HOW CAN MINDFUL EATING CHANGE OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD?
I used to be a serial dieter. If I wasn’t actually on a diet, I’d be planning to start my next weight loss or healthy eating plan, probably on Monday morning! But somehow, after a few months, weeks or sometimes days, I’d lose my way and the weight would creep back on and so called ‘bad’ foods would find their way back into my life. Does this sound familiar? We start each new diet or healthy lifestyle change feeling so full of motivation and determination to succeed, but after a while, the novelty and enthusiasm wears off and old habits creep back in.
Sadly, this dieting cycle leaves so many of us feeling like failures, if we just had more willpower to resist eating the ‘wrong’ foods and stick to the diet rules, then we could succeed once and for all. This idea that we are at fault keeps us trying, and failing over and over. The truth is, that research into the long-term effects of dieting show that we are not alone in finding it difficult to stick to a diet. While almost any type of weight loss diet or eating plan will work in the short term, in the long term, the vast majority of dieters will regain the weight they lost.
This can all feel somewhat depressing, to recognise ourselves in these repeated cycles of hope and failure, weight loss and gain. But the thought of giving up on diets and weight loss for good can feel worryingly like ‘letting ourselves go’ and giving in to an unhealthy diet, weight gain and ill health.
What if there is another way? What all diets and healthy eating plans have in common is that they all impose change from the outside. All we have to do is follow a set of rules about what to eat and the excess weight melts away and we become fit and healthy. It sounds simple, and we can all follow the rules for a while, but if we are people who struggle with binge eating, or disordered eating due to stress, or emotional reasons, then the diet model often doesn’t work for us as there are so many other factors at play in our food choices.
So how can Mindful Eating help us address issues with overeating, get off the diet cycle for good and re-establish a healthy relationship with food? A clue to the benefits of Mindful eating can be found in this definition of mindfulness-
Mindfulness is deliberately paying attention, being fully aware of what is happening both inside yourself- in your body, heart and mind- and outside yourself, in your environment. Mindfulness is awareness, without judgment or criticism.
We can let go of the external rules and instead begin to shine the light of enquiry and curiosity onto what really drives our eating behaviours. That’s where the magic happens, from understanding our own needs and desires comes lasting change.
By paying attention, with kindness, patience and compassion, we begin to hear what our body, heart and mind are really hungry for. We learn how to take a mindful pause, within which we can begin to hear the truth behind our desire to eat. When eating stops being a mindless, automatic response, the opportunity arises to explore our true needs rather than stuffing them down with food.
Over time, the practice of Mindful Eating allows us to relearn that joyful and simple relationship with food we once had, before we learned to count calories, fat grams and carbs. So, if you’ve just fallen off that diet cycle again or you are looking for a radical new solution to disordered eating, contact me to find out how to begin your own journey into Mindful Eating and rediscovering a healthy, joyful relationship with food.