Mindful Eating — Your Simple and Effective Weight Loss Practice
Why not be mindful each time you eat? Mindful eating is a meditation practice for foodies. If you eat, you’re a foodie, so let’s explore how this program will help you lose weight simply by thinking about it.
THIS IS one of those “do as I say, not as I do” excursions. It’s about how to eat mindfully as an approach to eat less and lose body fat. I’m going to suggest a practice you can use to do just that, but I’d be Pinocchio if I told you that I practiced this much myself.
Which brings me to water, something else I’m going to suggest (drink a lot of water), but don’t do enough of myself.
Don’t be too hard on me about this; after all, the guy who coaches Usain Bolt doesn’t sprint all day. Certainly his coach can’t run 100 meters in 9.58 seconds, the world record. What the coach can do is to tell Mr. Bolt what to do to achieve those lofty marks, and in this article I can point you to an approach that will help you change your body composition for the better.
In this article, you’ll discover:How to use mindfulness to eat less and lose body fat.
In this article, you’ll discover:
But first, a SAD commentary…
The average American eats the “Standard American Diet”, with the appropriate acronym, “SAD”. What’s sad about SAD is not the macronutrient mix – at 50% carbs, 15% protein and 35% fat, it’s fine as long as the people consuming foods and drink:
- Get most of their carbs from colorful sources (the greens, reds, purples and blues of veggies, fruits and legumes), not white “food” sources (pasta, white rice, bread, noodles);
- Get most of their protein from pasture-fed animals and low/no mercury fish, like wild-caught salmon; and
- Get most of their fats from nuts, seeds (flax, chia, hemp), avocado and fish oil.
But, as you know, the reason SAD is sad is because Americans and much of the rest of the industrialized world get their macronutrients from non-food.
Non-food is the stuff that looks nothing like the stuff that is grown on farms. It’s the stuff in boxes, cans and other packages. It’s the stuff that takes a long time to spoil and is easy to prepare. It’s the stuff with stuff in that is dutifully printed on the label but is unpronounceable. Finally, it’s the stuff that resides on most of the shelves along most of the aisles that take up most of the room in supermarkets.
So, for most of us, the 50/15/35 macronutrient portions are fine, but the quality and nourishment derived by the foods and drink is quite subpar.
For the rest of us – those who put extra demands on our bodies – the macronutrient mix could be tweaked: say more protein for those whose type of exercise significantly breaks down muscle tissue (weight lifters, for example), or more carbs for runners (marathoners), or healthy fats (omega 3 fatty acids) for those who are able to utilize fat for energy.
Though obvious to most of us, I wanted to emphasize that the quality of the macronutrients matter. They matter but are not compeletly necessary. In other words, even if you eat SAD you’ll still lose weight simply because you’ll eat less of those SAD calories.
Yes, grasshopper, read on…
Before we dive into the practice of mindful eating, I want to give a shout out to Leo Babuta at zen habits for inspiring this article. I was going to write about a lose-weight-by-meditation approach promoted by Oprah Winfrey and her meditation sidekick Depak Chopra, but it occurred to me that I like Leo’s approach better.
Not to say that anything that inspires you to meditate isn’t worth cultivating. If the best approach for you is to sit somewhere and focus on why you eat so much sad stuff and how you can stop doing so, then go for the Winfrey/Chopra technique. As Oprah said:
This meditation will help us recognize what we are really hungry for and help us move down the path to harmony within ourselves.
That said, you’re simply more likely to engage this practice as you prepare and eat meals. After all, you’re more likely to skip a meditation session than a meal, right?
What you’re going to do is simply be present as you prepare and eat your meal. You’re going to do it with intention and focus. No rushing, thinking about the hectic things in your life, texting, googling or TV watching.
As they say, Be Here Now.
Your eating will be your meditation. You’re going to become a mindful eating machine. In a good way and with many benefits.
As Leo Babuta – who lost 60 pounds using this practice – points out in his blog post, The Meditation Diet: How I Lost 60+ lbs. by Savoring, the benefits of being mindful when eating and drinking are many, including:
- Food tastes better when you pay attention.
- You can learn to enjoy healthy foods when you slow down and savor.
- You eat less because you’re giving your body time to “register” the food.
- You naturally gravitate towards simpler foods because of the savoring.
- You begin to address the emotions around eating.
- You get a little oasis of slow mindfulness in your busy day.
- It relieves stress.
- It’s fun.
I might also add that the slower you eat, the more you tend to chew, and the more you chew, the better digested is the food, and the better digested is the food, the more nutrients will be extracted.
So, here’s how you do the mindful eating thing:
Clear the decks, sorta speak.
Get rid of the clutter on your tabletops, put away the smart phone and computer. This action alone will begin to prepare your mind to get centered.
Begin with water.
Pour yourself a tall glass of pure water, and sip it as you prepare the food, but finish it before you eat. Water will help satiate you, and as with clearing the tabletops of clutter and distraction, this act will tune you to the intention at hand.
Consider how the food you’re preparing will nourish you.
The protein will build and repair your muscles and other tissue. The dietary fat will provide concentrated stores of energy, and is needed for brain development, controlling inflammation, and blood clotting. The carbs will provide quickly available fuel and fiber.
Place it before you, smell it and be grateful.
Much of the world’s population is often hungry, so be grateful that you have plenty of food and that you’re going to use it responsibly, not profligately.
Think about its origins.
Take a moment to think about where this food came from. Hopefully, you chose food that was not raised on industrial farms, or in the case of animal-derived food, harvested inhumanely. Where did it originate — from another continent, or someplace nearby? How did it get to you?
This is where I need some discipline. Rather than hoover it down like I’m likely to do, take one bite at a time, savor its taste and texture, and chew it slowly and thoughtfully. Is it crunchy, soft, chewy, grainy, and/or syrupy? Is it earthy, sweet, floral, salty, spicy, oaky, citrus-y, grassy, herbal, mossy, and/or tangy? Think too about what has been added to the food — chemicals, salt, sugar, fat? How does the food make you feel? Consider what nutrients the food is giving you, how it is nourishing you.
Notice how you’re feeling.
Are you hungry, stressed, sad, happy, hurt, angry, afraid, confused, lonely, bored, and/or impatient? Are you telling yourself that this whole exercise is a crock of poo?
Pause between bites.
Don’t shovel in bite after bite as if your arm is a yo-yo. Pause between bites. Notice your breath. Breathe. Let the space between bites be like punctuation.
Do this practice daily.
Start with one meal. Once it’s ingrained, try two, and so on.
Your Mindful Eating Fat-loss Rewards
Leo Babuta lost about 30 pounds using this mindfulness eating approach during the first year, and 60 pounds in total. At about one-half pound a week, this is not lose-weight-fast diet. But I caution you to not dismiss it for this reason. You’re going to eat anyway, so why not do it mindfully and see what happens.
Inevitably, should you consistently do this practice, you will be rewarded by:
- Losing weight, slow and sure; and
- Developing an mindfulness mindset, one you can turn on wherever you are to reduce stress and simply be more connected and happy.
If you want to lose weight faster, make sure you slowly reduce calories and begin exercising. For more tips on losing weight, go read a boatload of articles I’ve written about nutrition and diet and exercise. And if you need help beginning a program, learn how to build effective habits.
Questions or comments? Scroll down and type them in the Comments section and I’ll do my best to respond.