When seeking to lose weight, we not only need to look at diet, exercise, and health, but also the mind. The mind determines our motivation levels and our potential for success, as well as the unhealthy choices we make that can lead to us becoming overweight or that can sabotage our success.
I am going to show you how to use mindfulness to support you losing weight, and to support you maintaining your ideal weight.
What is Mindfulness?
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Mindfulness is paying attention to your experience in the present, without judgement, and without being carried away by thoughts and emotions. It is the skill of being present. To be mindful, you become your inner witness and bring your deliberate attention to your thoughts, emotions, bodily sensations, and outer experience.
Mindfulness and Weight Loss
Why is mindfulness so important to losing weight? Because if we are not present, we end up following unconscious eating patterns, and do not pay attention to these. These patterns then end up controlling us. Mindfulness empowers us to notice when a trigger arises that normally drives us into unhealthy eating patterns, and restores the choice to respond healthily, so that we are not controlled by the unhealthy eating patterns.
I want you to begin your practice of mindfulness by paying deliberate attention to your experience, as if you are the inner witness of your experience. Think about the times and places when you are most likely to make unhealthy choices of eating and start practicing mindfulness before you get triggered into these patterns. To do this, you become your inner witness, paying attention to the external events and the thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations that arise in you. Use this awareness to identify the events that are likely to trigger your unhealthy eating reactions.
For example, you may notice that you have a sudden urge to eat unhealthily when:
-You get stressed
- You feel lonely
- You feel bored
- You feel low self-worth
- You want comfort
- You allow your blood sugar to drop too far
- You have an experience that has become associated through repetition with the unhealthy eating
Mindfulness will allow you to spot the inner or outer event that is the trigger to unhealthy eating.
For example, from your inner witness you may experience a feeling of low self-worth arising within you, and so you witness this, without becoming swept away with it or identifying with it or believing it. Normally, the mere arising of the feeling would be enough to prompt you to turn to food automatically. Why? Because food represents giving yourself what you think you don’t have enough of. Eating food represents self-nurturing. The problem is that when we need emotional self-nurturing, eating isn’t necessarily the answer, and can just lead to overeating or unhealthy eating.
Mindfulness practiced in this way can interrupt the normal sequence from trigger to unhealthy eating response.
Then you can use the awareness that mindfulness brings you to give you the choice to respond differently.
For example, if you have noticed that a feeling of low self-worth has arisen within you, you can now decide what healthy choice to make in response. The healthy choice in this instance might be to eat healthily. Better still, it might be to find something that you appreciate about yourself that will help you to recover your self-worth. Rather than using food to feed your self-worth, you are now giving yourself what you really need: recognition of your worth.
Mindfulness at the dinner table
When we do not eat mindfully, we can end up overeating, undereating, not eating properly, or not eating the right food. Mindfulness brings our attention onto our food, so that we become aware of it—its weight, colour, size, texture, smell, and finally its taste and how our body responds to it.
Mindfulness also brings our attention onto how we eat: do we wolf food down without chewing properly, or do we take our time to chew and savour the taste of the food? Are we eating to satisfy our hunger, or are we eating automatically—whether we are hungry or not? Are we eating to cover up our bad feelings, or are we eating to nurture our wellbeing? Are we eating too many sweet things because that was our way to get what we wanted as a child? By being mindful when we eat, we can spot the bad habits that cause the weight to pile on, interrupt these bad habits, and respond healthily to them by addressing them and eating healthily at the same time.
Mindfulness teaches us to give our body what it really needs to stay healthy, and to enjoy the right kind of food. The last thing that we want is to be feeling guilty about eating or not eating. This guilt arises when we haven’t separated out our dieting beliefs and the trigger for our eating from our actual body needs, and will only sabotage our dieting plans.