It may seem like a paradox, but focusing on your food could be the secret weapon in your medical weight loss program. Think about it: When was the last time you ate a meal and actually savored each bite? If you’re used to spending most of your time inhaling your food at your desk, dashboard dining, and trying to figure out how your toddler’s leftover chicken fingers disappeared, you may be in need of a mindful eating makeover.
What is mindful eating? Culled from Buddhism—which centers around mindfulness in all aspects of living—mindful eating has become a simple yet powerful tool you can use to help you lose weight or maintain weight loss.
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Put simply, mindful eating is:
· Being present for each sensation of the experience of eating.
· Awareness of the chewing, tasting, and swallowing of food, moment by moment.
There are lots of different concepts in mindful eating, but an important one is being present—rather than future—focused. We spend so much of our time fixating on the future and letting the present slip by unnoticed. This is especially true of eating. We’ll be captivated by the image of a delectable but ‘forbidden’ food, while barely acknowledging what’s under our nose. Mindful eating strives to change that. Ready to get started? Here’s an activity to get you focusing on the present moment—and meal:
‘Sort’ your food. The next time you sit down to a meal, mentally label what you’re going to eat by imagining three buckets. Label one bucket ‘positive,’ one ‘neutral,’ and one ‘negative.’ In your mind, put each food item you’re about to eat into one of the three buckets.
Now that you’ve labeled your food, think about why you gave it the label you did. For foods you labeled positive, think what it is about the food you like so much. For those that are neutral or negative, consider why you put it in that bucket. Realize that we won’t always be able to have ‘positive’ eating experiences (just like not every moment of life is positive, either—wouldn’t that be nice!).
But by mentally sorting our food we take the first step toward awareness of our attitude about it and eating it mindfully in the present moment. Through this we can move toward choosing foods we feel positive about that also promote health and well-being—and that can help us achieve our weight -loss goals.