling you. Mindful eating does not require restricting your diet. Instead it encourages balance and moderation. No more depraving yourself of life’s pleasures like chocolate, bread, or cheese.
  • Weight loss or maintenance: As you begin to eat more mindfully and listen to your body, you will find that your diet will become more balanced and episodes of overindulgence less frequent. With less calorie intake, naturally your body will shed excess pounds or at a bare minimum you will maintain your weight.
  • Health: You will find that both your mental/emotional and physical health improve. Overcoming issues with control or lack thereof pertaining to food can contribute to guilt and self-loathing, which incites emotional instability, fueling further control issues surrounding food. As you practice mindfulness and become increasingly more disciplined, you will begin to gain back your power, enabling you to regulate your emotions and cravings more proficiently. This bolsters confidence and creates peace within. As you learn to eat mindfully, you will become familiar with the cues your body provides you. You will be able to discern when you are truly hungry, when you are full (but not stuffed), what foods are nourishing, and how various foods effect you both physically and mentally. When you follow your bodies lead it will thank you with improved health.

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