Are you mindful when you eat?

When clients come to see me for weight loss, I ask them ‘How fast do you eat?’.  Most of them tell me that they eat quickly, often with the TV on.  I explain the importance of eating slowly and without distractions so that you can hear the messages that your body sends you when it has had sufficient to eat.

Last week I had an extraordinary experience.  I persuaded a friend to experience mindful eating with me.  I cut up some salad vegetables and feta cheese in bite sized portions and put them into two containers.  My friend agreed to put on a blindfold and then I gave him his food.  I did the same.  We agreed not to talk while we were eating.

It was hard not to talk but it became very meditative.  When we had finished we were both very calm and peaceful.  We had both really tasted and enjoyed the food.  The texture and sound of the food also became more apparent.  I stopped eating before the container was empty because I knew I had eaten enough.

I recommend eating with your eyes closed or blindfolded as an experience.  If you want to eat slowly and mindfully:

  • Eat at a table
  • No distractions – turn off the TV, put away the mobile phone or Tablet.
  • Put down your knife and fork between every mouthful
  • Keep the food in your mouth and chew slowly
  • Notice the ‘satisfied’ feeling and stop eating

This is a good start to losing unwanted weight.

Beat the Munchies

When I was at Royston Open Secrets a month ago, several people talked to me about weight issues and the problem of ‘snacking’.  Snacks can be a real problem if you are trying to lose weight, as things like crisps and chocolate add unwanted calories.
My first question to anyone with a snacking problem is “Are you eating because you are physically hungry of emotionally hungry?”  Physical hunger comes on slowly and is associated with tiredness, stomach pangs and lowering of energy levels, tiredness.  Emotional hunger comes on suddenly and isn’t satisfied by food, in fact you might feel sick after you’ve eaten.
If you think you are physically hungry, try drinking a glass of water.  The signals from the brain that tell you that you are hungry are similar to those for thirst so it’s a good idea to check which it is.  After you’ve had a drink, leave it 20 minutes and if you still think you are hungry, eat something healthy like a banana or some dried fruit.  It’s a good idea not to let yourself get too hungry between meals because, if you do, you are more likely to want to eat carbohydrates when you do eat.
Emotional hunger is associated with feelings such as boredom, frustration, anger and sadness.  When I worked in a large office, if I started to get bored, I would wander off to the vending machine for a chocolate bar.  I would often eat it before I got back to my desk and I still felt bored – and a bit sick!
So, if you get a sudden onset of hunger, stop and take a few deep breaths, making the out breath a bit longer than the in breath.  Acknowledge the emotion that you are experiencing and stay with it for a few moments noticing how it changes.  If it’s possible, go for a short walk, preferably outside so that you can focus on nature.  If it’s not possible to take a break then just close your eyes for a moment and think about your favourite image making the image as clear and colourful and detailed as you can.  Once the negative emotion has reduced the compulsion to eat should reduce too.
If you do eat a snack, make sure that it is something you enjoy and always sit down and eat it consciously and slowly. 
Give it a try.

Open Secrets

I had a great day yesterday at Royston Open Secrets http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_lG9v5w0Oo It was a showcase for local businesses and community organisations.  Despite awful weather, lots of people came along and there was a really positive buzz within the marquee.

I had the chance to talk to people about the things they would like to change in their lives.  Number one on the list was getting better sleep and I was glad that I had taken along some top tip sheets and some hypnotic CDs which are a bargain at £5.

 Other people talked to me about weight issues and controlling bad eating habits.  I’ve worked with a number of clients on both of those issues and it was a great opportunity to explain my approach to changing the relationship to food.

At the end of the day I was really tired but delighted to have met so many old friends and lots of new friends.  Looking forward to next year’s event, 8 July 2012, already.

Lose Weight – Top Tip

Often when I meet new people and mention that I am a hypnotherapist, the conversation turns to losing weight.  I generally ask one question, get the same reply and then give them my top tip to lose weight.  Some accept it but many say “I can’t do that.  I enjoy my food”.

When I work with people on weight loss I am really working to change their relationship to food.  The first thing I do is break old habits associated with eating and search out any negative emotions that are tied to those habits.  If food is a crutch, I don’t want to kick the crutch away until the client is strong enough to stand up on their own.  This isn’t about punishing people or stopping them from eating things they enjoy, it’s about putting them back in control so that they can chose what they like to eat and how much of it.

So what is my question?  “Do you eat quickly or slowly?”  Most people who are overweight reply “Quickly”.  So I tell them my top tip is slow down.  Really take your time when you eat to enjoy every mouthful.  If you do that, your stomach has time to send the signal when it has had enough and you can stop eating before you’ve had unnecessary calories. 

It works, honestly!