We are told again and again that “diets don’t work.” So for those of us that have weight loss goals… what are we supposed to do?
Let’s look at the idea of mindfulness, noticing the here and now without judgment, for a more sustainable way of breaking bad eating habits.
The word diet is defined as “a regimen of eating and drinking sparingly so as to reduce one’s weight”. Sparingly??? Why would we do that? Just by this definition, we know diets aren’t sustainable. They are a short term behavioral answer to a problem that may be more deeply rooted in long term conditioning and habits.
We learned how to make our food choices long before we ever made them. We received messages at a very young age from our family system about food and body. Combine those messages with expectations from media, physiologically addictive sugar and processed flours and a multi-billion dollar diet industry… and it’s no wonder we’re confused about how to support and nourish our bodies.
It’s completely possible to follow a very rigid calorie counting diet and lose 20 lbs in a few months. So what’s so bad about losing 20 pounds quickly on a rigid calorie counting diet? Most people eventually regain at least that much when they give up the diet.
Mindfulness is about creating a new lasting relationship with your eating, versus an old paradigm of counting calories and feeling guilt when we don’t “do it right”. And for those of us who feel that our willpower fails over and over, mindful eating is not about willpower. Rather than being about rigidity, mindful eating asks us to be aware of what we truly want and feel, and make a choice from that place.
It takes practice – not only to slow down and notice our food but to realize what aspects of our eating are tied up in emotions, habits, memories and family history… And then it takes practice to move from awareness to action.
In mindful eating exercises, we can take a single almond and study it – color, shape and smell – and then eat it with the same attention to detail. Practicing this exercise repeatedly with different foods increases our connection to our senses around food, and therefore our food choices. These mindfulness techniques also teach us to treat our bodies as worthy of care… worthy of different, and healthier choices for our bodies.
In a time when we eat in our cars, standing at the fridge and at the computer, developing an awareness of and enjoyment for nutritious food may not seem easy. What is possible to learn though, is that better choices are available to us, when we are in a state of awareness, tuned in.
By slowing down, we allow ourselves to put some space between our emotions and our reactive choices. Sometimes eating in response to emotions can be ok, with awareness. The problem is when it becomes chronic.
Another way to become more connected to our food choices is through the selection and cooking of our food. When we are engaging in this process, we are already giving ourselves a head-start toward mindful eating. We are already IN relationship with the food when we are selecting, holding it in our hands, purchasing it and preparing it to be consumed for nourishment.
When we eat mindfully, we eat more slowly. When we eat more slowly, we digest more efficiently and are also more aware of when we are becoming full… which is a sensation that can be missing from a rushed eating experience. We are also just able to purely enjoy the food more when we are present!
Food can become even more of a pleasurable experience when we are truly connected to its purpose in our lives. I invite you to begin to slow down, become conscious of your choices and to begin to see food as nourishment!