Why are you overweight? Why can’t you lose weight? It comes down to two things: eating too much and eating the wrong food-and most likely eating too much of the wrong food. So, why do we eat too much, and why do we eat the wrong food, when we know with absolute certainty this will lead to ill health and disease?
The perfect eater, if one exists, would be the person who only eats according to the body’s needs. If we did only this, we’d be the perfect weight, and we wouldn’t be worried about weight-loss at all. Unfortunately, many other things-emotions-cause us to eat as well, including sadness, frustration, boredom, anxiety, anger and insecurity. Worse, we are completely in the dark and unaware of these hidden feelings wreaking havoc on us. . ‘Mindful eating’, the practice of paying attention to your urges, feelings and thoughts, and to the food’s appearance and taste, from moment to moment, can help foster an awareness of when and why these emotions arise, thereby sapping them of their power to control our lives, and help us to lose weight, according to Jan Chozen Bays, MD, in the book ‘Mindful Eating’.
And these eating patterns are deeply engrained in us-they are completely automated habits, and are as natural to us as the way we walk or stand. We’re quite comfortable with them, thank you very much, as we’ve lived with them our whole lives. So think about how difficult it is to go lose weight-that is, to try and replace a lifetime of eating habits-bad ones, but happy, comfortable habits nonetheless-with a whole new set of healthy eating habits. Changing these habits is probably one of the steepest challenges we could face, as neither the mind nor the body really wants to change from all that it has ever really known. That’s why it’s so difficult, and so stress-inducing. Ever notice how you feel when you start a diet? Grumpy, right? Just like the cigarette smoker trying to quit. Our habits are really not much different than a wild horse. We have to break these habits and tame our horse, just like a cowboy. And just like the horse, our habitual patterns of body and mind will try and resist. This is the approach we must take.
Try this simple mindful eating exercise to get your weight-loss kick-started: take a raisin, or a cherry, or some small bite-sized piece of fruit. Look at it. Just look at it. Notice its color, its texture. You might even mentally say to yourself, ‘Brown’ or ‘Red’ or ‘crinkly’, etc. You can use this mental noting for every step. Notice what you’re thinking. (You may well be thinking this is dumb, but that’s ok! Just note to yourself, ‘Thinking it’s dumb’) Notice what you’re feeling and especially try and notice any urges you might have, whatever that might be, whether it’s to give up, to rush the food into your mouth, etc.
Lift the food up to your mouth. Be aware of your hand moving. Notice the food entering your mouth. Don’t chew yet! See how the food feels on your lips and tongue. Do you taste it yet, even though you haven’t chewed? Notice that. Notice if you’re in a hurry. Be aware of any saliva building up in your mouth.
Now begin to chew. Notice how you chew. Do you favor one side? Keep noticing. It is especially critical to keep paying attention here. Notice the urge to swallow. Do you feel like you ‘have’ to swallow at a certain point in time, or after a certain number of chews? Try and chew the food until it is completely disintegrated, until it’s just a watery mush. Notice your thoughts, your feelings. How do you feel? Does it taste good? Are you aware that it tastes good? Did the feeling of it tasting good continue throughout, or did it stop at some point? Do you feel satisfied? Do you want more? There are no right or wrong answers. And it’s ok, and expected, that you’ll lose your attention and forget. Just come back to the awareness. This is the basis for the entire process and can be done for the whole meal, with whatever you are eating.
This is only the beginning of the mindful eating journey, the first step to losing weight permanently. When you start becoming aware of your harmful eating habits you can start replacing them with healthier ones. Do this exercise once a day, at just one meal, for as long as you can, and see what happens. See if things start to change for you, in both mind and body. Please email me if you have any questions.
Go get ’em!
Vince Barry is a weight-loss, diet and fitness guru. “I believe weight-loss and fitness begins with the mind. Once we get the mind in order, we can get the body in shape. You CAN do it!” More of his work can be found at his website here Vince Barry