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Mindful eating is a technique that helps you gain control over your eating habits.
It has been shown to cause weight loss, reduce binge eating and help you feel better.
This article explains what mindful eating is, how it works and what you need to do to get started.
What is Mindful Eating?
Mindful eating is based on mindfulness, a Buddhist concept.
Mindful eating is about using mindfulness to reach a state of full attention to your experiences, cravings and physical cues when eating (8).
Fundamentally, mindful eating involves:
- Eating slowly and without distraction.
- Listening to physical hunger cues and eating only until you're full.
- Distinguishing between actual hunger and non-hunger triggers for eating.
- Engaging your senses by noticing colors, smells, sounds, textures and tastes.
- Learning to cope with guilt and anxiety about food.
- Eating to maintain overall health and well-being.
- Noticing the effects food has on your feelings and figure.
- Appreciating your food.
These things allow you to replace automatic thoughts and reactions with more conscious, healthier responses (9).
Bottom Line: Mindful eating relies on mindfulness, a form of meditation. Mindful eating is about developing awareness of your experiences, physical cues and feelings about food.
Why Should You Try Mindful Eating?
In our fast-paced society, we face an abundance of food choices every day.
On top of that, distractions have shifted our attention away from the actual act of eating and onto televisions, computers and smartphones.
Eating has become a mindless act, often done quickly. This can be problematic, since it actually takes the brain up to 20 minutes to realize you're full.
If you eat too fast, the fullness signal may not arrive until you've already eaten too much. This is very common in binge eating.
By eating mindfully, you restore your attention and slow down, making eating an intentional act instead of an automatic one.
Also, by increasing your recognition of physical hunger and fullness cues, you'll be able to distinguish between emotional and actual, physical hunger (10).
Furthermore, you'll increase your awareness of triggers that make you want to eat, even though you're not necessarily hungry.
By knowing your triggers, you can create a space between them and the response. That gives you the time and freedom to actually choose your response.
Bottom Line: Mindful eating helps you distinguish between emotional and physical hunger. It also increases your awareness of food-related triggers and gives you the freedom to choose your response to them.
Mindful Eating and Weight Loss
It is a well-known fact that most weight loss programs don't work in the long term.
Around 85 percent of obese individuals who lose weight return to or exceed their initial weight within a few years (11).
The vast majority of studies agree that mindful eating helps you lose weight by changing eating behaviors and reducing stress (18).
A 6-week group seminar on mindful eating among obese individuals resulted in an average weight loss of 9 lbs (4 kg) during the seminar and the 12-week follow-up period (10).
Another 6-month seminar resulted in an average weight loss of 26 lbs (12 kg), without any regained weight in the following 3-month period (19).
When unwanted eating behaviors are addressed, the chances of long-term weight loss success are increased.
Bottom Line: Mindful eating may be very helpful with weight loss, changing eating behaviors and reducing the stress associated with eating.
Mindful Eating and Binge Eating
Binge eating involves eating a large amount of food in a short amount of time, mindlessly and without control (24).
One study found that after a 6-week group intervention in obese women, binge eating episodes decreased from 4 to 1.5 times per week. The severity of each episode also decreased (30).
Bottom Line: Mindful eating can be helpful in preventing binge eating. It can both reduce the frequency of binges, as well as the severity of each binge eating episode.
Mindful Eating and Unhealthy Eating Behaviors
In addition to being an effective treatment for binge eating, mindful eating methods have also been shown to reduce (20):
- Emotional eating: Eating in response to certain emotions (31).
- External eating: Eating in response to environmental food-related cues, such as the sight or smell of food (32).
Unhealthy eating behaviors like these are the most commonly reported problems among obese individuals.
Mindful eating gives you the skills you need to deal with these impulses. It puts you in charge of your responses, instead of you acting on them without thought.
Bottom Line: Mindful eating may effectively treat common, unhealthy eating behaviors like emotional and external eating.
How To Practice Mindful Eating
To practice mindfulness, you'll need a series of exercises and meditations (33).
Many people find it helpful to attend a seminar, online course or workshop on mindfulness or mindful eating.
However, there are many simple ways to get started, some of which can have powerful benefits on their own:
- Eat more slowly and don't rush your meals.
- Chew thoroughly.
- Eliminate distractions by turning off the TV and putting down your phone.
- Eat in silence.
- Focus on how the food makes you feel.
- Stop eating when you're full.
- Ask yourself why you're eating. Are you actually hungry? Is it healthy?
To begin with, it is a good idea to pick one meal per day, to focus on these points.
Once you've got the hang of this, mindfulness will become more natural. Then you can focus on implementing these habits into more meals.
Bottom Line: Mindful eating takes practice. Try to eat more slowly, chew thoroughly, remove distractions and stop eating when you're full.
Where to Find More Information
- Amazon: Many good books on mindful eating are available on Amazon.
- Web resources: This website lists 50 mindful eating web resources.
- Videos: This is a short video introduction to mindful eating.
- Meditating: Here is a short meditation to help manage food cravings.
- Workshops: Mindful eating seminars are located around the world and online.
Take Home Message
Mindful eating is a powerful tool to regain control of your eating.
If you have failed with conventional “diets" in the past, then this is definitely something you should try.
This article was reposted from our media associate Authority Nutrition.
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Colorado River Has Lost 1.5 Billion Tons of Water to the Climate Crisis, 'Severe Water Shortages' May Follow
California is headed toward drought conditions as February, typically the state's wettest month, passes without a drop of rain. The lack of rainfall could lead to early fire conditions. With no rain predicted for the next week, it looks as if this month will be only the second time in 170 years that San Francisco has not had a drop of rain in February, according to The Weather Channel.
The last time San Francisco did not record a drop of rain in February was in 1864 as the Civil War raged.
"This hasn't happened in 150 years or more," said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability to The Guardian. "There have even been a couple [of] wildfires – which is definitely not something you typically hear about in the middle of winter."
While the Pacific Northwest has flooded from heavy rains, the southern part of the West Coast has seen one storm after another pass by. Last week, the U.S. Drought Monitor said more Californians are in drought conditions than at any time during 2019, as The Weather Channel reported.
The dry winter has included areas that have seen devastating fires recently, including Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties. If the dry conditions continue, those areas will once again have dangerously high fire conditions, according to The Mercury News.
"Given what we've seen so far this year and the forecast for the next few weeks, I do think it's pretty likely we'll end up in some degree of drought by this summer," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported.
Another alarming sign of an impending drought is the decreased snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. The National Weather Service posted to Twitter a side-by-side comparison of snowpack from February 2019 and from this year, illustrating the puny snowpack this year. The snow accumulated in the Sierra Nevadas provides water to roughly 30 percent of the state, according to NBC Los Angeles.
Right now, the snowpack is at 53 percent of its normal volume after two warm and dry months to start the year. It is a remarkable decline, considering that the snowpack started 2020 at 90 percent of its historical average, as The Guardian reported.
"Those numbers are going to continue to go down," said Swain. "I would guess that the 1 March number is going to be less than 50 percent."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center forecast that the drier-than-average conditions may last through April.
NOAA said Northern California will continue deeper into drought through the end of April, citing that the "persistent high pressure over the North Pacific Ocean is expected to continue, diverting storm systems to the north and south and away from California and parts of the Southwest," as The Weather Channel reported.
As the climate crisis escalates and the world continues to heat up, California should expect to see water drawn out of its ecosystem, making the state warmer and drier. Increased heat will lead to further loss of snow, both as less falls and as more of it melts quickly, according to The Guardian.
"We aren't going to necessarily see less rain, it's just that that rain goes less far. That's a future where the flood risk extends, with bigger wetter storms in a warming world," said Swain, as The Guardian reported.
The Guardian noted that while California's reservoirs are currently near capacity, the more immediate impact of the warm, dry winter will be how it raises the fire danger as trees and grasslands dry out.
"The plants and the forests don't benefit from the water storage reservoirs," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported. "If conditions remain very dry heading into summer, the landscape and vegetation is definitely going to feel it this year. From a wildfire perspective, the dry years do tend to be the bad fire years, especially in Northern California."
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Where, then, can one turn for hope in these dark months of the year?