It’s easy to get frustrated with all the conflicting weight loss advice. And even more confusing to sort through the information on how to stop dieting. Methods like intuitive and mindful eating sound great initially, but for some, it’s just as hard to continue those habits as it is to stay on a diet. Even research tells us that one of the biggest reasons diets don’t always work is that they are all but impossible to stick with (file that under obvious, right?).
Most diets are not meant to be permanent lifestyle changes. You do it for ten days, maybe 30, and eventually go back to normal eating. For most people, if the food restrictions go on for too long, any weight lost comes with a heavy price. With each new food restriction comes a barrier to freedom and missed opportunities to connect with others. Once these secondary consequences start to affect your well-being, the diet is now a big problem. Click here for a post on how to start the process.
By the same token, if new habits from mindful eating do not weave themselves into your lifestyle, you may come up empty on that count, too. When it feels like a chore or another thing you have to do, it’s really hard to stick with it. But just like with food, it’s the general approach to mindful eating that makes all the difference.
Why the struggle?
There are lots of reasons people get stuck or give up on mindful eating. Some people are just skeptical. Some get really into it and then give up when it doesn’t give them what they’d hoped. And others, frankly, feel intimidated by the whole idea. But there is one big reason that most people lose interest and that has to do with their willingness to confront uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. Where might you be getting stuck? You can share your struggles in the comments below.
The Disillusioned Dieter
If you’ve been on the dieting roller coaster for a while, you may already feel disillusioned when hearing any suggestion that changing how you eat might affect your well-being. You probably have some resistance to the very idea of mindful eating. Just as you would get disillusioned with a diet plan once it showed its true colors, it makes sense that you would be equally suspicious about eating mindfully. Maybe you’ve started a mindful eating practice, but didn’t really know if you were doing it right and weren’t really sure what the point was. Maybe you thought it was kind of dumb. Or boring. Or a little too New Agey. So you dropped it and went back to old habits.
Secretly Using Mindful Eating as a Diet
Even the die-hard diet-averse can get seduced by mindful eating as a non-diet approach to weight-loss. Using mindful eating as just another diet can seriously impact its effectiveness. If you approach mindful eating with losing weight as the main goal, you might miss out on the other benefits, such as more enjoyment and ease with food. It helps to remember that mindful eating is a practice with outcomes that compound over time as the practice becomes habit. When new habits become positive, sustainable lifestyle changes, the slow and steady progress that comes with those changes persists over time.
It pays to have patience and be willing to let go of the urgency to reach an expected result and focus more on your moment-to-moment experience with the practice itself. Keep an open mind and slow way, way down in order to listen to the body in a non-judgmental way.
And even though the idea that you can listen to your body and eat whatever you want and maintain a comfortable weight seems as farfetched as losing ten pounds in a week, the former is actually more realistic because it’s closer to a more natural and uncorrupted state.
The Mindfulness Newbie
Releasing the goal-oriented mind-set can be especially difficult for those who are new to mindfulness. In any mindfulness practice, the most important thing is to practice. Sure, it helps to gain a little background understanding of the context of a practice, but the real wisdom comes from doing. For more on developing mindfulness skills, check out my Mindful Self-Compassion Training.
What’s more, many people new to mindful eating soon discover that eating foods mindfully brings up a lot of anxiety or fears about eating certain foods and harsh judgments about themselves and their bodies. Sometimes this discomfort comes with a sense that other people can eat certain foods, but you can’t. The shame that comes with it triggers a lack of self-trust or discipline. Maybe even a fear of getting out of control or over-indulging. In reality, the trust issue is with the body. Consider this: If you were totally sure that your body wouldn’t change no matter what you ate, would willpower even be an issue?
You can always start here: Savoring Presence: Mindfulness Skills for Attuned Eating
Having an open-minded, observant approach is fundamental to mindful eating, being nothing more than a practice of opening up the senses to food in an attentive and non-judgmental way and learning to respond to the stimuli gently and non-reactively.
So how do you do that if every time you sit down to eat you feel consumed with uncomfortable thoughts and feelings about the food and your body? What if every time you mindfully eat a forbidden food, you freak out a little? What if just eating without distractions sounds foreign and impossible?
- Start small. Even just getting grounded before a meal and taking a few deep breaths can do wonders for meeting discomfort with more grace.
- Practice yoga or other mind-body activities to establish a positive connection with the body. That way you make room for your body to communicate with you and it becomes a lot less scary! Read about how here.
- Slow down. Make time for meals. Eat in a pleasant, uncluttered place away from distractions if possible.
- Work on identifying and challenging distorted beliefs about food outside of meal time so that when they come up, you’re ready. Paying attention is half the work!
- Read a book, take a course, or find a coach in mindful eating. Having some guidance will make it so much easier!
Want more tips? Click here to download a groovy infographic, Mindful Eating, Simplified! You’ll find 5 easy practices you can do on your own. (I bet it would look great on the fridge!)
Want more personalized guidance? I’d be happy to help you one on one. Click here to set up a phone call to see what would work for you or fill out the form below!