Written on May 22, 2023 by Gillian (Gigi) Singer, MPH. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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Weight loss and management have become topics of great importance for many individuals. However, the conventional approach of restrictive diets and intense workouts often leads to short-term results and unsustainable habits. A more holistic and long-term solution lies in incorporating mindfulness into our health journeys. By cultivating awareness of our bodies, habits, and mental state, you can work to create lasting changes, if that is your goal. Read on to learn more about mindfulness for weight loss and management: how to tune into your body and break old habits.
Make no mistake, mindfulness is not pseudoscience—scientific research has been done on mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) to target various eating/weight change behaviors. Research has shown that practicing mindfulness can reduce emotional eating, increase self-regulation, and improve overall well-being.
Mindfulness is “awareness of one’s internal states and surroundings” that “can help people avoid destructive or automatic habits and responses by learning to observe their thoughts, emotions, and other present-moment experiences without judging or reacting to them.”
“It is through mindful practices that we come to better understand how we navigate our human experience,” says Dani Moye, a Connecticut-based licensed marriage and family therapist.
Benefits of mindfulness :
Mindfulness is used in several therapeutic interventions, including mindfulness-based cognitive behavior therapy, mindfulness-based stress reduction, and mindfulness meditation. It can be used to limit mindless behaviors, manage anxiety or depression, aid in substance use recovery, help cope with trauma, and even in health-based initiatives. When applied to weight loss and management, mindfulness helps us become more attuned to our body's signals, thoughts, and emotions surrounding food, eating, exercise, and all that accompanies it.
A study that used mindfulness practice for weight management was detailed in Time Magazine; it describes that “People who were more mindful and paid more attention to body sensations didn’t weigh less than their less mindful peers, but they experienced fewer weight fluctuations over time.”
“Very few of us eat solely based on hunger cues. We also eat to soothe anxiety, sadness, or irritation,” says Ronald D. Siegel, an assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School. He continues, “That's a recipe for mindless eating: You're operating on automatic pilot, without paying attention to how you really feel, emotionally or physically.”
The article also discusses the success of various strategies: “Another promising strategy noted in the review includes different types of mindfulness meditation, such as an eating-focused practice in which people were taught to acknowledge their hunger levels, emotions, thoughts, motivations, and eating environment with acceptance but without judgment. The practice was most effective when combined with self-compassion, which involved repeating phrases of goodwill and benevolence for oneself and others.”
Here are a few tips for incorporating mindfulness into your daily life.
Mindful eating involves engaging all your senses while eating, savoring each bite, and paying attention to physical hunger and fullness cues. It encourages slower eating, allowing the brain to register satisfaction, which can prevent overeating. Start by focusing on the flavors, textures, and aromas of your food, and practice gratitude for the nourishment it provides.
Take a few moments each day to scan your body from head to toe, observing any physical sensations or tension. This practice helps build a deeper connection between your mind and body, allowing you to identify areas of discomfort or stress that may contribute to emotional eating or other habits.
Recognize the environmental, emotional, and social triggers that lead to unhealthy eating patterns. It could be stress, boredom, certain locations, or specific foods. By acknowledging these triggers, you can develop strategies to respond mindfully instead of succumbing to old habits.
Engage in physical activities that you enjoy, such as yoga or walking, to reconnect with your body and cultivate mindfulness. Focus on the sensations in your body and the joy of movement rather than solely on weight loss goals.
Regular meditation practice enhances overall mindfulness and self-awareness. Consider incorporating guided mindfulness meditation into your daily routine to support your weight loss and management efforts.
Joining a mindful eating or weight management group can provide a supportive community and valuable insights from others on similar journeys. Sharing experiences, challenges, and successes can further enhance mindfulness and help break old habits.
Mindfulness offers a refreshing approach to health by shifting the focus from external factors to internal awareness. Remember, this process takes time and patience, so you must be kind and forgiving to yourself along the way. Embrace the power of mindfulness and embark on a sustainable path forward.
To speak with a healthcare provider about weight loss online, schedule an appointment through Everlywell's telehealth option.