Mindful Eating vs. Dieting: Part three

Learn about the principles of mindful eating and how the practice can replace dieting.

Mindfulness is a practice of slowing down and staying in the moment without judgment. In contrast, dieting is often judgement-based and promotes abstinence from certain foods or caloric reduction. Slowing down and being aware without judgment seems much easier than dieting until you actually physically try it. However, there is some great information available to help anyone who wants to start introducing mindful eating into their lives.

Dr. Jan Chozen Bays book, “Mindful Eating – A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food,” makes you realize that the reasons people eat are a complex subject. In her book, she explains seven kinds of hunger and patterns of eating and how habits form. The book explains how to unwind these patterns through six simple guidelines to become more mindful of the pleasures of eating. Mindfulness truly is the basics of eating and getting back to listening and appreciating what our body is communicating to us, much like an infant instinctively does.

This article explores the third principle- The energy equation (learn about the first principle, slowing down). In the last article, eating the right amount of food was explained. The energy equation is similar in that it focuses on being mindful of the amount of food we buy, prepare and eat but this third principle of mindful eating focusses on the idea of food as an energy source. Dr. Bays explains that when we eat, we take in energy. When we live our lives, we are releasing and spending that energy. If our weight stays constant, it is a sure sign that the energy flowing through our bodies is equal to the energy flowing out. 

The main way we get energy into our bodies (besides breathing) is by eating. You can’t absorb calories mysteriously just by working or looking at foods, you have to eat them. The release or flow of energy coming out  of our bodies is complex and may not be fully understood. However, we know energy flows out in all the activities we do including unconscious activities like keeping the body warm and keeping the metabolic factories in all our cells operating. We also use energy when we exhale warm breath, urinate, shiver or when we have a fever, energy use of this kind is called “insensible loss.”

America has an obesity issue and although the issue remains a complex one, in many ways it also continues to be an issue of energy imbalance. American’s portion sizes, choice of cheaper calorie-rich foods, grazing and snacking and other less-mindful eating practices all add-up to a greater intake of energy than previous generations. We have less energy flow coming out due to working less for our food, having more sedentary lifestyles than a generation ago and more entertainment that requires minimum or no exercise and reduced recess and physical education in schools. 

Being mindful when eating involves paying attention to what we are eating and what we can do to help maintain a balanced energy flow. Making just one small adjustment can make a huge difference. Try parking the car further away from the office and taking the stairs or taking moderate first servings and looking at why you are taking seconds – hunger or habit?  

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