Almost everyone has heard of mindfulness, but what is it? Mindfulness can be described as being present in the moment and living in a non-judgmental way. While this may sound simple, it can be quite difficult to do. However, mindfulness can be applied to many areas of your life, including weight loss. Let’s dive in and understand more what is mindfulness and 5 tools for success with your weight loss goals.
Why practice mindfulness?
It turns out mindfulness has many great benefits. Practicing mindfulness helps you reduce stress and anxiety, boosts your immune system and it even lowers blood pressure.
Mindfulness practice also makes you happier and more compassionate. When mindfulness practices are combined with a mindfulness meditation practice, the results are even greater.
What is mindfulness and how it applies to weight loss?
When it comes to weight loss, a mindfulness practice can be beneficial because mindfulness teaches you what foods, drinks, and events to avoid or engage in.
You also develop the ability to know when you are hungry and full sooner. What I teach is that it’s not necessarily what you’re eating, but how much you’re eating that causes weight gain. Mindfulness changes all of that. You can still eat all the foods you know and love while being mindful and not gaining weight.
If not practicing mindfulness, weight gain will happen.
It’s mindlessness that leads to weight gain. It’s eating when not hungry or already full that causes the number on the scale to rise.
What is mindfulness and what mindfulness is not.
When mindfulness is referenced, many people immediately think of mindfulness meditation. While mindful meditation is a wonderful tool and practice, it’s not all about meditation.
Practicing mindfulness is a comprehensive way of living and being in the world.
You can have mindfulness in your relationships, mindfulness with food, and mindfulness when exercising. When mindfulness is a part of your life it will positively impact all facets of your life.
What does practicing mindfulness look like?
To be effective, you must integrate mindfulness into your daily routine. The first step toward practicing mindfulness is to become more aware of what’s going on around you, what you’re feeling, and what you’re thinking.
For example, right now, observe this present moment. Tap into all 5 senses and see what you notice. The goal is to simply take note of what is going on externally and internally without any judgment. This takes practice.
It’s really difficult not to judge. However, it is critical to let all judgments go. Judgments are only harmful to you; they don’t serve your needs. Remember that merely noting and observing isn’t an issue; there are no associated criticisms required.
Instead of critical judgments coming your way, how about being kind and gentle with your thoughts and feelings? Self-compassion helps you notice what you are experiencing and not judge it, but accept it.
So, what is mindfulness? Simply put, it is the awareness of internal and external experiences without any judgement.
How do I start to practice mindfulness?
The importance of breathing.
I discovered that the easiest method to begin a mindfulness practice is to just pay attention to your breath. Breathing has a significant influence on your overall health and is the most important of all mindfulness exercises. Breathing is not just a basic human ability. It influences how you process emotions, how your muscles function, and even whether or not your skin and hair can be healthy!
Breathing helps moment to moment awareness, especially if you are someone that struggles with anxiety. Breathing keeps you in the present moment versus getting lost in the “what if” of the future. Lack of mindfulness affects both physical and psychological symptoms and breathing can be the game changer for both.
Breathing is also a big part of mindfulness meditation as well as mindfulness based stress reduction. It truly will positively impact your everyday life.
Develop a mindfulness meditation practice.
If you can develop a mindfulness meditation practice, you will see huge improvements in your overall awareness. There are many benefits of mindfulness and one of them is mindfulness meditation. This mindfulness technique helps reduce stress, anxiety, and reactivity. It increases self-awareness, staying in the present moment, and emotional health. Those are just a few of the benefits of a regular meditation practice.
There are apps you can get on your phone that aid and assist you in developing a practice. If stress is something you battle, then look for mindfulness based stress reduction in your meditation practice. You can start with 5 min a few times a week and gradually grow from there.
You will start to notice the benefits and get hooked. The important thing is not to feel like you have to be perfect in your mindfulness meditation or any mindfulness techniques. Your mind will wander. That is ok. Just simply keep coming back to your breath and carry on.
Count to 5 and slow down.
Count to 5 before answering your phone or replying to that email. Count to 5 before checking in, noting what you’re seeing, and then taking action if required. When responding to that email, you may need more than 5 seconds, but I hope it’s clear what I’m getting at.
Before reacting or replying, take your time. Just like with mindfulness meditation, a simple 5 seconds can help your awareness and therefore respond appropriately.
Now that you have a sense of how to develop a mindfulness practice, let’s look at how to apply it to your weight loss goals.
5 mindfulness tools of success for your weight loss goals.
Do you know your own hunger and fullness?
1) Pay attention to your hunger and fullness cues. If mindfulness could play only one role in your weight loss goals, it would be mindful eating. Mindful eating is what it sounds like, being aware, present, and nonjudgemental regarding your eating habits.
Most women are on autopilot when it comes to eating. They let the stress of the day lead to numbing out with food. So many women I work with eat without any awareness of their hunger or fullness. Half the time they don’t even know why they are eating. Can you relate?
Slowing down does wonders.
2) Eat slowly and mindfully. A great trick of putting down your fork between bites helps you slow down and check-in. Were you trained to eat everything on your plate? Do you eat quickly?
Try slowing down and this awareness will help you stop eating when you’re full versus eating and then all of a sudden you’re stuffed.
Do you have a plan?
3) Create a mindful eating plan. Being mindful and creating a plan means your plan is what is right for you? Don’t compare what you’re doing with others. Think about what will help you stay mindful around eating and stick to that.
Does that mean food prep on Sunday nights? Does that mean having lots of options of food to eat at home so that when you notice a craving you can have it without feeling deprived? Maybe it means working with a nutritionist or professional coach who will help you have a healthy relationship with food? Create a plan that works for you.
Are you an emotional eater?
4) Deal with emotions related to food. What emotions drive your eating? What do you feel when you’re eating? How can mindfulness help with those emotions? It means awareness of what is going on in the moment and having a response to it. It means honoring your emotions versus stuffing, avoiding, or numbing them.
Be willing to look at your emotions straight on. I promise they won’t kill you. Your emotions are indicators that something deeper is going on. You probably need something and the only way to get your emotional needs met is to honor your feelings versus push them away.
The power of compassion.
5) Practice daily self-compassion. Remember, the judgment does not serve you. Judgment produces guilt and shame which usually drives you to the pantry or refrigerator. Now is the time to release the judgments that hold you back and replace them with kind, gentle, self-compassion.
When you stop being so mean to yourself, you have space to treat yourself with love and respect. This is a game-changer when it comes to weight loss. Your body will not feel free to release any weight that does not serve you if you are carrying around unresolved guilt or shame. Love and kindness is the key to your prison.
Now you can see how being more aware, learning how to slow down, and taking inventory of what you are experiencing will increase your mindfulness. Applying this to your weight loss goals will help you have a healthy relationship with food and your body so that your weight loss can be sustainable and not something that fluctuates and leaves you feeling defeated.
Lesley Goth, PsyD, a sustainable weight loss coach, has developed a free masterclass where you can learn more mindfulness tools to start you on your weight loss journey. She has also created an online program to help women experience sustainable weight loss for the rest of their lives. To find out more, you can reach Lesley here.