Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Eat Mindfully, Lose Weight. And More!

Mindful eating (or avoidance of mindless eating) is a phrase that is becoming increasingly popular. Brian Wansink was one of the first notable authors to write about the concept in his published book, Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, in 2006. Lilian Chueng, D. Sc., RD is the co-author of Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life, published 2010. She writes about attaining a healthy weight while leading a life that is more satisfying by practicing mindful eating.

Mindful eating is a simple-sounding strategy; briefly it means paying attention to what and how we eat. According to Cheung, instead of dieting, which is difficult to adhere to long-term, practicing mindful eating becomes rewarding in more ways than just your waist measurement. Aside from losing weight by consuming smaller quantities of higher quality foods, mindful eaters find themselves gaining energy, emotional stability, compassion, gratitude and joy through learning to enjoy and appreciate food more.

Since the holiday season seems to revolve around food, it is the perfect opportunity to practice “mindful eating.” Mindful eating creates a healthy relationship with food and also speaks to the compassion, joy and giving of the holiday season. So amidst all the decorating, parties and gift-giving of the season, take a moment and be mindful of your food. You'll benefit in more ways than one. Here's how to get started:

7 Principles of Mindful Eating (featured in the book, Savor by Lilian Chueng and Thich Nhat Hanh)

1. Honor the food. 
We take food for granted because it is so easy to attain. Chueng notes, "You press the button on the vending machine and the food just comes out." To be more mindful, remember where your food comes from and how it came to you. Think of how it was grown–the sun, the rain and the farmers who cultivated it–and also the drivers who brought it to the store and the supermarket employees who stocked the shelves. It’s really had quite a journey!

2. Engage all your senses. 
Notice the beauty of the food you eat, how it smells, tastes and feels. Think about the flavors and textures in the foods you eat as well as how these flavors complement each other when combined. How do you feel when you look at and eat your food? Do you feel differently when you eat a home-cooked meal made of fresh ingredients versus a fast-food meal?

3. Be mindful of portion sizes. 
Large portion sizes drive us to eat too many calories, which can in turn lead to weight gain. We have the innate desire to want to fill our plates and finish what's in front of us–so using a larger plate means you’re more likely to eat more. Don’t allow “your eyes to be bigger than your stomach.” Start with a modest portion size on a plate no bigger than 9-inches.

4. Chew. 
That sounds easy! Focus on chewing your food thoroughly and not eating too fast. The longer your food is in your mouth, the more you taste the flavors. When you swallow your food, you no longer taste it. Chewing thoroughly also helps begin the process of digestion and leads us to the next principle...

5. Eat slowly. 
Yes, you’ve heard it before. But how often do you practice it? Eating slowly allows you to take more time to chew and taste the food you’re eating. It also gives your stomach a chance to signal your brain that it is getting full, so you eat less.

6. Don’t skip meals. 
Skipping meals usually backfires, causing you to get hungrier and eat a larger portion at one sitting than you would at multiple meals spread throughout the day. Eating regularly also helps keep blood sugars stable and the metabolism working, aiding in weight management and loss. Always begin the day with an energy-sustaining breakfast containing whole grains, protein and whole fruit. Eat throughout the day and don't go too long between meals.

7. Eat a plant-based diet. 
Chueng notes, “Research shows that eating red meat increases our risk of heart disease, diabetes and colon cancer. A recent study by Harvard School of Public Health also found that red and processed meats may contribute to weight gain.” Plant foods are very nutritious, low in fat and high in fiber.

Watch Dr. Cheung discuss the 7 Practices of Mindful Eating here.

Are you ready to try mindful eating? Challenge yourself to try one principle at a time. There couldn't be a more perfect time to start. 

Source: Huffington Post
Photo credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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