Is there really a way to make weight loss easier?
How a few changes in thinking can increase weight loss success
If you were aware of your state of mind and body when eating, how would that change your consumption?
This process is known as eating mindfully. Mindfulness can be defined as paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in specific moment, non-judgmentally.
While mindfulness has roots in Buddhist meditation, medical studies have shown it to be beneficial for improving both our mental and physical health. https://palousemindfulness.com/docs/research_summary.pdf
Studies specifically examining the relationship between mindfulness and eating demonstrate that practicing awareness around food can improve our approach to eating and curb destructive habits. Furthermore, research in mindful eating has shown utility in creating openness to new experiences, flexible problem solving, decreased automatic negative thinking, decreased mindless eating, better more balanced and healthful eating choices and weight management.
By becoming fully aware of the process of eating and noticing the sensations of internal (stress and emotion) and external (sight and smell) states of hunger and satiety, you can change your food habits.
Binge eating, disordered eating, emotional eating, and external eating (eating in response to seeing or smelling a food) can all be eased with mindfulness. Using mindfulness can increase your sense of control over how you eat, decrease any depression and anxiety, and curb binging and over-consumption.
All these things combined lead to increased weight loss and health gained.
Tools to begin a mindful relationship with food
Conscious Consumption exercise
This exercise is designed to get you in touch with the process of eating and being aware of the sensations in your body that are involved in consumption. You will need a small bite of food, we recommend a raisin or nut. Read the instructions all the way through BEFORE beginning as well as during.
1. Hold your piece of food or spoonful of food. Take a few deep breaths.
2. Rest your gaze on the floor in front of you or close your eyes.
3. Breath again and notice yourself relaxing.
4. Observe your food as if you've never seen it before. Notice its shape, color, texture, and size.
5. Take a few more breaths and become conscious of your state of relaxation.
6. Raise the food to your nose and smell it. Place the food against your lips.
7. Notice any thoughts you have about the food, liking or disliking it, and any emotions arising about food.
8. Place it in your mouth but don't chew it. Notice its shape and the sensation of having it in your mouth.
9. Begin to chew and notice the taste of food. Notice if food changes taste, think about where in your mouth you are chewing and how the shape of the food changes.
10. As you get ready to swallow, notice the sensation of your impulse to swallow and then of the act of swallowing.
11. After swallowing, notice any traces of taste or sensation remaining of the food.
12. Think about impact of the little piece of food now energizing your body.
13. Think about where this piece of food came from and how many people and events were involved in getting it to you. Feel gratitude.
14. When you feel ready, open your eyes.
Scales for hunger, fullness, and satisfaction
Create scales for your levels of hunger, fullness and satisfaction, for example, on a scale of 10:
Faint from hunger=10
Check in with yourself when you're contemplating eating. If you identify yourself at a hunger level of 3-4, consider whether you really need food, or whether you may be having an emotional response to food or craving something. Become curious about your thoughts and cravings but try not to judge them.
Similarly, when eating, check in with yourself using a fullness or satisfaction scale. Is the food satisfying to your palate and stomach? How full are you after a few bites?
Strategies for riding out cravings
1. Try to identify where in body the craving lives. Maybe you've never thought about it before. Where do you feel the craving physically? Observe the sensation of craving within you non-judgmentally.
2. Reframe your craving for something like sugar or fried food to being like an itch. It feels great to scratch but you don't really need to. Breathe deeply, try a new activity, and see if the itch subsides.
3. Ride the Wave. Do everything you would do eating the food, except without the food. Visualize the food and the way it smells and looks. Imagine yourself eating it and how it tastes and feels in your mouth. Spend the amount of time it would take you to consume the food envisioning yourself eating it. If you still have a craving by the end of the exercise, consider whether you need a full healthy meal rather than a sweet or salty snack.
Our program, Oregon Medical Weight Loss (OMWL), includes a mindfulness class led by Cynthia Wisehart, a certified Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction instructor. OMWL can support you medically and mindfully through your weight loss journey. Call 503-LOSE-NOW to learn more about joining the OMWL community. Individual sessions with Cynthia Wisehart are also available.