Not losing weight? Stop overthinking it
Most of us believe that if we think enough about something, we can avoid making bad food choices.Thinking less and learning to eat with your mind may be a better strategy
If you've ever wondered endlessly about which diet to start with, you're probably an overthinker. Likewise, if you've ever been kept awake at night by boring questions like, “How much protein is in tofu?”, you're probably thinking too much, too. Yes, overthinking can also make you feel anxious if you're overcaloric or break out in a cold sweat at a restaurant when you realize you can't weigh your food.
But I'm going to share my weight loss secret: Don't overthink it.
Most of us believe that if we think enough about something, we can avoid making bad choices and gaining weight. An article published on behalf of the American Heart Association told us, “Although we place great emphasis on studying diets to determine which ones are most effective, we still come to the same answer: They are all effective in the short term and not in the long run. Look it works.”
Also read: How to Adapt a Mediterranean Diet to an Indian Plate
The truth is, the perfect diet doesn't exist, overthinking doesn't make you immune to failure, and losing weight isn't always about cutting back on food; it's about adding important life skills. A skill most of us are missing is mindful eating.
What is Mindful Eating
According to Harvard Medical School, mindful eating is “consciously paying attention to one's thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations in the moment. The goal of mindfulness is to become more aware of one's situations and choices, rather than reacting to them. Mindful eating means that you are Use all your physical and emotional senses to experience and enjoy the food choices you make.” If you've ever inadvertently fumbled through a bag of potato chips, this quote will hit you where it hurts. I call this lack of awareness “sleepwalking.” However, I believe we deserve more than that; we deserve to enjoy our food and not feel guilty about it.
The awareness you gain from practicing mindfulness can allow you to make subtle but powerful changes in your diet. In turn, this will lead to weight loss without you having to overthink your food choices. As a meditation app, Headspace says of mindful eating, “When we're more awake, our minds are calmer; and when our minds are calmer, we're less likely to get emotional or stressed out way of eating.”
Therefore, overthinking the “what” we eat is not as important as understanding the “why” we eat in the first place. This is where mindful eating bridges the gap between understanding our physical and emotional needs and the role food plays in between. After all, we can't avoid cake forever. Exercising our “mindfulness muscles” at mealtimes allows us to feel more confident in our food choices, both healthy and indulgent, giving us the resilience to maintain long-term weight loss results.
Overthinking can lead to failure because overthinking is primarily focused on one outcome: your weight loss goals. It's a desperate attempt at whatever it takes to cut, eliminate, squeeze and punish your body to reach your final destination. Instead, process goals, such as mindful eating, are more beneficial because they help you develop the skills you need to lose weight while improving your relationship with your body. Mindfulness is a way to calm the dieting process, making food and eating more enjoyable while still seeing results. As a weight loss coach, I recognize that most of my clients spend a lot of time trying new diets with little short-term results. This eventually leads to them starting to feel disconnected from their bodies or hating their bodies because they are not doing what they are begging them to do. They want more rules, but really, they need the connection between body, mind and food.
How to Build Mindfulness Muscle
Learning to be more mindful at mealtimes can be just as tricky as sticking to dieting rules. Just like picking up a barbell and doing bicep curls for the first time can feel awkward at first, practicing mindfulness can feel a little uncomfortable at first. That's why most people don't like it in the first place. However, just like the results of regular gym visits—getting stronger and gaining more skills—we’re more motivated to keep going, mindful eating is a habit that builds on you.
There are several ways to practice mindful eating. A good way to start is to ask yourself a few questions before eating during the day. Positive psychology says that mindful eating questions can be “who, what, when, where and why”. By answering these questions every time we feel like eating, we can better understand our eating habits and make positive dietary changes. After all, you can't change your behavior without knowing it.
Also read: What Khloe Kardashian Can Teach Us About Celebrating Ourselves
For example, ask yourself these questions while eating:
1. Why do I have to eat? am i hungry
2. When am I most hungry? How often do I want to eat it?
3. What do I eat? What do I most often reach for when I'm hungry?
4. How do I eat? When I'm distracted, do I eat quickly before running out the door?
5. How much do I eat? How does my body feel after eating?
6. Where do I invest the energy I expend? Do I exercise all day?
It's best to ask yourself these questions during one meal of the day so you don't get distracted. Record your answers to observe trends. After a few weeks, add these questions to more of your meals throughout the day to learn about your eating habits. You can glean a lot of useful information from this exercise; for example, maybe you eat every night in front of the TV, which causes you to “turn off” your mindfulness muscles, and when that happens you tend to eat less too full. A good response to this is to move your dining environment to a table and listen to soothing music.
Another activity that can help develop stronger mindful eating skills is to focus on enjoying your food. I tell people to slow down their meals to 20 minutes and see how their eating habits change in 20 minutes. Think it's easy? Most clients take 3-6 minutes to finish a meal (and possibly overeat). What would happen if you slowed down the process and enjoyed the texture of the food, the taste, the smell, or, goodness, the conversation over the meal? Do you notice that your body feels fuller? Would you stop eating sooner because of it? Are you more satisfied with your meals? Do you feel guilty knowing that you are not overeating?
If you're having trouble sitting down and focusing on your food, don't worry, I have a solution. This micro-activity created by Jon Kabat Zinn does the trick; it's called the “Raisin Meditation.” Here's how it works:
1. Hold the raisins between your fingers.
2. Look at the raisin; look at it as if you've never seen a raisin before.
3. With your eyes closed, turn the raisins over with your fingers to feel the texture.
4. Put the raisins in your mouth without chewing. scroll it.
5. Start chewing, 1-2 mouthfuls at a time, noticing how the flavor oozes out.
6. After swallowing a raisin, visualize it in your stomach.
Jen Thomas is a Weight Loss Coach in Chennai