Mindful eating - strategies to lose weight

Mindful eating - strategies to lose weight

With so many new episodes on Netflix, it’s hard stray away from the screen when you are eating. This day and age, we all need that sense of connectedness with the rest of the world that technology gives us. Instead of taking off the world and savouring our dinner at the kitchen table, we eat while we do something else. What used to be a ritual that gathered the family around the kitchen table has been replaced by technology.

The problem for weight loss is that our eating habits have changed. Instead of being mindful of what we are eating, savouring every bite, we overeat while watching TV. If you don’t focus on your food, it’s easy to lose track of the quantity we’ve eaten and eat even after being satisfied.

Recent studies found that participants who were mindful about what they were eating lost more weight than others who didn’t and they even to continued to lose weight afterwards, as they had acquired a habit.

That is why mindful eating is so important to keep the weight off. You might start a diet and exercise for a while to lose weight, but most people who follow a regime gain the weight back when they quit the healthy eating plan.

A programme in the US tells people that they eat what they want and still lose weight if they eat mindfully - this entails thinking only about the enjoyment of their food, away from the distractions of computers, smartphones and televisions.

The programme is called Eat Smart, Move More, Weigh Less, and it consisted in enrolling 80 people, 42 of whom went immediately on to the programme, while the remaining 38 became the control group. The group on the mindfulness programme lost a mean of 1.9 kg over the 15 weeks, while the others lost an average of 300 grams.

“We instruct people to eat the foods that they love, and not give them up, but to eat them in a mindful way,” said Dr Carolyn Dunn from North Carolina State University in the US, one of the authors of the study introduced at the European Congress on Obesity in Porto, Portugal.

The study came up with Mindful Eating Strategies to help people lose weight:

Fill your plate with plant-based proteins, like beans - they are very filling, which will help you avoid overeating.

Try to make meals last at least 20 minutes. Eating slowly helps you be aware of how hungry you are and stop when you are satisfied. It takes a bit of time for your brain to know that your stomach is full. You can have fun out of this by putting down your fork between bites and have smaller servings than you normally would. You can always get more food later if you are really hungry.

Try to find out why you want to eat. Is it because you are hungry or because you are stressed. We tend to opt for fatty food when we are stressed. If that is the case, try to find an alternative to cope with stress like exercising or taking a few deep breaths, or drinking water. Just tell yourself that food is not the answer.

If you really need that treat, then choose something that you will really enjoy and you eat it, savour each bite and stop when you are not enjoying it anymore. “If one of us was going to eat a food that has very high calories, we would tell them to eat on or two bites, but to eat those one or two bites with awareness, so they are getting the most pleasure out of those one to two bites,” Dunn said.

“Other research has shown that those first two bites are associated with the most enjoyment - eating more will certainly give you more calories not not more enjoyment.” She added: “So a chocolate mousse, for example… we would advise them to eat it with mindfulness and with purpose and to enjoy those first few bites.” It’s not necessary to waste food, she explained. “We instruct them to share it or take it home for another day or buy it in smaller amounts.”

Don’t eat when you are working, reading or watching TV. “Mindfulness is paying attention to your surroundings, being in the present moment,” said Dunn. “Mindful eating is eating with purpose, eating on purpose, eating with awareness, eating without distraction, when eating only eating, not watching television or playing computer games or having any other distractions, not eating at our desks.”