Dieting? Try Mindful Eating Instead

Isn’t change difficult sometimes? As much as we want to make lifestyle changes, old habits are hard to break. So very hard to break.

Sometimes it can be hard to admit to my old dietary lifestyle. My starting point was a diet filled with processed sugary foods; think sweetened peanut butter, white bread, and sugary cereals. I may have eaten one vegetable a month…if that was a particularly healthy month. Today my diet is healthy, and chock full of all of those wholesome fruits and veggies you’d expect in a nutritionist’s diet.

This giant change took some time, but not a lot of effort.

Really, it wasn’t as difficult as it sounds. I just gave myself a lot of time to make these changes. I’m talking years. Six years to be exact.

And over the years I’ve looked at countless ways to make dietary changes easier. Some tend to work really well and some don’t work at all. For the record, counting anything (calories or carbs) doesn’t work in the long run. Well, it might work at times, but it’s rarely a permanent change and only works if you possess an enormous pile of willpower.

Mindful Eating

The one sure-fire way to change your diet is a method that is both the easiest AND the hardest technique you could ever try.

It’s easy because it doesn’t involve any specific dietary changes; eat exactly what you’d like and you’ll automatically start to gravitate toward healthier choices. It’s intensely difficult because it changes HOW you eat your food. But man, does it ever work. Unbelievably so.

All you have to do is to sit down, chew, taste, and ENJOY the food that you’re eating. Sounds simple right?

Now think about the last time you slowly ate and enjoyed the food you’ve chosen to eat. Have you enjoyed a meal this week? How about this month? Or even this year?

If you’re already eating mindfully, wonderful! Keep it up! But for many of you it’ll be difficult to think of the last time you mindfully ate a meal.

The technique

You’ll find a variety of ways to eat mindfully. They all work, so chose the one that feels best for you and your lifestyle. Here’s mine:

1. When snacking, start with a few simple questions: Do I really want to eat this food? If yes, do I really want to change what I’m doing to sit and enjoy this food?

If you’ve answered yes to both questions, then enjoy whatever food you’d like to eat. These questions also remove any feelings of resentment, like; “I can’t eat that cookie, I’m on a diet”, or; “I really shouldn’t eat that”. The “can’ts” and “shouldn’ts” drive huge food cravings. Those food thoughts tempt you until you finally give in. Once you chosen no to either question, those cravings disappear like magic. Poof!

2. Sit down, relax, and take a deep breath

You’re either stressed or you’re digesting. Spend a minute to relax so your digestive system turns on.

3. Take a bite, put your fork down, taste it, and enjoy. Repeat.

Putting your fork down automatically slows down your eating. Chewing well increases enjoyment and digestion. And you’ll eat less. It’s fairly impossible to overeat when eating slowly and mindfully. The awareness helps you feel full with less, and it’s incredibly boring to overstuff yourself slowly. This really works.

Mindful eating has many benefits, and my #1 favourite is this:

You’ll find yourself enjoying more healthy whole foods flavoured with aromatic herbs and spices. And you’ll find yourself satisfied quickly (after only a bite or two) when eating processed foods or super sweet cakes and cookies.

It works, and it’s just a skill that needs to be practiced. Start at 1 meal a day, and slowly incorporate this skill with all of them. It’s difficult at first but before you know it, you’ll be enjoying every meal slowly and mindfully. 

This article was also published in The Good Life Magazine, March/April 2017.