Words by Claire Sankey.
In January we’re often bombarded with messages about losing weight and the latest diet. If you find yourself in a pattern of dieting in January and then yo-yoing throughout the year, it might be time to rethink your regime and practice mindfulness for better weight management.
Dieting is the number one cause of disordered eating. The 1944 Minnesota Starvation experiment (healthy men were put on a six-month restricted calorie diet) showed a stark link between undernourishment and the onset of unhealthy body image and food behaviours (binge eating, cravings, disordered eating, body dysmorphia).
The best-intentioned January diet could be setting you up for a year of weight yo-yo-ing, which carries health risks such as heart disease, increased inflammation and messing with your gut microbiome and mental health.
The diet industry will suck you into short-term thinking, but if you want to be healthier you need change long-term.
Mindfulness is a lifelong practice which can help you shift your relationship with food and your body and is associated with less impulsive eating, reduced calorie consumption, and healthier snack choices.
Further, mindfulness-based interventions can help you manage the difficult emotions that can lead to comfort eating.
Mindfulness means paying attention, on purpose, to what is happening in the present moment and adopting the attitudes of kindness, acceptance and non-judgement.
Mindful eating is the practice of slowing down and noticing your food, paying attention to your body’s cues and savouring every bite.
Follow these steps to practise mindful eating:
● Remove all distractions (phone, TV etc) and set a timer for five minutes.
● Eat slowly (put cutlery down between each bite or chew
● Get curious about how much you can notice, such as tastes, smells, colours and textures.
● Pay attention to your body’s hunger and satiation cues.
Taking a few minutes to practise mindful eating each day may help support you towards a healthier relationship with food and help you to ditch the yo-yo dieting for good.
Claire Sankey is a certified mindfulness, yoga and somatics practitioner. Mindfulness was a key part in her recovery from an eating disorder.