Mindful Eating and Weight
Developing mindful eating skills can certainly assist with weight loss goals. But more importantly, being a more mindful eater can improve your relationship with your food.
Weight and Health
There seems to be an inordinate focus on weight being equal to health—that is, being a certain weight means you are either healthy or unhealthy. But this just isn’t true. Imagine the following.
One woman is considered an ideal weight according to her BMI. She has a cigarette and coffee for breakfast, fast food for dinner most nights, drives everywhere, has high blood pressure and poor sleep, and is socially isolated, so she feels very lonely.
Another woman is considered overweight according to her BMI. She eats a variety of healthy foods for each meal, rarely eats fast food, walks to work, and enjoys dance classes several times a week. Her last blood test results were all good, she has good quality sleep and a large social circle, often meeting friends for a walk or coffee.
In these examples, can you see how weight isn’t the best determinant of health?
Being healthy is not just weighing a certain amount but how we feel physically, mentally, and emotionally. Far more important than your weight is eating food that will nourish your body and give you energy so you feel good. Eating in this way is called intuitive eating and uses mindful eating principles.
Learning to eat intuitively will help you move away being focused on weight and diet. The approach we all know usually causes more stress and anxiety around food, which may result in more weight gain, while intuitive eating is very different. Particularly, its principles include the following:
• Reject the diet mentality. Food is not “good” or “bad.” Challenge the notion that you are “bad” for eating cake. Food just gives our body energy to run; it’s neutral.
• Honor your feelings. Without using food as a crutch, comfort, nurture, treat, and love yourself.
• Respect your body. Your body, regardless of shape or size, works hard to keep you alive, moving, thinking, and feeling. Love and respect it as it is.
• Joyful movement. Don’t exercise just for weight loss. Move and be active because you enjoy it. Find a fun class to try or go for a walk with a friend.
• Be kind to yourself. Allow yourself to eat what you want, when you want, without guilt.
There are similarities with intuitive eating and mindful eating, but intuitive eating is a broader philosophy that encompasses a whole body-and-mind approach rather than just focusing on a meal itself.
So, how can you use intuitive eating to complement your mindful eating to reach your health goals? Try the following:
• Don’t weigh or measure food. The goal with eating is to feel comfortable and calm.
• See food as morally neutral. If you eat chocolate, you are not “bad.” Enjoy it.
• Notice conversations around you that focus on diets, weight loss, and judgments around food. Move away from these topics and talk about other things.
• Understand your body size is irrelevant to your value as a human being.
• Listen to what your body wants. Too tired to exercise? That’s okay. Feel like lasagna instead of salad for lunch? That’s okay too!
The idea is to approach food and activity in a calm and equanimous manner. By challenging the unhelpful, negative, and weight-focused thoughts, you may feel you can move to a more accepting state. Accepting and respecting yourself, your body, what you eat, and how you move will be far more healthy in the long run compared to going on a diet to lose weight.
So, consider the thoughts you have during the day around food and exercise. Are you kind to yourself? Do you chastise yourself for what you eat or do? Perhaps you can explore the intuitive eating ideas to improve your relationship with your food.
Tomorrow: We will look beyond eating and explore how mindfulness skills influence other areas of your life.
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