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7 Scientifically backed Steps to Mindful Eating

Mindful Eating

Mindful Eating - (Image Credit: Shutterstock); Author picture - (Image Credit: Author)

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a technique derived from Buddhism where one tries to notice present thoughts, feeling and sensations with the aim to create a state of “consciousness”.

Mindful eating requires that you are totally conscious in the moment, fully aware of your food with your senses from its color, flavor, aroma and its total health benefits along with its medicinal value as you decide to purchase, prepare and consume it.

By faithfully paying attention to the food in every step in such details you will identify to eat only those foods that are high in nutritional value suitable for fueling your body and healing your body from disease. (Disease Prevention)

Mindful eating and Obesity/Weight Loss

Mindfulness , a psychological technique that uses meditation has been successfully applied to reduce stress related diseases including obesity, cancer, depression and anorexia nervosa. It has also become the focus of an approach to mindful eating that fulfills the criteria necessary in changing one’s overall approach to eating.

According to the World Health Organization, the prevalence of obesity has more than doubled over the past three decades, and recent evidence indicates that this trend could continue. The gravity of this problem is underscored by the fact that obesity is linked with chronic diseases such as Cardiovascular Diseases, Diabetes, High blood pressure ,GERD ,Cancer and decreased life expectancy.

Mindful Eating Rules

Most of these diseases are controllable with simple diet and lifestyle modifications. Thousands of people could avoid an early death from one or more of these lifestyle diseases simply by becoming a non-smoker, eating a healthy diet, exercising moderately and limiting alcohol consumption.

It is estimated that unhealthy diet presently contributes to approximately 678,000 premature deaths each year in the U.S. alone. Over 40% of the population worldwide have been diagnosed with functional gastrointestinal disorders. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is one such chronic inflammatory lifestyle disease affecting over 18-27% of people in North America

Traditionally obese people are treated with diets having restricted calories and they find it difficult to maintain the weight loss and bounce back midway to their original weight. Weight loss can be avoided if your brain is adapted to a mindful eating practice.

Mardia LÓPEZ-ALARCÓN(1) conducted a study on comparative effect of restricted diet vs restricted diet plus mindful eating to a group of obese students An increase in anxiety and a smaller weight reduction was observed in the group on a calorie-restricted diet alone. However, the combined therapy of Mindful eating led to significantly greater reductions in weight, anxiety and in the levels of two hormones related to stress and appetite, cortisol and ghrelin.

A combining of restricted diet and mindfulness treatment lead to improved weight loss in obese children, compared to obese children on a calorie-restricted diet but with no mindfulness treatment.

7 Scientifically Backed Mindful Eating Tips

1. Grocery List

Prepare your grocery list before you go grocery shopping, so you consciously buy only:

  • Whole foods high in nutrition to fuel your body and avoid buying junk food
  • Avoid Genetically modified (G.M.O) products: Only buy ORGANIC local produce and only buy hormone free Fresh produce.
  • Choose Whole foods over processed packaged food: Avoid packaged food full of chemicals, preservatives, hidden sugar, high sodium and eat whole foods.
  • Only consume Wild caught (not farm bread fresh Oily fish like salmon, mackerel etc)
  • Drink only boiled water or spring water, never straight from a tap.
  • Go Preservative free: Avoid long life milk full of preservatives and ideally fresh dairy free milk.

2. Food diary

Maintain a food diary to fix your Health Goals and write down everything you eat so you know exactly where you have gone wrong and your trigger foods, especially beneficial for weight watchers and those on a restrictive diet. Review it on a daily, weekly and monthly basis to achieve your health goals.

Health Goals

3. Gut Brain Axis /connection

Digestion first takes place in the brain in a cephalic state where we first salivate just thinking of food and next in the mouth where our saliva contains digestive enzymes like Lipase, Amalyse ,Protease which helps break down fats, carbs and protein and aid in digestion and nutrition absorption.

  • Eating in a hurry or when we are anxious known as the fight or flight state causes Acid reflux and heartburn as we tend to gulp down our food without thoroughly chewing it. Eating under stress affects our digestion due to the gut brain nexus as our mind sends signals to our gut and vice versa.
  • Therefore, its critical to eat in a calm, relaxed and peaceful environment called the Rest and Digest state with no social media distraction at a fixed time daily.
  • Finish dinner before sundown to facilitate proper digestion and nutrition absorption.
  • Eat slowly, chew your food thoroughly and do not rush your meals.
  • Avoiding eating or snacking on the go.

4. Mastication

Chewing our food is the first step in digestion. Our saliva contains enzymes like lipase, amylase that help break down carbohydrates, fats and proteins and aid in digestion and nutrition absorption.

According to the experts at Ohio State University, you should chew softer foods 5-10 times, and more dense foods (meats/vegetables) up to 30 times before swallowing. As you release these enzymes into the throat and stomach, you further improve the digestive process.

Hence it is always recommended that you

  • Chew your food slowly and thoroughly until the food has become pulp and in a liquid state.
  • Finish chewing completely and then swallow it before you take your next bite.
  • Do not drink any liquid with the meal, it hampers digestion. Drink liquids minimum 20 -30 minutes after eating to avoid reflux symptoms.
  • Prolonged chewing is known to help in hunger reduction, eating lesser quantities and increase the gut hormone Ghrelin that makes you feel full, a simple technique for managing weight loss and obesity.

A new study reported in Forbs Magazine finds that people who eat slowly, tend to weigh less. And slowing down their eating speed over the years seemed to help them lose some weight.

No Emotional Eating

5. Emotional Eating

Emotions change within 90 seconds so we have time to re think and be mindful of our choices and take full responsibility of our actions and choices. Mindful eating helps manage emotional eating through deep breathing techniques which gives us time to think before we take action.

6. Breathing Exercises

Practise mindful meditation and deep breathing (Taking deep long breath from the pit of your stomach and holding it for 3-4 seconds, keeping your mind blank and focussing on your breath and releasing it with a long slow breath for another 4-5 seconds) exercise whenever you feel anxious and the urge to eat /binge to help settle your nerves and gather your thoughts , especially critical for Emotional eaters and people trying to lose weight.

7. Sleep and hunger /Obesity

Sleep deficiency is known to cause an imbalance in hunger hormones namely Ghrelin and Leptin and slows down the body’s metabolism leading to obesity and the onset of chronic disease. Therefore it is crucial to practice Mindful breathing exercises to help relieve anxiety and have a good nights un interrupted sleep of minimum 7-8 hours.

Hence in conclusion the practice of mindfulness has helped thousands of people to live more intentionally and develop the skills necessary to manage chronic diseases, depression, sleeping problems, and anxiety. A combination of daily physical exercise and, mindful deep breathing exercise along with mindful eating will have a bigger impact on your weight loss and overall wellbeing.

Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only. The content on our website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or therapy. You should NEVER disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking treatment due to something you have read on our website and we will not be held responsible for any adverse health condition or injury that occurs as a result of doing so.
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Sonya Pinto

Certified Nutrition Coach

Sonya Pinto is an MBA turned Certified Nutrition Coach, (CNTC) specializing in Digestive Health. She also has ...

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