If you’ve had trouble losing weight, or if you’ve lost weight and put it all back on again, you’re completely normal. The human body is designed to make you want to eat. This desire to eat helped our ancestors survive, but nowadays, many of us eat way more than our bodies need.
What many dieters say is that they try and tell themselves not to eat too much. In fact they might go for months, or even years succeeding in limiting their food intake and staying slim. But then something happens in their lives, and all the weight goes back on.
According to recent research, if we eat our food mindfully, our weight reduces, we don’t crave sweet treats or fatty foods as much and we eat less. Eating mindfully means actually paying attention to the food, eating nice and slowly, and observing our food with all our senses – touch, taste, smell, sight and sound.
One way to eat mindfully is to write a message that you’ll easily see, and leave it in a place where you do most of your eating. A message that works is: “Before I eat this, I take three breaths.” By taking three breaths, this allows us to step back from our food for a moment, and it reminds us to pay attention to it rather than inhaling it. By being mindful, we can also check in with whether we are hungry or not.
To help you, I’ve put a mindful eating exercise below, that you can use whether you are alone, or with friends, family or workmates.
Sitting at the table I take three breaths. As I breathe, I observe my food, noticing its colours, textures and smells. If I have the urge to pick up the food, I notice this, but wait until I have finished the three breaths.
Now I slowly and mindfully pick up the first piece of food on my plate. Whether it is on my fork, or in my hand, I again notice its colour, texture and smell. I slowly take a small bite and before I start chewing, I notice how it feels in my mouth; I notice how it tastes. I allow my breathing to be nice and slow as I start chewing it. I notice my saliva; I notice my pleasure in the taste and I chew slowly. I then take my first swallow noticing how it feels as I do this. I then continue eating my meal slowly and mindfully.
It can be useful to experiment with this exercise. If you’re with a whole bunch of people, just try doing this for the first part of the meal. Even one minute of mindfulness can improve your eating behaviour.