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Mindful Eating: An Effective Nutritional and Weight Management Strategy
In the field of science and medicine, mindfulness and self-awareness have been lauded to have immense physiological and psychological benefits. For instance, mindfulness is credited with positively influencing mental health outcomes by cultivating distress tolerance.
Research also shows that mindfulness helps to improve immune functioning as well. These facts demonstrate that mindfulness is indeed beneficial to human psychological and physiological well-being.
However, how does the practice of mindfulness blend with nutrition? Can we effectively adopt a mindful approach when it comes to our diets for better nutritional outcomes? Is it practical and scientifically viable?
Scientific Data Concerning Weight Problems
According to data from the World Health Organization, there are over 1.9 billion people above the age of 18 years who are overweight. This means that over 1.9 billion people have been found to have a BMI of over 25; signaling a huge discrepancy between their height and their ideal weight(Note: BMI is a ratio comparing mass to squared height).
Of the 1.9 billion people who are overweight, about 650 million of them are struggling with obesity as their body mass index exceeds 30. This exposes them to a higher risk of developing serious health conditions like heart diseases, diabetes, and specific types of cancer. Besides health complications, people struggling with obesity are also vulnerable to stigmatization and isolation in many parts of the world (Elflein, 2022).
As such, with the global rates of obesity currently standing at about 38.9% and being projected to reach 42% by 2025, obesity has become a major health challenge to countries across the world. Therefore, medics, scientists, and governments have had to come up with urgent mitigation measures to control the condition in order to protect people from disability and premature deaths.
The Practice of Mindful Eating
According to a Pilot Study done in 2010, Mindful Eating is described as a practice that consists of making conscious food choices and developing an awareness of physical and psychological hunger and satiety cues (Dalen et al, 2010). This means that every step of the eating process should be well-thought-out, appreciated, and conditioned to have optimal benefits for the body and mind.
As such, mindful eating has been recommended as an effective means of mitigating weight problems due to the fact that eating habits greatly contribute to weight gain. For instance, a 2013 research in the Medical University of Gdansk, Poland labeled “Bad eating habits as the main cause of obesity among children.”
Bad eating habits such as binge eating and emotional eating are regarded as mindless eating. This is because they are mostly impulsive and do not factor in the potential benefits or consequences of eating. As such, mindless eating leads to adverse health outcomes like excessive weight gain and obesity as a result of poor nutritional decisions.
Benefits of Mindful Eating
Therefore, mindful eating is more than just another lifestyle choice that is meant to enhance the enjoyment of life. Rather, mindful nutrition has practical and tangible applications when it comes to our health. The following are some of the benefits of mindful nutrition;
- Helps to effectively manage weight
While nutrition mindfulness cannot be wholly relied upon as a primary weight loss strategy, it definitely goes a long way to complement such efforts. This is because mindful eating practices enable one to monitor and accurately interpret nutritional cues from the body. That way, we are able to distinguish between impulsive eating urges and genuine hunger signals from the body.
The effect is that we can then feed our bodies what they need and avoid falling prey to binge eating, emotional eating, and other forms of mindless eating. Mindful eating habits also help to select those foods that are in line with our overall weight loss goals thereby making it easier to control excessive weight gain.
2. Helps to mindfully manage your cravings
For most people, managing their cravings when it comes to food is a tough battle that they often don’t win. This is because cravings are very compulsive and without a firm commitment to conscious eating, you are likely to cave in to them. However, nutrition mindfulness helps a lot when it comes to mindfully manage your cravings.
This is because conscious eating increases awareness of whatever you are eating and its potential benefits or consequences. Mindful behavior helps you to keenly interrogate your diet choices, select what is good food for your brain and body, and observe your diet consistently. That way, you become more intentional in your diet choices without having to entirely sacrifice everything you enjoy.
3. Promotes both body and diet positivity
For many people struggling with their weight, the problem is psychological as much as it is physiological. This is because they tend to judge their eating choices harshly and this has a negative impact on their psychological well-being. However, mindful eating helps to alleviate this problem.
This is because one gets to understand that with the right balance of food and drink, they can be able to enjoy food while still actively managing their weight. This eliminates feelings of guilt and helplessness that often enhance mindless eating habits even further. Eventually, it becomes easier to integrate mindful eating practices into one’s diet for optimal health and nutritional outcomes.
How to Practice Mindful Eating
Having established the benefits of mindful eating, it is important for people across all age groups to know how to mindfully manage food. This is because conscious eating is an elaborate nutritional strategy whose techniques must be intentionally practiced for any meaningful progress to be made.
The following are some mindful eating practices;
- Creating a meal plan
Mindful eating constitutes always being intentional about what we eat and how we eat it. This is why it is very important to maintain a daily food plan that has been prepared after extensive thought. That way, one can be able to avoid impulsive eating that may lead to excessive weight gain and other undesirable health outcomes.
In the meal plan, one should ensure that most of the foods have optimal nutritional value. However, the meal plan should also not be very rigid as it may create fatigue and increase the chances of one falling back into mindless eating habits.
Therefore, there should be a healthy balance that also allows for some level of indulgence in foods that you find enjoyable but which are not necessarily very nutritious. That way, you stand a higher chance of consistently adhering to the meal plan while still mindfully managing your cravings.
- Committing to mindful eating exercises
Undergoing deliberate, mindfulness-based eating awareness training (MB-EAT) is an important step on the path toward mindful nutrition. This is because eating habits are developed and enhanced over a long period of time. As such, these habits can be difficult to get rid of overnight.
Therefore, by undergoing exercises deliberately designed to encourage nutrition mindfulness, people can be able to unlearn hard-coded mindless eating habits. They can be able to overcome the impulses that push them to binge eating and emotional eating and consequently develop healthy and mindful eating habits.
- Developing a positive attitude
When it comes to eating, many people usually divide their preferences into foods they “like” and those they “don’t like.” However, medical professionals cite this as a detrimental habit for anyone who wants to practice mindful nutrition. This is because it prevents you from extracting the benefits of certain foods that may actually be very nutritious and helpful in your weight loss program.
Besides missing out on nutritious foods, a negative attitude also prevents you from enjoying an immersive and meditative eating experience that allows you to appreciate everything from the scent to the taste and effect of food on your senses. As such, it is important to develop a positive attitude when it comes to maintaining a mindful diet.
Important Facts to Understand about Mindful Nutrition
There is adequate scholarly research to prove the benefits of a mindful diet and mindful eating techniques. However, there are a few facts that people must understand for them to be able to optimally enjoy these benefits. They include;
- Mindful eating must not be considered as an exhaustive solution for eating disorders. This is because such clinical conditions require a more elaborate and intensive treatment plan that can only be provided by qualified professionals.
- Nutrition mindfulness must not be regarded on its own as a means of achieving weight loss. Rather, you should consider mindful eating as a complementary strategy that can help accelerate your weight loss process by helping you consume more nutritional foods while eliminating unhealthy foods from your diet.
Mindful eating is a refreshing approach to nutritional best practices and weight loss management. This is because it integrates both the physiological and psychological aspects of our eating habits to provide us with a way of effectively managing our diets. Therefore, it is recommendable for everyone to adopt nutrition mindfulness as a means of healthy living as well as a mitigation measure for preventable lifestyle diseases.