Can being mindful help lose weight?
LIVING NATURALLY with Olwen Anderson
WITH a heavy heart, you realise that your waistband isn't shrinking. Your belt confirms, as you let it out another notch, that your stomach really is getting bigger. What's causing this subtle yet relentless weight gain?
You don't believe your diet has changed, yet life's been busy. It's been easy to fall into the traps of mindless eating: Consuming food while your mind is occupied with other things: like the TV, internet, driving. You're not focused on the taste and texture of what your jaw is working on. Or how that food makes you feel.
Television watching can be the most potent distractor: relaxing on the lounge accompanied by a bag of crisps or a block of chocolate. Somehow, although your avowed intention was to have just a couple, by the time the show has ended the contents of the packet have completely gone and you're now feeling uncomfortably stuffed. Why didn't your body alert you earlier? You got through all that food unconsciously because eating is a multi-sensory experience and your brain is signalled that you're satiated, not just by the quantity you've observed yourself eat, but through hormones and nerve signals emitted by your stomach. While your brain was preoccupied elsewhere your stomach was unable to grab your attention with 'that's enough!' messages.
The result of preoccupied consumption can be all-too-easy over-eating. Worse, you often might not feel satisfied by what you've consumed; unconscious eating means you're missing out on one of the great pleasures of life.
A diet seems like the solution but dieting usually means deprivation. That's not fun. Instead, consider the non-diet diet: a way of restoring your connection with your body and how it's responding to what you're eating. Through mindful eating you could actually enjoy your food more and perhaps eat less without feeling deprived.
In practice, this is what conscious eating looks like: sit down at a table for your meal. Remove distractions: switch off the TV and internet, or stop the car. Appreciate the aroma, texture and taste of what you're putting in your mouth. Notice how it feels to eat. When you're paying attention, your body will tell you whether that food was right for you. Do you feel revived and nourished?Perhaps one of the reasons you keep gaining weight is you're not paying attention to how your body feels about the kind of nourishment' you're feeding it.
* Olwen Anderson is a naturopath and counsellor and a columnist with the Tweed Daily News. Contact her at www.olwenanderson.com.au