With so many diets out there, it’s easy to get lost in the commotion and lose touch with what your body really needs. As a result, more and more people are adopting mindful eating habits to help live a healthier lifestyle. So, what’s mindful eating and how is it different than dieting?
Mindful eating means listening to your body for direction on what to eat instead of eating when you are stressed or emotional. Are you truly hungry? Are you starting to lose focus on what you’re doing? Is your stomach growling? These are the true signs that your body needs food.
Chelsea Cordes, Aramark registered dietitian nutritionist for Rhodes College, is an advocate for this practice and explains it as simply allowing hunger, fullness, and taste to guide us through the decision-making process of each meal. So naturally, we asked her to weigh in. Here are her top seven reasons to start eating mindfully today.
1. Most Diets Doesn’t Work
More and more peer-reviewed research suggests that traditional dieting is not a long-term solution for weight loss. A recent study tested a variety of weight-loss diets and concluded that even people coached by experts regained lost weight despite high motivation and education. Another study from UCLA discovered one- to two-thirds of its weight-loss patients regained more weight than they lost. If short-term diets don’t work, what does? A long-term healthy, balanced diet filled with fresh, flavorful, nutritious foods that you truly take the time to savor is a better way to live. Mindful eating can help.
2. Everyone Can Practice Mindful Eating
Mindful eating focuses on small behavior changes during meals, such as limiting distractions, slowing eating pace, noticing feelings of fullness and taking time to savor the flavors of a healthy balanced diet. The practice can be easily adopted by anyone, regardless of gender, ethnicity, economic background, and food allergies or preferences.
3. It Can Increase Self Esteem
People who practice mindful eating typically have a better sense of wellbeing and are less concerned about body shape. They don’t necessarily exclude entire categories of food that they enjoy, but when they do indulge they really take the time and focus on appreciating what they’re eating. By giving yourself permission to eat when and what you want or need, you gain a sense of control over your decisions and greater confidence, which—if done mindfully–can lead to better meal choices.
4. Mindful Eating Promotes Weight Loss/Management
Eating mindfully encourages you to be more thoughtful about what you need, and the foods you choose are more likely to be balanced to include both healthier foods and the occasional indulgences you love. You’re far less likely to get caught in the cycle of fasting and overeating that can come with rule-based diets. For instance, a body image researcher noticed that people practicing mindful eating behaviors weighed less on average compared to those who didn’t. Researchers in a separate study discovered that participants who engaged with mindfulness and meditation practices lost more weight.
5. “Forbidden Foods” Become Less Desirable and Tempting
Once you realize you can eat ice cream every night, you will eventually realize it doesn’t feel good to do so—and so you won’t. When you are mindful of what you are eating, and your sole focus is to concentrate on your senses, a rich dessert tends to get less and less appealing with each bite.
6. It’s Realistic and Can Be Maintained for a Lifetime
This is Chelsea’s favorite part. Ask yourself: can you actually commit to a lifetime of fad diets? Are you prepared to permanently ban chocolate cake? If you’re honest with yourself, the answer is no. Listen to cues from your body on when to start and stop eating, and on how to select items that are both enjoyable and nourishing.
7. Mindfulness Makes Eating Pleasurable and Healthy
Mindfulness is not necessarily for everyone. It takes time to get used to a different, more invested approach to planning, preparing and consuming your meals and snacks. But for those who can slow down, notice your responses, be aware, and reflect on what you are eating, the practice can change your relationship with food for the better.
Ready to take the first step (or mindful bite?) We have just the tips for you!
Note: Since everyone’s health history and nutritional needs are so different, please make sure that you talk with your doctor and a registered dietitian to get advice about the diet and exercise plan that‘s right for you.