Meditation proved itself as an effective approach to control unhealthy eating patterns, reduction in weight and managing weight in the long term. Being mindful is a form of meditation; one must focus on eating behaviors and body state related to eating till digestion. Hunger and satiety signals are learned and responded when one practices mindful eating. There are numerous small tips and techniques to manage emotions that lead to eating inappropriately. Science has played its role well in determining the efficacy.
- Eating habits and health benefits over time
- Mindfulness and eating habits
- Mindful eating is a meditation for weight management
- Mindful meditation to stay away from emotional eating
- Scientific data about healthy weight, weight loss and change in appetite
Eating habits and health benefits over time
Healthy eating practices have own importance in the lives of human beings since years. From cognitive development to managing health problems, the nutrition science is playing its role before birth till death. Not eating properly since childhood i.e. negative eating habits, emotional eating or excessive eating is positively associated with chronic physical and mental illnesses in adulthood i.e. obesity, eating disorder, dental caries, and deficiency of nutrients etc. . Eating habits that improves health and functioning of the body has been researched to decrease in illnesses in elderly with average BMI and high life expectancy. Eating healthy is equally important for health care provider and patients. Perceptions mixed with behaviors are the reasons behind unhealthy patterns of lifestyle related to eating.
Eating is on regular basis, human beings are doing it almost few hours of the day and the extra calories needs to be shed off with exercise if a person consumed more than required on daily basis. The increasing rate of illnesses show that it is less important for the people to control their eating habits and modify lifestyle because it is really hard to shift the lifelong habits we are following since we were child. A person needs a lot of consistency and reinforcement regularly to feel motivated enough for the continuation of new healthy eating habits . There is a significant decrease in weight issues and illnesses among those who seek counseling and starts therapeutic ways of managing weight including mindful eating and meditation for mindful eating.
Current eating habits are very demanding and irregular. Food consumption has changed with the family patterns and metabolic processes are disturbed due to stress and rise in workload. Physical eating behavior has strong connection with internal clock and state of mind. For example, an angry person may resist eating and sad person may eat more . The foods we eat affect the brain neurochemistry that controls restless state of mind and similarly if a person is not relaxed, internal state will interact with food badly, hinders proper digestion and utilization hence upsetting weight, energy level, metabolism, difficulties in learning, memory, awareness and other higher brain functions .
Mindfulness and eating habits
What is actually happening when you are not aware of what you are eating and how you eat? You are often distracted, in hurry, planning other things, eating too fast and gaining pounds so fast without sensing food and having any pleasure from that. Basically food is a pleasurable activity as psychology added it in basic/physiological activities like sleep and hunger. Slow down! Are you relating this scenario with your everyday eating? Being on a computer, without noticing anything around you, you have a plate full of pizza on your lap and then have no idea where how and when it is gone under your tummy .
Scientific literature has shown that those who practice mindfulness are healthy and mindful eaters; they eat slow and eat raw foods frequently than processed foods and simple carbohydrates. Due to replacing healthy foods, fruits and vegetables, breads are consumed less and weight remains managed . The moment you start sensing food in terms of texture, taste, appearance, and smell, you would chew well and less food is eaten to fill stomach as needed. The main focus of mindful eating training is to be conscious of what you are eating, how your body is responding as an interactive process to act relaxed following a healthy food and distressed following excessive food. Balance is the key but to achieve it, one needs to be conscious .
Studies that test mindful eating and food intake among students in college highlighted that external stimuli of food is the motivator behind unhealthy eating, in this crises age range, habits are affected. A professor at Indiana State University found that underlined dysfunction of binge eaters is the broken relationship of mind and body. Mindfulness mends the connection to provide compulsive and unaware eaters a break. There is always a point to return to healthy habits. At any time of the life, eating mindfully can be chosen and adopted. Every time a person start mindful eating and practice to meditate, the binge eating is dropped from 4 times per week to 1.5 . Binge eating is the most common reason behind weight gain, obesity leading to death.
Mindful eating is a meditation for weight management
Focusing attention on present moment and experiences is the art of being mindful. Mindful eating works on the same principle. Mindful eating means to pay attention to the food and your body from seeing food till you finish your plate or glass of beverage. Focusing inculcate all the elements of mindfulness in eating. It makes you aware of what you are eating and doesn’t allow you to think and continues to think anything else. Especially while eating junk food and a bag of chips, large tin of soda drink needs this attention to control portion size to consume at a time.
A new research claimed that a short body scanning while eating and drinking gives you more signals of fullness and satisfaction that comes from your meal . This is recognized as a form of meditation and the only thing you focus is food. Eat mindfully and choose a peaceful place free of distractions i.e. computer screens, TV and other media related devices that draw your focus away from food. Studies in UK and USA showed that in this way you loose weight and eat less caloric food by keeping high caloric food away. Mindful eating helps you in accepting that eating all the food you have on table is not necessary .
Another study has shown that first bites of food are associated with enjoyment but rest would fall into an automatic process of regular food intake. This will lead you to get empty calories and not pleasure. Recall enjoying first two bites of chocolate mousse and then the pleasure ends as you end with eating your portion for one time. Eat with purpose; eat mindfully, purpose of satisfying your needs, happiness that is derived from food and awareness about this daily nutrient gaining process. Various research evidences support that people who increase mindful eating eventually decreases more weight and stay healthy  .
Mindful meditation to stay away from emotional eating
Mindful eating facilitates the knowledge about our internal cues. Even the basic method of being mindful called the deep breathing method provides great depth in recognizing own emotions. Inhale and exhale and keep your focus on your breath. Counting breaths or number of bites of food per time can perform this. The rise and fall sensations through inhaling from nostril and exhaling from mouth by feeling the rise in chest and fall in stomach muscles bring back your attention from wandering thoughts to the present moment. Body scan is another method to regulate emotions and stop excessive eating by providing your focus an opportunity to observe different parts of body to experience change while eating .
The mindful act is done without judgment and trying to change the process. From head to toe focus on different parts one by one. Physical tension is released and it helps you in recovering awareness from time to time. Similarly you can do it while walking, it is good for those who are energetic and always move even if they are working at office or are at home. This would allow them to be conscious while in movement and serves good to those who eat while standing, in stress and while traveling. The mobility meditation is used to gain a greater sense of control over one’s actions and feelings  .
After you start mindful eating, by the end of a week you would feel that you are seeing patterns and behaviors of bodily cues and its response to hunger and feeling of fullness. The key to this exercise is to start doing it outside eating time as well. So that the practice would be automatic and you would need no extra effort for intake of food. After becoming aware, make a list of all the alternate options to do when emotional eating comes around i.e. pleasurable activities, doing sports, art, watching a show on media etc. Or you can make a list of foods with minimum calories i.e. fresh and organic foods to chew in without any burden and guilt afterwards especially in between meals .
Scientific data about healthy weight, weight loss and change in appetite
Meditation benefits for healthy eating and weight management is sufficiently supported by research. Among all the ages of men and women the abdominal fat shed off with the use of meditation. In a study, for four months women in stress who were obese as well sought meditation intervention. The chronic stress reduced and fat shed off with drastic decrease in their cortisol levels. In the same way, a control group and intervention group was arranged for women with measuring their BMI every month for 6 months, the meditation helped them in changing the eating response and marked change in eating habits  .
Findings of research series suggest that giving attention to one’s state of body and mind is good to control impulsive response rate. Eating emotionally is one of the impulsive action and works like addiction. Meditation is potentially a powerful method to hold one’s intentions of eating without hunger just to compensate emotional distress. Binge eating is also seen to reduced along with decline in anxiety and management associated with one’s body image, weight and portion control. Randomized control trials have analyzed that even after 2 years of follow-up the subjects who were practicing meditation with suggested diet remained satisfied and less problematic when it comes to health than those who only stuck to diet .
Some more relevant studies are a 4 weeks treatment that was given to obese females who showed decline in binge eating just after 2 weeks with the use of mindful eating methods that also improved their mood. More than 31 studies reported that weight dropped after the similar treatment in couple of weeks. Another study revealed that after 8 weeks of treatment on intuitive eating challenged the eating habits of overweight people and worked long term when it comes to weight management rather than diet and other methods that were not effective for long term use i.e. 1-2 years .
One needs to continue practice of mindful eating for the benefits throughout life and in diverse areas i.e. mood management, eating habits, weight management etc. keep moving is a traditional method to increase concentration and focus on oneself because most of the time due to mobility we loose connection of body movements with internal state. Food consumption must be limited when you are doing something else i.e. activity, playing game, watching a favorite show. Do not exhaust yourself with the effort of being mindful. Socialization is an essential process we must do daily but again food consumption must be limited and as healthy as possible in these scenarios .
Whenever you meet a person, chat with friends and discuss other important issues with someone officially, make sure the focus is on communication and not food. When you are worried, dig deep and feel why you are stressed about what is bothering you? Rather than leaving the problem aside and eating to curb that troublesome feeling, anxiety, anger and depressive feelings are most common reasons behind eating inappropriately. Pick some activity to do as a child, remember the things that are responsible to release feeling good chemicals without much caloric content. Such foods include boiled corn with salt and pepper, green and red chili or lemon. You can use veggies and fruits as well  .
However, plan monthly meals based on natural sweet foods, natural sour foods and less savory foods because they are mood booster and a source of pleasure when you crave for something. The cravings are natural; sometimes they indicate deficiency . Make sure you are consulting a professional if you are unable to handle it yourself and the condition is not improving. It is the priority that you care and save yourself from getting something worse before its too late rather than keeping on testing hit and trial. Replace unhealthy oils with healthy oils i.e. sunflower oil, nuts and sesame.