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Mindful Eating: A Tool to Help Control Overeating

A Tool to Help Control Overeating

by Brigette Harton

 ” Mindful eating is making head way in our fast track society. The practice has potential to be a great tool for weight loss and weight maintenance”.

When was the last time you tasted your food? Did you really taste all the nuances and flavors and textures? Some of us are too rushed to stop and eat, let alone take notice of flavor patterns. Mindful eating sets out to change our perception of eating from an activity that must be done to sustain life to transforming the person eating into an active participant in the moment. By paying attention to the act of eating, one becomes aware of hunger and fullness cues, and the research shows mindful eating leads to less overeating.

A Tool to Help Control Overeating

by Brigette Harton

 ” Mindful eating is making head way in our fast track society. The practice has potential to be a great tool for weight loss and weight maintenance”.

When was the last time you tasted your food? Did you really taste all the nuances and flavors and textures? Some of us are too rushed to stop and eat, let alone take notice of flavor patterns. Mindful eating sets out to change our perception of eating from an activity that must be done to sustain life to transforming the person eating into an active participant in the moment. By paying attention to the act of eating, one becomes aware of hunger and fullness cues, and the research shows mindful eating leads to less overeating.

Becoming a Mindful Eater

Mindfulness is deliberately paying attention without judgment. It requires not only to taste the food, but also to see, hear, and feel it- using all sensors to take in the entire experience.

The Center for Mindful Eating has developed a set of principles to help people understand the practice. The end result is a commitment to returning to the bite or sip, the moment, the actual act of eating without judging, doing something else or getting lost in preoccupations.

Some mindfulness programs include elements of meditation. This process allows participants to switch from automatic pilot to being fully engaged in the moment. Mindful eaters first focus on their breathing as a way to relax and bring themselves into the present experience. To continue the experience, one now focuses on each individual food- observing visual aspects such as colors and textures; listening to the food when it is handled; smelling the different aromas; and finally, tasting the food. But before tasting it, one notices how the food feels in the mouth, including how it crunches under teeth, or how it coats the tongue. Then one experiences all the different flavors and pays particular attention to how the food feels once it is swallowed. Was it enough to satisfy hunger? Meanwhile, all other thoughts are chased away, so that the focus remains on the meal in a non-judgmental way.

Benefits of Eating Mindfully

Many folks who have struggled with their weight for years are used to criticizing their food choices, their food intake, and themselves. Research shows that using mindfulness to teach awareness of the emotions surrounding eating is an effective method of control over food. Bariatric Times discusses several research studies that show how mindful eating training reduces binge eating behaviors. Research participants reported a “greater sense of control over their eating behaviors” (Bly, T. et al; Bariatric Times).

Eating mindfully brings an awareness that allows participants to regain the ability to detect hunger and fullness cues. Many folks no longer sense when they have had enough food, and this leads to overeating. Mindfulness allows people to slow down, enjoy the moment, and listen to their body. This in turn reduces the need to keep eating beyond fullness. Reducing overeating is an excellent way to promote weight loss or weight maintenance.

Learn More About Mindful Eating

There are different programs that teach mindful eating. Many dietitians are now integrating mindful eating techniques into their weight loss programs. As mindfulness becomes more and more popular, several books are popping into the market on the topic. However, it may be confusing to choose which one is best for you.

A great to start your exploration into mindful eating is the Center for Mindful Eating. The website offers resources for articles, books, workshops, and much more.

Move over, fast food! It’s time to slow down and mindful eating is here to teach how to appreciate meals and how to know when we’ve had enough. When overeating ends is when we can start taking control of our weight.

References

Bly, T. et al. “Exploring the Use of Mindful Eating Training in the Bariatric Population.” Bariatric Times; Nov/Dec 2007.

Hammond, Megrette. “Ways Dietitians are Incorporating Mindfulness and Mindful Eating into Nutrition Counseling.” The Digest – Public Health/Community Nutrition Practice Group Newsletter; Fall 2007.

Sawyer-Morse, M. “Food, Spirituality, and Mindful Eating.” Today’s Dietitian; March 2004.

 

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