Mindful Eating: No Depression-Inducing Dieting
Ok, today I’ll indulge in this small piece of cake, and tomorrow I’ll make up for it by sweating in the gym for another 30 minutes. Sounds familiar? For those on a diet, every meal becomes a torture, because they cannot help craving the fried potatoes everyone’s eating, but reach out for a carrot salad. This approach to losing weight is often fruitless, and it is mindful eating that can help lead a healthy lifestyle.
Convenience foods are eaten by virtually everyone, but this convenience comes at a price. This way of dieting invariably implies increased intake of fats, sugar and salt, which take a toll on the consumer’s health. This problem arose in the 80s, when convenience food became popular and widely available. The shift towards the fast and easy resulted in obesity rates skyrocketing, with all the consequences for public health that follow.
But it was not the only result. The dieting trend also has its roots in the fast food craze. What was intended as a means of getting in shape turned out to be a nightmare to many, mainly because the changes in nutrition that the concept of dieting implies appeared too a bitter pillow to swallow.
Being on a diet means a lot of stress. Now that all comfort foods are gone, you cannot help thinking about them, and chewing another bland something does not inspire you to keep on ‘dieting’. Even if you manage to lose weight by cutting down on food and focusing on exercising–which is often used as a way of punishing yourself for breaking down and binge eating–the extra kilos you have just got rid of return pretty soon. Painful dieting leads to disordered eating patterns, which may include intentional vomiting, as a result of your inability to cope with the thought that you have violated the nutritional rules you have set, using laxatives, and so on.
This vicious cycle is very difficult to break, unless you reevaluate your attitude to eating completely. Overhauling your perception of food is what is usually required to free you from the unhealthy passion for it.
A different perspective
As an alternative to dieting, a new movement emerged, and its adherents usually stick to a set of ideas which can be called mindful eating. It usually involves the following:
- Ditching food restrictions (unless there is a disease that calls for nutrition adjustments). As a result, you stop craving everything that is prohibited.
- Eating only when you feel your body needs it. It does not mean that you can chew all the time – the body does not actually need that much food. Listening to it is a good strategy which can help you feed your body to sustain its functions, thus avoiding making food the ultimate goal.
- Eating just enough to stop when you are full. Remember that it takes some time for the body to understand it already has enough.
- Removing everything that may distract you, such as computers, TV, etc. If you are distracted, you are likely to eat more.
- Making exercising an activity that brings pleasure, not pain. Physical activity can help fight off depression, and by no means should it be a kind of punishment.
- Reevaluating your attitude towards food. It is a means of keeping the body functioning, not the purpose of life. If you stop feeling guilty for eating normal amounts of simple food, it can benefit both the body and the mind.
The message here is that listening to the body (though not very carefully – it is another extreme) is a better strategy than being on a strict diet which makes you angry and, which is probably most distressing, does not make you any slimmer. The body knows when it needs resources, and supplying it with normal, healthy foods rich in nutrients, including fats – yes, healthy fats! – is a natural way of losing weight.
A picture is worth a thousand words, as the idiom goes, and this video is a wonderful summary of what mindful eating is actually about.
A Review of Interventions that Promote Eating by Internal Cues – sciencedirect.com