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For Weight Loss, Mindfulness is Key
When it comes to weight management, skip the tough and go straight to the love.
The moments you overfeed your body are moments of suffering. When you see others in pain, you offer your love and compassion. Yet your inner critic, brutal and insensitive, guarantees that you keep feeling bad. Apply the same consideration to yourself.
If weight loss is the goal, dieting, deprivation and self-flagellation are not the answers.
The dieting mentality is not kind. This thinking causes you to skip meals or ignore hunger. You punish yourself with overzealous exercise. You deprive yourself of the foods you love, and binge when you feel starved, both physically and emotionally.
Food, instead of being a source of life and energy, becomes the enemy and a tool for self-harm.
Eating is a Self-Love Ritual
Eating is a rich and sumptuous experience. But sometimes, we use it to cope. Those high-glycemic carbs raise serotonin levels in the brain for a quick high that crashes a few hours later.
There is no right or wrong way to eat, contrary to the parade of diets clogging the media. However, there are varying degrees of awareness, according to Deborah Lee, PhD, RN, a certified integrative health coach who leads an eight-week Florida workshop on mindful eating.
When you eat with knowledge of your body, concern for the planet and all living things including yourself, weight loss will be an outcome, she said.
She explained that health involves a spectrum of spheres including mindfulness, movement, exercise and rest, nutrition, relationships and spirituality.
Everything you take in through your senses is food, either toxic or nourishing.
Watching the scale drop and noting the decrease of cholesterol or glucose aren’t the only indicators of progress. Although it’s important to be aware of your numbers, especially for those with cardiovascular disease, diabetes or other health conditions, you should be cautious of “fictional finalism,” Lee said.
A common refrain is that if you could only reduce your weight (or achieve any other isolated life improvement), you would be happy. In fact, the reverse is true. Once you become mindful, everything in life falls into place, and the if-onlys disappear.
Feed Yourself with Mindful Love—for Everyone
Consider this mindfulness eating meditation developed by Sasha T. Loring, author of Eating with Fierce Kindness. Sit and stare at your food, a fast-food bacon cheeseburger, perhaps. Break it down. Imagine all of the individual ingredients and where they came from. The beef and cheese from the cow. The bacon from the pig. The factory farmhouses. The feedlots. The bun’s flour, sugar and salt. The GMO wheat. The pesticides. The farmers. The delivery truck drivers. The minimum wage workers who prepared the burger.
Imagine consuming each of these “ingredients” separately. Is your desire the same as it was?
There is no excuse for being unaware.
There are plenty of resources for learning about where you food comes from on Netflix: Supersize Me; Vegucated; Forks over Knives; Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead and Food, Inc.
Shop the perimeter of the market, and only use whole foods from nature. Select every ingredient yourself, and remember the benefits of a plant-based diet.
Dinner should take at least 45 minutes to prepare. Instead of the bagged salad mixes, choose your greens. Pull off the leaves of different types of lettuce. Slice the carrots and cucumber yourself. Top with walnuts, berries and a drizzle of your favorite olive oil.
Make Your Table an Altar
Set a table that signifies the importance of your soul’s nourishment. A placemat. A cloth napkin. Candles. Soft music. Skip television, your phone and reading material.
Follow this ritual suggested by mindfulness coach Madeline Ebelini.
Sit with legs uncrossed, eyes closed, and place your hands on your belly. As you breathe deeply, still your thoughts, and clear your mind.
Cut your first bite. Press the food against your mouth, and run your tongue across your lips. Taste what will feed you. Place it in your mouth. Slowly chew.
Notice the texture, the temperature, the flavor, the sound. Return your knife and fork to the plate in between each mouthful. Chew while synchronizing your breath. Drop your hands to your lap. As you swallow, direct your awareness to the sensation of the food traveling to the back of your throat and to your stomach.
But It’s Easier to Binge
All of these meditations sound ideal, but sometimes you’re powerless to stop your self-destructive relationship with food.
You know you are feeding emotions rather than your hunger. You know you’re trading long-term health for short-term fulfillment.
When you’re lost in such moments, simply attempt to break the patterns to teach yourself that you aren’t a slave to your habits, and you’re not your inner-critic’s victim.
This is when Ebelini suggests you engage that critic. Your critic is trying to help you be your best self, so say, “I know you are trying to help me, but you aren’t helping me right now.”
Now, change it up.
Chew every bite of that takeout that you’re eating out of the container 32 times.
Only binge eat sitting at the table.
Yes, eat all the cookies you want. Just bake them yourself with natural ingredients.
When it comes to fast food, skip the drive-thru; walk there, eat there and walk home.
You may not be able to stop eating for other satisfactions right now, but you can chip away at the patterns. Be mindful of that.
For more information about mindful eating and Madeline Ebelini, director of Integrated Mindfulness, Bonita Springs, FL, visit http://integrativemindfulness.net.
Nancy B. Loughlin is based in SW Florida. As a writer, she explores yoga, meditation, green living, sustainability and all things funky. As a certified yoga teacher, her practice is dedicated to working with incarcerated children and helping people recover from trauma and PTSD. She's always interested in applying yogic thinking to wild life experiences including marathons, mountain climbing, and skydiving. Visit her website www.NamasteNancy.com or Twitter @NancyLoughlin.