This week we will be discussing mindful eating and how to incorporate it into your lifestyle to support healthy weight loss. During peri-menopause and menopause, weight gain is common and using mindful eating techniques can help to manage your weight.
What is Mindful Eating?
Mindful eating comes from the broader term mindfulness. Mindfulness is used as a type of meditation where you focus on your own thoughts, emotions, and what you are feeling physically in a moment. This is additionally done without judgement.
In terms of mindful eating, this refers to using the principles of mindfulness when eating. It promotes eating without judgement and using all of your senses to enjoy the food that you are eating .
What are the Key Characteristics of Mindful Eating?
There are seven main practices of mindful eating, as identified in the book ‘Savour’ . These are as follows:
- Honour the food – acknowledge where your food has come from and eat without distractions.
- Engage all senses – use all your senses to engage whilst eating, pausing periodically.
- Serve in modest portions – this prevents overeating and food waste.
- Savour small bites, and chew thoroughly – this ensures that you are not rushing your meal and fully experiencing the food.
- Eat slowly to avoid overeating – you are more likely to recognise when you are full if you take your time with the meal.
- Don’t skip meals – going long periods of time between meals can increase the likelihood of making poor food choices to save time at your next meal. Try to keep to set times for your meals.
- Eat more plant-based – plant-based diets can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and some cancers, as well as helping the environment.
What are the Benefits of Mindful Eating?
In terms of the benefits of mindful eating, mindfulness has been associated with healthier eating habits. One study found a positive relationship between mindfulness and less impulsive eating, reduced calorie intake, and healthier snack choices. It is suggested that this may be due to a change in behaviour by encouraging preferences to healthier foods . To learn more about healthy snacks, read this blog post.
Furthermore, there is little evidence on the effectiveness of mindful eating in weight loss interventions. However, several studies identified that mindful eating helped to reduce emotional eating, binge eating, and eating in response to external cues [4, 5].
Mindful Eating for Menopause and weight loss
Mindful eating is a useful tool for peri-menopause and menopause to help support the impact of hormonal changes on our bodies. Using the 7 main principles of mindful eating can help to tune into your hunger and fullness levels with more intention. Being more aware of our bodies and how to respond to our food choices, can be really useful. For example, recognising hunger and fullness can help you to make better food choices, prevent over-eating and minimise snacking on foods that don’t support your overall goal.
A study of a mindful eating intervention in obese, post-menopausal women found reductions in weight, BMI, waist-to-hip ratio, and binge eating [6)].
In summary, mindful eating may be useful if you are trying to eat healthier. Additionally, if you are trying to lose weight and binge eating, emotional eating, and eating in response to external cues are something you struggle with, it may be an appropriate lifestyle change for you.
Top Tips for Mindful Eating for weight loss
Here are 5 top tips, based on the principles for mindfulness:
- Slow down when eating to give yourself time to recognise when you are full.
- Don’t skip meals to prevent hunger leading to make convenient, poor food choices.
- Serve food in modest portions to stop yourself from feeling inclined to finish the full plate.
- Try to eat more plant-based to reduce CVD and cancer risk.
- Use all of your senses when eating to decrease the likelihood of eating in response to external cues.
Caroline Hill is a specialist menopause dietitian supporting women making dietary change. Caroline uses her extensive knowledge, skills and expertise of food and nutrition to help women manage their symptoms and weight during menopause. Caroline believes in providing sustainable, individualised, evidence-based advice to women making dietary change.