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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1. Stay Informed<p>A first order of business in pet evacuation planning is to understand and be ready for the possible threats in your area. Visit <a href="https://www.ready.gov/be-informed" target="_blank">Ready.gov</a> to learn more about preparing for potential disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and wildfires. Then pay attention to related updates by tuning <a href="http://www.weather.gov/nwr/" target="_blank">NOAA Weather Radio</a> to your local emergency station or using the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/mobile-app" target="_blank">FEMA app</a> to get National Weather Service alerts.</p>
2. Ensure Your Pet is Easily Identifiable<p><span>Household pets, including indoor cats, should wear collars with ID tags that have your mobile phone number. </span><a href="https://www.avma.org/microchipping-animals-faq" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Microchipping</a><span> your pets will also improve your chances of reunion should you become separated. Be sure to add an emergency contact for friends or relatives outside your immediate area.</span></p><p>Additionally, use <a href="https://secure.aspca.org/take-action/order-your-pet-safety-pack" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">'animals inside' door/window stickers</a> to show rescue workers how many pets live there. (If you evacuate with your pets, quickly write "Evacuated" on the sticker so first responders don't waste time searching for them.)</p>
3. Make a Pet Evacuation Plan<p> "No family disaster plan is complete without including your pets and all of your animals," says veterinarian Heather Case in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9NRJkFKAm4" target="_blank">a video</a> produced by the American Veterinary Medical Association.</p><p>It's important to determine where to take your pet in the event of an emergency.</p><p>Red Cross shelters and many other emergency shelters allow only service animals. Ask your vet, local animal shelters, and emergency management officials for information on local and regional animal sheltering options.</p><p>For those with access to the rare shelter that allows pets, CDC offers <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/emergencies/pets-in-evacuation-centers.html" target="_blank">tips on what to expect</a> there, including potential health risks and hygiene best practices.</p><p>Beyond that, talk with family or friends outside the evacuation area about potentially hosting you and/or your pet if you're comfortable doing so. Search for pet-friendly hotel or boarding options along key evacuation routes.</p><p>If you have exotic pets or a mix of large and small animals, you may need to identify multiple locations to shelter them.</p><p>For other household pets like hamsters, snakes, and fish, the SPCA recommends that if they normally live in a cage, they should be transported in that cage. If the enclosure is too big to transport, however, transfer them to a smaller container temporarily. (More on that <a href="https://www.spcai.org/take-action/emergency-preparedness/evacuation-how-to-be-pet-prepared" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.)</p><p>For any pet, a key step is to establish who in your household will be the point person for gathering up pets and bringing their supplies. Keep in mind that you may not be home when disaster strikes, so come up with a Plan B. For example, you might form a buddy system with neighbors with pets, or coordinate with a trusted pet sitter.</p>
4. Prepare a Pet Evacuation Kit<p>Like the emergency preparedness kit you'd prepare for humans, assemble basic survival items for your pets in a sturdy, easy-to-grab container. Items should include:</p><ul><li>Water, food, and medicine to last a week or two;</li><li>Water, food bowls, and a can opener if packing wet food;</li><li>Litter supplies for cats (a shoebox lined with a plastic bag and litter may work);</li><li>Leashes, harnesses, or vehicle restraints if applicable;</li><li>A <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/pet-first-aid-supplies-checklist" target="_blank">pet first aid kit</a>;</li><li>A sturdy carrier or crate for each cat or dog. In addition to easing transport, these may serve as your pet's most familiar or safe space in an unfamiliar environment;</li><li>A favorite toy and/or blanket;</li><li>If your pet is prone to anxiety or stress, the American Kennel Club suggests adding <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stress-relieving items</a> like an anxiety vest or calming sprays.</li></ul><p>In the not-unlikely event that you and your pet have to shelter in different places, your kit should also include:</p><ul><li>Detailed information including contact information for you, your vet, and other emergency contacts;</li><li>A list with phone numbers and addresses of potential destinations, including pet-friendly hotels and emergency boarding facilities near your planned evacuation routes, plus friends or relatives in other areas who might be willing to host you or your pet;</li><li>Medical information including vaccine records and a current rabies vaccination tag;</li><li>Feeding notes including portions and sizes in case you need to leave your pet in someone else's care;</li><li>A photo of you and your pet for identification purposes.</li></ul>
5. Be Ready to Evacuate at Any Time<p>It's always wise to be prepared, but stay especially vigilant in high-risk periods during fire or hurricane season. Practice evacuating at different times of day. Make sure your grab-and-go kit is up to date and in a convenient location, and keep leashes and carriers by the exit door. You might even stow a thick pillowcase under your bed for middle-of-the-night, dash-out emergencies when you don't have time to coax an anxious pet into a carrier. If forecasters warn of potential wildfire, a hurricane, or other dangerous conditions, bring outdoor pets inside so you can keep a close eye on them.</p><p>As with any emergency, the key is to be prepared. As the American Kennel Club points out, "If you panic, it will agitate your dog. Therefore, <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pet disaster preparedness</a> will not only reduce your anxiety but will help reduce your pet's anxiety too."</p>
Evacuating Horses and Other Farm Animals<p>The same basic principles apply for evacuating horses and most other livestock. Provide each with some form of identification. Ensure that adequate food, water, and medicine are available. And develop a clear plan on where to go and how to get there.</p><p>Sheltering and transporting farm animals requires careful coordination, from identifying potential shelter space at fairgrounds, racetracks, or pastures, to ensuring enough space is available in vehicles and trailers – not to mention handlers and drivers on hand to support the effort.</p><p>For most farm animals, the Red Cross advises that you consider precautionary evacuation when a threat seems imminent but evacuation orders haven't yet been announced. The American Veterinary Medical Association has <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/large-animals-and-livestock-disasters" target="_blank">more information</a>.</p>
Bottom Line: If You Need to Evacuate, So Do Your Pets<p>As the Humane Society warns, pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost, or killed. Plan ahead to make sure you can safely evacuate your entire household – furry members included.</p>
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