Mindfulness Meditation is a powerful practice and applicable to many aspects of our lives, including eating and dieting. In my own experience and the experiences of my clients I have found it to be an essential element in dieting, weight loss and dealing with diseases like diabetes.
Mindful eating is paying minute attention to every aspect of eating. Paying attention without making any value judgements. Paying attention in the present moment to the body’s needs, desires and reactions regarding nourishment. Mindful eating is also paying close, objective attention to food choices, sources, preparation, presentation, meal timing and, of course, eating. When practicing mindful eating we pay close attention to every taste and texture, every bite and swallow and to our body’s reaction to what we have just consumed.
For instance. When you drink a class of water mindfully you notice the vessel you are drinking from, the water as it touches your lips, the inside of your mouth, what it feels like swallowing the water, how it feels as it enters your throat. You can even feel how it enters your stomach and how your body reacts to receiving the liquid.
Mindful Eating Applied to Dieting
In my experience there are 2 major essential aspects to dieting; physical and emotional/psychological. Most diets are designed and presented primarily around the physical aspects while only giving the lightest mention of the emotional and psychological components of changing our dietary habits. I believe this is one of the reasons dietary changes are so difficult for so many people and why success rates for the long term are so low. I have found that mindfulness and meditation are powerful tools for dieting successfully. Being able to easily examine motivations, self-talk, desires, addictions and other emotional/psychological components of dieting is essential for our success. Being able to get beyond the negative self-talk and self-image is critical for success in dieting and in our lives. Mindfulness and meditation make this possible in a simple and accessible way for everyone.
When I was first diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes I immediately started researching alternatives to what I knew the endocrinologist was going to prescribe. I did not want to spend the rest of my life with this progressively debilitating disease. I also did not want to be taking insulin.
I did extensive research on reversing diabetes and found that the low carbohydrate – moderate protein diet seemed to make sense to me. So I immediately began the diet. I had never been on a specific diet before in my life. This one was quiet different. I had always avoided fat but I ate a lot of carbs and sugars. My body was used to this high carb diet and it was always craving carbs and sugar. I would almost always have something sweet in my breakfast and after lunch and dinner.
As expected, the endocrinologist prescribed Metformin and a typical American Diabetes Association diet. I had done enough research to realize that this medicine was only the beginning and that this diet was designed to maintain the diabetes at a ‘manageable’ level rather than curing it. This was not what I had in mind for my future. I had learned in my research that Type 2 diabetes was a reversible disease and did not need to be a life sentence with a progressively worsening prognosis.
The first 6 weeks on the diet were incredibly difficult. My body was screaming for sugars and carbs. The physical symptoms resembled a flu and I had to pay very close attention to my lifetime patterns of eating and drinking and not give in to them. I needed to change my lifestyle as if my life depended on it. Because it did.
Daily meditation and constant mindfulness were absolutely crucial to keep me going and to dealing with the physical discomforts. More importantly, these practices helped me deal with the emotional and psychological factors of changing my lifestyle. Every time I felt the strong desire for pasta, rice or bread I would look closely at the desire and where it came from. I would examine it to see if this is really what I needed to eat. When my mind filled my mouth with the memory of the taste of mint Oreos or chocolate I would not succumb. I was clear in my mind that I wanted my blood glucose level to be in the normal range and to stay there for the rest of my life. I wanted my body to heal from the damage caused by the many years of excessive sugar in my blood.
After the first 10 days on this diet my blood glucose level was down to normal and has remained there ever since. When desires do arise, I examine them in a mindful manner, without judgement or emotion. Will consuming this food be healthy for me? Will it help me maintain my normal blood sugar levels, my optimum weight and the health of my body? By using mindfulness I am able to maintain this diet easily and without any struggle. I cannot imagine why I would even ‘cheat’. Why would I do that to myself? After about 8 months on the Mindful Diet I was able to increase my carbohydrate intake. I was able to eat fruits and even a little ice cream now and then. My body no longer craved sugar so eating sweets was simply a conscious choice without any compulsions based on a physical or psychological addiction. By using Mindfulness Meditation, I was able to take control of all aspects of eating and my diet.
I have meditated most of my life so daily meditation comes automatically for me. In meditation I sometimes examine my mind’s motivations and inner dialogs. I have learned how to ‘dissolve’ those emotions and thoughts that are based on worthlessness, poor self-image, self-destructive behaviors and other ideas that are not in alignment with my best interests. This too has helped me to be successful at dieting.
Over the many years of my psychotherapy practice I have taught thousands of clients and students meditation and mindfulness. I have seen it change lives for the better and help people deal with life in a healthy and balanced way.
Mindfulness takes eating to a whole new level. It adds to the enjoyment of eating as well as making eating a healthier and more fulfilling experience. Mindful eating allows us to be in more control of what we eat, when we eat and how we eat. Of course, this provides us with tools that also help us change our diet and lifestyle for health reasons and to lose, gain or maintain our weight for optimum health.
If you would like more information on Mindful eating and dieting I recommend a website I have set up at www.dietingmindfully.com. I have posted some helpful tools there as well to assist you in accomplishing your healthy lifestyle changes.
If you would like to get a copy of the book about Mindful Eating here are the links for it:
For the pdf edition
For the paperback edition
For the Kindle edition
© 2018 Jon Shore
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