Mindful eating has been used to treat a wide range of eating issues, such as the inability to lose or gain weight, binge eating, eating disorders and everything in between over many years.
Changing the way you eat is not just about putting rules over your food preferences. Instead, it’s about being aware of what and how you eat to reach many psychological and physical health advantages.
When you practice mindful eating, you become present and aware of yourself. So you can naturally start controlling your portions, choosing healthy food options and avoiding emotional or over-eating. Here are 5 life-changing benefits of mindful eating:
Better Control Over Your Weight
Mindful eating isn’t all about weight loss. The bottom line is that when you tune into your body’s real needs and put an end to the stress and/or emotional eating, you naturally start improving your eating habits and it is likely that the weight generally takes care of itself.
Whether you’re trying to lose weight in an unhealthy way, overeating or under-eating, in any way you may have lost track of your real bodily cues to hunger and fullness. When you engage in mindless eating, you’re not meeting your body’s needs in whether this means neglecting to eat a variety of healthy ingredients, eating in line with your real calorie needs, or helping yourself cope with stress. It might mean that you eat processed and heavy “comfort” foods” too often or portion sizes that are too large, which makes you gain weight. But for some people, not practicing mindfulness around food can also lead them to undereat or just to eat the wrong types of food.
Either way, ignoring your body’s signals and need for healthy foods can result in weight fluctuations and health problems. Gaining unhealthy weight from overeating processed foods and failing to deal with them in a positive way can lead to diabetes, obesity and heightened risk for various other diseases. If you’re dieting, skipping breakfast, or restricting certain foods, you may be not getting enough calories or nutrients, which is also harmful. The good news is that if you’re someone who does need to lose weight, mindfulness is very likely to help.
Less Stressing About Food
Stress can sabotage your diet and fitness goals. Everyone deals with emotional eating to some degree. That’s a part of being human! We all love to eat, enjoy different foods and find comfort in our favorite meals. But some people can manage the natural desire to eat delicious foods better than others, figuring out how to include occasional indulgences in an otherwise healthy eating plan.
Just eliminating emotional eating can impact your weight and health immensely because it stops a vicious cycle. Awareness can help you avoid stress eating because it teaches you to respond to situations instead of just reacting to them. You recognize your cravings but don’t let them automatically control you or determine your decisions.
When you are more in tune with your emotions and how they drive your food choices, you stop eating when you are full and you eat more realistic portion sizes. Also, when you are more aware of the impacts of stress on you, you can stop automatic behaviors that lead to indulging — which for many people results in feelings of shame and then even more stress!
You have probably witnessed by now that chronic stress can lower your quality of life. Stress-induced eating habits to that need be broken include grazing, constant snacking, craving chocolate and other carbs, or sugar addiction. You stop the cycle by noticing problematic thinking about food and start dealing with cravings before giving into them.
More Satisfaction From Eating
Mindful eating reconnects you with your body’s signals and senses. Mindful eating plugs you back into your pleasure around foods without letting you lose control. While it might seem counterproductive to try and experience even more satisfaction from eating, the more we pay attention, the less food we usually need!
Think about it, when you pay attention to every second of eating something delicious, like a warm chocolate cake, for example, usually a few bites do the trick. You recognize it tastes good, you realize how much you’ve already eaten and you remind yourself there’s always going to be another chance to have some again. But you don’t finish the whole plate because it’s in front of you, eat despite feeling full physically, feel guilty or tell yourself “this is my only chance to eat this.”.
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No Need to “Diet” Ever Again!
While weight loss can definitely happen as a result of mindful eating, the real goal is to focus on giving your body what it needs, to remain healthy and, of course, to feel good! When you eat just the right amount needed to make your body function, you naturally settle at a healthy weight without needing to follow any “diet plan.” Popular diet plans usually don’t work long-term because they don’t teach you to manage your emotions and preferences.
Mindful eating is radically different than any fat diet because it’s not about cutting out food groups or starving yourself. Mindful eating is something you do for the long term rather than something you go “on” and “off” of, and it teaches you to listen to your own body.
Better Prevention and Management of Health-Related Conditions
Training yourself in mindful eating can result in better self-management over diseases, including diabetes, digestive issues, eating disorders and more. Mindfulness helps reduce binge eating, emotional eating and/or unhealthy weight changes in people engaging in these harmful behaviors.
Other Physical Benefits
Mindfulness meditation has been shown to help lower cortisol levels (which contribute to obesity) and lower your blood pressure, heart rate and stress levels. We don’t have conclusive evidence that suggests mindful eating has the same effects.
However, Daubenmier’s own research, published in the October 2016 journal Obesity, suggests that the benefits of mindful eating can help overall health. “Our study shows it may lower the ratio of triglycerides to HDL (good) cholesterol, which reduces the risk of heart disease,” Daubenmier says. “It may also help control blood sugar, possibly because of reductions in sugary foods.”
Better cardiovascular health and better blood sugar control can help stave off heart problems and Type 2 diabetes.
Another study Daubenmier led, published online Sept. 10, 2019, by Mindfulness, found that mindful eating along with mindfulness meditation was associated with better cardiovascular responses to stress (such as more relaxed blood vessels during stressful events), which may help individuals perform better under stress and contribute to better heart health.