Mindful Eating: Free Yourself From Mindless Overeating

Mindful Eating: Free Yourself From Mindless Overeating By Nailing “How” You Eat

Mindscape

Nov 02
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Is HOW you eat as important as what you eat for fat loss?

Could truly savoring and enjoying your food help you lose fat?

Could eating at your desk at lunch be making you fatter?

When was the last time you fully engaged with eating your food? I mean in the same way you watch a football match or play a video game – so focused your chair could be on fire and you wouldn’t bat an eyelid! … Yea, maybe never?

Your busy life makes it all too easy to relegate eating to a secondary activity – you eat while you’re on the phone or watching TV or driving or at your workstation or in transit … you get the picture.

Never just enjoying the act of eating in it’s own right. I’m sure even with your favourite guilty-pleasure foods, you actually waste the full joy of the experience by wolfing it down in minutes, if not seconds!

By quite literally, waking up and smelling the coffee, you can experience even more pleasure from food and still have the body you desire. Besides deriving more pleasure from your food, by tackling the HOW of eating – you could actually find fat loss a ton easier.

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What You’re Gonna Learn

  • What is mindfulness and mindful eating.
  • How mindfulness can with sustainable fat loss.
  • How to get started with mindful eating.
  • 8 tips to help you eat mindfully at every meal.
  • How your surroundings and who you dine with effects your mindfulness success.

WTF Is Mindfulness

What if there was a pill you could take daily that would reduce anxiety and increase your overall happiness with life [1] – and it had a boat-load of positive side-effects:

• effortless weight control
• increased self-esteem
• greater mental toughness
• sounder sleep

... it even improved memory.

And the real clincher … it’s all-natural and FREE!

Interested? Would you take it?

Well guess what! The pill exists and it’s called mindfulness.

mindfulness_mental_toughness

I’ve talked about this mindfulness thing in various articles and videos, but how does it apply to eating?

Essentially mindful eating is highly-focused eating – no distractions, engaging all your senses and consuming food slowly. All the while sensing your level of fullness and stopping when you’re full and satisfied.

Just as when you’re running a bath, you can do other small tasks in the bathroom, but you can’t go off and start playing World of Warcraft – the bath will flood.

Yea – that could have been so easily avoided if you’d just paid attention and shut the taps when the bath was full.

I’m not saying this mindfulness game is easy – it’s a skill that takes practise. But I’m sure you would agree that knowing when and how to switch off your “food” taps and stop flooding your body with excess food, could be useful if you want to look better naked?

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Effectively, mindful eating is switching the act of eating off autopilot. Instead of mindlessly eating for all the wrong reasons or not even being aware you’re doing it – you’re going to automate mindful eating and enjoy all of its benefits instead.

How Everyday Mindfulness Helps With Fat Loss, Health & Success

Weight Control

This is massive – changing your relationship with food is key for long-term fat loss and overall health. Of course your food choices and portion sizes play a huge part in weight control, but your reasons for eating in the first place plays an even bigger role.

Studies have shown some awesome weight-loss success from adopting this mindfulness-based approach to eating. [2] Participants showed significant improvement in eating behaviors linked with overeating and cravings.

Stress Busting

We’ve all been there – you eat something contrary to your nutrition and lifestyle goals.

What happens? You go through a cycle something like this:

I’m bored, stressed or it’s snack time [hunger hurdle]
Yea … I’ll eat a cookie [poor food choice]
Mmm, that was tasty [short-term gratification]
Oh man that so wasn't worth it … I’ve just piled on an extra 500 calories I didn't need. [guilt]
Screw it, I’ve wrecked my food plan … may as well finish the packet [self-sabotage]
1,000 calories later, a whole lot of guilt and ready to restart the cycle …
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Well, with mindful eating you never get into the self-sabotaging cycle in the first place. There is no impulse or emotion attached with brash decision-making when it comes to food choices.

Everything is done with purpose and is stress free. [3]

Mindful eating puts you back in the driver’s seat when it comes to food.! #MindfulEating #BodyPhi

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Mood Enhancing & Increased Confidence

How good would it feel to wake up knowing you were in complete control of your food choices? [4]

Well of course you are and the idea you’re not sounds stupid, but I can’t tell you how many men I run into who are afraid of food? Not only do they demonise food, but they literally feel powerless against certain foods.

“I just can't help myself when it comes to (x) food, I cannot have it in moderation!”

Mindful eating takes away the unnecessary fear and anxiety guys associate with food and gives back the control and confidence to get on with life.

WIllpower, Productivity & Focus

Willpower is a finite resource – you don’t have a limitless bucket to draw from. It gets drained by your relationships, your job, your kids, your work and play. All decision-making and commitments essentially come from the same bucket.

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Now … guess what happens when your bucket is empty? Something’s gotta give right? More often than not it’s your food plan that suffers the most. Impulse or stress-related eating and the “screw it”, self-sabotage cycle I’ve mentioned above, kicks in.

Mindfulness allows you to take away a lot of the decision-making fatigue surrounding food. You’re then far more productive in other areas of your life and able to focus and take action on the things that truly matter.[5]

Mental Toughness

Mindfulness and mental toughness pretty much go hand in hand. Take eating at half the speed you’re used to, for example – sounds so simple, right? But, as you’re about to find out, with this and other tips – they take a great deal of focus and patience to master.

Anything that requires your undivided attention, such as mindful eating is also an excellent way to build mental toughness. In my book, building a strong mindset and sense of identity is critical for any long-term and sustainable fat-loss plan.

Better Digestion

Science is just beginning to reveal the massive link between your digestion, mood and immune system. Bottom line – if you’re digestion is poor, you’re gonna suffer often with cold and flu symptoms, as well as have low moods. This digestion thing is so crucial, researchers have coined the gut as “The Second Brain.”

Slowing down and eating mindfully not only gives your body time to properly digest food, it also helps you reduce the sheer volume of food. Less food in a calm and slow manner equals a happy digestive system and all the awesome knock-on effects. Win-win!

How Do I Get Started with mindful Eating?

Keeping It Real

Sorting out your big-picture food plan is not only essential to your fat-loss journey, it makes mindful eating a hell of a lot easier too. Eating too much junk food messes with your mind, resulting in cravings, overeating and unwanted body fat.

Cliffs Notes: 80–90% of your food plan should come from minimally-processed “real” foods.

Hunger Hurdles

The next step is to get a grip on hunger. You may be surprised to learn how seldom you actually experience “true” physical hunger. Here’s a brief breakdown of the difference between true hunger and what I call a hunger hurdle.

TRUE PHYSICAL HUNGER

HUNGER HURDLE

• Hunger grows gradually

• Time has passed since your last meal, and you typically eat at regular intervals

• Stomach growling

• Low energy

• Boredom, stress or another emotion triggers a feeling you “need to eat”

• You want to eat again, after eating recently

• You’re eating because of the time or a location trigger – like mid-morning" snack or at the petrol station

• Desire to eat comes suddenly

• You’re mindlessly doing something else while eating – driving, gaming, watching TV.

The Mindful Approach

Recognising the fact that you’re eating for non-hunger reasons is a massive step forward and you should pat yourself on the back – well done, you’re well ahead of the game, but now what?

Firstly, you’ve cleared some space in your head so you can now be mindful of how and what you eat.

The key is not to judge or label your decision as either “good” or “bad” – you’re always in control and that’s what matters. Here are your options:

#1: You switch to a non-food way to clear the Hunger Hurdle, such as taking a walk, chatting with a mate or catching up on social.

#2: You choose a healthier food option and eat it with purpose and mindfully.

#3: You stay with a less optimal choice, BUT you eat it mindfully – slowly, in full control and enjoying the experience fully. No guilt or self-sabotage afterwards.

8 Tips For More Mindful Eating

Clearly, mindfulness takes a bit of practice, but I’ve found the following tips to be really helpful with staying more mindful while eating. They don’t need any prep or special setup, just a willingness to give it a go and patience.

Have a browse through, see what resonates with you and off you go!

mindful eating principles

Just Eat

No, I’m not talking about the takeaway service! First things first – when you’re eating, you're ONLY eating. When you're not, you're not.

Be present and be purposeful with your actions when it comes to food. #MindfulEating #BodyPhi

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A great review in 2012 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looking at over 24 studies on distracted eating. [6] The groups either ate whilst watching TV or distraction-free. The conclusions?

1. When distracted – more food eaten at a faster pace.

2. When mindful and less distracted – less food eaten later in the day.

Bottom line: Eat at a table that’s just for eating, not your workstation or on the couch. And remove distractions: switch off TVs, put away any tablets and switch off your phone.

Shhh!

Once you’re rid of all the distractions, you’ll be amazed how much easier it is to be mindful and also how relaxing the silence can be.

It may take a bit of getting used to especially if you currently eat with the TV or radio on.Try it even with your partner and family – even it’s just for the first couple of minutes of a meal. Notice how great you feel afterwards.

lose weight with mindful eating

Breathe

Super-simple to start your meal and get you in the zone. Take half a dozen slow, deep breaths – this is such a powerful way to get focused on the task at hand. Eating!

Slow Down

So what’s all this eating slowly about then? Well it’s been pretty clear in the research that your brain takes about 20 minutes to receive signals from your stomach after starting to eat, that it’s actually full.

Slower eating has been associated with higher levels of fullness and satiety, and a decrease in food intake. [7] If you don’t wait to even recognise these signals - you could have very easily slammed back an extra 1000 plus calories in the meantime.

Focus on chewing one mouthful at a time and create gaps by putting down your utensils between bites.

Slow Strategies

Here are a few simple ways to reduce your eating speed and be more mindful:

Switch to your non-dominant hand- Stab with your fork rather than scooping up food- Use chopsticks

mindful eating exercise

Use smaller utensils

Back when I competed in bodybuilding and towards the end of prep, where calories got ultra-low and the ability to stay full and satisfied after a meal was dwindling – I naturally started to eat my oats with a teaspoon.

Obviously it took longer to eat, but that’s the point. It made me feel like I got to enjoy the meal for longer and was an overall more enjoyable experience compared with wolfing it down with a normal-size spoon in a couple of bites and still feeling starving.

This approach might not work in a social situation, but you can certainly trick your brain into eating less by using smaller utensils. [8]

Stop!

Stop eating when you’re full. Yea – sounds a bit obvious, but it’s near impossible if you eat quickly. Remember the 20-minute delay from starting to eat until your brain gets the signal.

By slowing down and paying attention to what’s going on in your stomach, you’ll have a wildly improved chance of eating less and actually feel more satisfied with your meal.

Photos

Taking photos of your food is an awesome way to bring more awareness to how, when and where you eat. Before you eat or drink anything snap a quick pic and take a couple of minutes at the end of the day to review your choices.

Again, do this in a non-judging way without putting labels on anything – sort of like a mindful-meditation review of your food plan.

Give Gratitude

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I’m not telling you how to live your life, or what you should and shouldn't do, but have you ever actually stopped to think about just how lucky you are to have pretty much any food you desire, in whatever quantities, whenever you want?!

We take this privilege for granted, but once you consider there are vast populations of the world who can only dream of such luxury – it certainly changes your perspective on food availability.

Research supports a positive link between gratitude and wellbeing. Just a quick mindful thank-you as you start your meal will do. [9]

Get Your Surroundings On Your Side

Your surroundings and the people you dine with play a massive part in your behaviour when it comes to food. Probably a lot more than you realise.

Choose Your Dining Mates Wisely

I actually talked about this on The Chris Robson Lifestyle Podcast – how your closest friends can massively shape your choices and actions, for better and for worse.

I had a hunch that who you dine with would subconsciously affect how much you ate. Makes sense right?

Are you really going to chow down a thick piece of carrot cake with your super-slim yoga-bunny friend? Surely you are more likely to crack open another beer with your buddy, who you normally get wasted with, when you meet up? Looks like I was right ...

Not only do you consume way more food by just simply being in a social setting, compared with eating alone, you are 57% more likely to become obese if one of your close friends is obese. [10] [11]

And children are up to 80% more likely to be obese if their parents are. [12] Think about it – they natural adopt their style of eating unknowingly.

Another smart thing to do – when in big groups, match your eating pace with the slowest person in the group.

The main message here is: choose your social circle wisely.

Declutter

Whether you know it or not, if there is high-calorie junk food in a cupboard or freezer, which is only a room away – it is only a matter of "when" you consume those foods, not a question of “if”.

Your brain senses food availability and I guarantee that if the food is in close enough proximity, you will eat it. Get your environment on your side by only having food that is conducive to your goals at home, not stuff that will take you away from where you want to be. [13]

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A recent 2016 study titled: Clutter, Chaos And Over-consumption: The Role of Mindset In Stressful And Chaotic Food Environments, came to the interesting conclusion. [14]

Chaotic environments can cause more stress, which can lead to grabbing more indulgent and high-calorie snacks.In fact, the study suggests you’re likely to grab twice as many snacks! How easy is this to fix?

Start by clearing your kitchen and putting food out of sight – in the refrigerator, in a cupboard or in opaque storage containers. Simple – uncluttered kitchen equals clear mind and less mindless eating.

Ban Binge Foods

Whilst you will have heard me say repeatedly there are no “good” or “bad” foods, and that you can work pretty much any food, in the correct quantities, into a plan to help you look better naked.

If you know full well that you cannot moderate certain foods – get them out the house. Out of sight, out of mind. Don’t leave it to chance and test your already depleted willpower with these possible “binge” foods.

Sometimes abstinence beats moderation for more mindful eating.

Portion Size

Whilst buying large-size packs of certain foods may be cost effective, individual portion control goes out the window and that’s not so “cost-effective” for your waistline.

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Think about it – ever found yourself standing at the freezer eating from a pint-sized tub of Ben & Jerrys? Yea – that’s at least five portions you could easily smash through in minutes!

Split large packs into portions before storing if you want more control and be better able to eat mindfully. Less willpower too!

This also applies to food prepared for a meal – immediately put left-overs into containers to eat another time. No need to test your willpower by bringing extra food to the table.

Plate Contrast

It has been well documented that the colour of your plate can influence how much food you consume. [15] The greater the contrast between food and plate the better – it would, for example, be better to eat white rice from a coloured plate rather than a white one.

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If you want to subconsciously eat less, think about eating from plates that are coloured red – it sort of acts like a mental “stop-eating” signal. [16]

Glass Sizes

First of all you shouldn't be drinking your calories, you should know that by now. Liquid calories do a far poorer job of keeping you full compared to whole food. [17]

However, if you are indulging in some wine with good company, do you really need to be drinking out of a glass that resembles a fish bowl?

Two of these bad boys is almost an entire bottle of wine gone! Why do you think restaurants use these large glasses? Sure they look impressive, but you could be unaware that you’re necking down excess calories you really don’t need to be.

Set The Mood

Think about it – why does your favourite date-night restaurant have candle light and soft music? Take their lead and create an equally calming eating experience for yourself. Light some candles or dim the lights and stick on some quiet music – et voilà - instant mindful eating!

Daily Small Wins To Be More Mindful

Meditate: Spend a couple of minutes everyday sitting in silence with your eyes closed – just being aware of what you're thinking without judging or trying to control them in any way.

Ten deep breaths: Inhale to a count of three, hold your breath for a count of three, exhale for three. It takes two minutes. Simple!

Walking Meditation: Walk slowly and pay attention to your footsteps, counting “one, two, one, two” and visualise the numbers in your mind as you go. Simple and immediate!

Try barefoot to make it easier by getting more senses involved.

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Positive Affirmations: Create a goal card – click here for details – and spend a few minutes first thing and last thing every day. Combine as part of your daily meditation.

Body Awareness & Relaxation: Try the following simple exercise any time you five minutes while waiting for an appointment or during a break.

• Find a position your body feels naturally at ease, comfortable but alert – sitting or lying down.
• Close your eyes and take several deep breaths and relax.
• Maintain this deep breathing deeply throughout this exercise.
• Begin by feeling the parts on your body in contact with other things … feeling the seat you’re sitting on, your feet resting on the floor, your clothes touching your skin.
• Next notice your posture and move slowly through each part of your entire body, noticing areas of tension.
• Move your attention to your feet and tense and then relax the muscles of your feet and toes and notice how they feel.
• Now move your awareness slowly up your legs, past your knees to your thighs.
• Tense and then relax the muscles of your legs and thighs.
• Tense and then relax your butt and your hips.
• Tense and then relax your abdominal muscles.
• Tense and relax your chest and shoulders.
• Tense and relax the muscles of your arms.
• Tense and relax your hands and all of your fingers, down to your fingertips.- • • Tense and relax the muscles of your face.
• Notice the feeling of your tongue inside your mouth, the weight of your eyelids.
• Relax your forehead by tensing and letting go.
• Allow your scalp to completely relax.
• Finally take several deep breaths allowing complete relaxation to flow throughout your body.
• Open your eyes and become aware again of your surroundings.

IN A NUTSHELL

Mindfulness and mindful eating are game-changers for smashing long-term fat loss.

Practising mindfulness has a boat-load of benefits including:

• Weight Control
• Stress Relief
• Better Mood
• Increased Confidence
• Improved Productivity
• More Focus & Willpower
• Better Digestion
• Mental Toughness

Mindful eating is paying attention to the act of eating – slowing down the process, getting enormous enjoyment out of food and stopping when you’re full and satisfied.

Optimising your surroundings and choosing carefully who you dine with, makes mindful eating massively easier to master.