Did you know that you make around 250 food-related decisions every day without even realising it? Or that you only need to eat an extra 100 calories a day to gain 5.5kg (10lbs) over the course of a year? (To put things into context, 100 calories = 2 tablespoons of chocolate chips or 28 red grapes or 1 tablespoon of butter or 1 medium banana).
Bearing these two facts in mind, it’s no wonder that it is so easy to gain unwanted weight. It’s also no wonder that losing weight oftentimes remains a challenging goal for many. Successful weight loss involves not just losing weight but also keeping it off. One of the biggest secrets of successful weight loss is mindful eating which is about being more aware of what you are eating (i.e. how it looks, feels and tastes), as well as the emotions and thoughts around why and when you eat. In a nutshell, it simply means thinking more about what you’re doing when it comes to food.
If you’ve noticed a pattern of losing weight only to put it back on again and you’ve been on a sensible eating plan, perhaps it’s time to cultivate the habit of mindful eating and in the process transform your relationship with food. Here’s how:
- Eat only when hungry. Do you eat purely because food is available or because you associate food with other activities like watching TV for instance? Mindful eating is about understanding the difference between eating because you’re hungry and eating simply for the sake of it.
- Pay attention to your eating patterns and any emotions and thoughts you experience while eating or that you associate with eating. Becoming more aware of these will help you eat more mindfully.
- Be aware of what’s in your food and be proactive about portion control. Learn to read food labels and what they mean. In addition, remember that size does matter – portion size that is. Believe it or not, portion sizes have grown considerably over the years and so it can be difficult to keep in mind what normal looks like. Take some time initially to weigh or measure food to become familiar with what ‘normal’ portions look like. Use smaller plates to aid portion control and dish food onto your plate allowing for half of it to be salad/vegetables and splitting the other half evenly between your protein and carbohydrate sources.
- Focus on your food while eating. Food is not just about nutrition; it should also be about enjoyment. Don’t rush when you eat and avoid distractions such as TV. Eat with the aim of savouring your food. Take small bites, chew slowly and enjoy each mouthful.
- Aim to eat regular balanced meals. This helpful habit will enable you keep hunger under control, which in turn ensures you are less likely to turn to convenience foods and snacks which tend to be high in calories as a quick fix to assuage your hunger.
As with achieving any goal, identifying what needs to be changed is the best place to begin. Keeping a food diary is a great way to start your mindful eating journey. It will help create an awareness of what you’re doing at the moment and give you insight into where you are going wrong and what needs to change. A notebook that’s small enough to carry around is all you need to record what you eat and the thoughts and feelings you experience. So start your food diary today, embrace mindful eating and make your weight loss journey a more successful one.