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salad-698685_640Mindfulness means being fully aware within the present moment.  When you practice mindful eating, you are paying attention to your body’s natural, subtle cues, specifically the ones that say “feed me” and “I’m full.”  Much has been written about losing weight with mindful eating: meticulously observing the content of your food, slowly lifting the fork to your mouth, thoroughly chewing each bite, and leisurely visualizing the food’s journey to your stomach.  But even if you do not have time or the inclination to engage in this process at every meal, it is still possible to lose weight by using some of the following methods that make the approach successful.

Eat until you are about eighty percent full: Research have shown that it takes about twenty minutes for your body to recognize the food in your system.  Thus, if you eat until you are one hundred percent full, then you are likely to eat about twenty percent more than what you really need.  So, what should you do?  Start by eating normally today, but pay attention to the sensation of being full.  Contemplate the word “satisfied,” and enjoy your food without the obligation of cleaning your plate.  Think “comfortable” instead of “full.”  Visualize a hunger meter that works like a car’s gas gauge.  On a scale from zero to ten, zero being empty and ten being Thanksgiving Day full, how hungry are you when you begin eating?  Check in with yourself at regular intervals, and try to stop eating when your gauge is between six and eight.  This will help you maintain your diet and lose weight.

Pause for thirty seconds: In addition to focusing on your level of satisfaction, ask yourself, “What am I really hungry for?”  Recognize that moderate hunger is good.  It is a signal that your body may need something.  However, before grabbing that bag of chips, candy bar, or brownie, take a moment to listen to both your body and your emotions.  During the thirty seconds pause, evaluate if your stomach is hungry for food or something else?  If the hunger is food-related, ask yourself what would hit the spot.  If your “hunger” is not a physical one, then note your emotional state.  Are you bored, depressed, or stressed?  These are all common triggers for overeating.  So, ask yourself what is your “hunger” feeling really needing, and then, find ways to “feed” those needs that do not involve eating.

Write it down: One of the best ways to keep track of your mindful eating progress is keeping a food diary.  In addition to writing down what you eat, also note the time you ate, any distractions, if you stopped eating when you were satisfied, and how you felt physically and emotionally before and after eating.  Writing down what you ate helps you discover the emotions and circumstances that lead you to overeat.  Your journal will give you insight into what your potential diet pitfalls are.  Once you know what the triggers are and when they strike, then you can be ready to disarm them and ultimately lose weight.

Eat one snack without distractions: Focus on eating one snack using mindfulness techniques.  When you are comfortable, try eating one meal without distractions.  Although it is not always practical to do this, practicing regularly, such as once a day, is a valuable habit to create.  Start by sitting alone and without distractions – turn off the television, put away the bills, close the newspaper, etc.  Focus your attention completely in the present moment.  Whether you have chosen to eat a slice of apple or a slice of cheese, consider its shape, color, aroma, and taste.  Savoring what you eat as often as possible will help you be aware of what you are eating and lose weight in the long-run.

Take these steps to the grocery stores: Another basic of mindful eating is making sure you have a variety of healthy foods on hand.  Plan out what weight-loss friendly meals and snacks you want to eat in advance, and make a list before you head out to the store.  Also, eat a little something before you go grocery shopping, so you are not hungry and end up buying everything that immediately appeal to you.  

Remember that mindful eating does not work if you do not eat healthy, balanced meals nor does it work if you skip meals or if you deprive yourself all of the time.  Thus, stock up on your favorite leafy greens, tasty cheeses, and other healthy snacks.  Food is to be enjoyed and not mindlessly consumed in secret.  It is alright to feel hungry, enjoy eating, and feel satisfied with feeling stuffed or guilty.

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