A Dietitian's guide to living a healthier and more God-centered life through Mindfulness. Follow this dietitain who professionally and personally understands the weight loss struggle as she provides nutrition tips as well shares her faith experiences.
Whenever I try to do anything in life without God, it never goes well. I need God in every aspect of my life. Trying to eat healthy all on my own doesn’t work well either. God should be the center of our life, and I am continuing to work on this. Prayer is one way I try to put my focus on God throughout the day.
Being Mindful of God’s Presence
I try to pray and be mindful of God’s presence when I drive, talk to my kids, clean, work, and yes, eat. If you have read some of my past post, you know that mindfulness has had a huge positive impact on my weight loss struggles. When I focus on mindfulness and particularly mindfulness of God’s presence when I eat, I do much less overeating.
When I Pray This Little Prayer Before I Eat
Now when I eat, I think about 1 Corinthians 10:31 which says, “ So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
Right before I eat, I try to pray, “God, thank you so much for this food. Thank you for this time that I have to sit and enjoy the food you have given me. I want to eat for the glory of You, God.”
I remind myself that if I overeat or eat without being mindful, then I am not taking care of the body that God gave me. When I am overeating, I am not really eating for the glory of God.
This little prayer has helped me so much. I enjoy my food, and I enjoy my time eating in God’s presence.
Because I feel that God should be the center of our life including our weight loss journey, I love it when I find really GOOD faith-based weight loss programs. The dietitian in me loves finding weight loss programs that offer real and effective weight loss strategies instead of gimmicks. I have recently come across a great program that does both. The program is called Faithful Finish Lines. With this program, you won’t see unrealistic rules and strict diets. The developers of the program BOTH lost 100 pounds and now want to help others who are struggling with weight loss as well. The program provides guidance for those who just feel overwhelmed with their weight loss struggles, and the program provides much needed online community support. If you want to learn more about Faithful Finish Lines, you can check out their website here.
I hope some of you have found something in this post helpful. What are your weight loss struggles? Have you ever tried mindfulness and mindful eating? Please share your weight loss struggles and successes with me here at Mindfulness in Faith and Food.
Before understanding mindful eating, it helps to understand mindLESS eating.
One of my clients realized mindLESS eating was one of his major barriers. His story helps explain mindLESS eating. During a nutrition counseling session, one of my clients revealed that while he was walking past a coworker’s desk, he took a chip off of her desk and ate it without asking. The coworker jokingly said, “Hey! Don’t eat my lunch!” His response was eye opening for him. Do you know what he said? “Did I just take that chip? I didn’t even know I did it!” He began to realize how often he mindlessly ate without even thinking, and how this affected his weight. Did he even enjoy that chip? No, he didn’t even know he had eaten it! He is not alone; many of us do it. I say when you consume calories; you might as well enjoy them right? This is one reason why mindful eating works.
Mindful eating is about ENJOYING your food!
Mindful Eating Helps with Weight Maintenance
Mindful eating has been helpful not only with weight loss, but also with weight maintenance, not only for clients but for me as well. Although mindful eating might be a new concept for many, dietitians have been using at least some aspects of mindful eating with their clients for years, and some have found mindful eating so successful that they almost exclusively focus on mindful eating and hunger cues to help with weight loss.
Mindful Eating Helped ME Lose Weight
I am one of those dietitians who has always used mindful eating in combination with other weight loss strategies. Because I noticed that Mindful Eating was one of my most successful strategies, I began leaning more heavily on Mindful Eating techniques. In some of my other post, I have talked about my weight loss struggles. (See more about my weight loss struggle here)
I have lost weight and kept it off successfully for years. Like many others, as the circumsances of my life changed, I would find myself needing to lose extra weight again. I first lost weight in middle school. This is the reason I decided to go into dietetics. I kept the weight off all through high school and college, but I found myself gaining weight as a newlywed.
As soon as I realized that I was carrying too much extra weight, I did my own self assessment and developed my own plan. In other words, I became my own client. I naturally gained weight after having babies. By that time, my lifestyle had changed, and I needed to re-assess my diet and develop a plan that would work for a new mom. I lost my excess baby weight by, again, becoming my own client and developing my own plan. If you would like to do a free self-assessment and develop your own plan click here.
Less Need for Willpower
After my last baby, I needed an easier way to keep the weight off. I could lose weight with willpower, but what am I going to do when the willpower wares away like it always does? (I often tell my clients that my nutrition degree didn’t take away my love for food) After seeing the research and success of mindful eating, I decided to almost exclusively use Mindful Eating with only a few other techniques to help me with my weight loss barriers. I lost 55 pounds, and it was the easiest 55 pounds I have ever lost!
With Mindful Eating, No Food is Forbidden
With Mindful Eating, I never feel deprived. I rarely feel the need to cheat because I am ALWAYS giving myself permission to enjoy eating. I’m not at war with food anymore. I messed up less and feel guilty less often because with Mindful Eating, no food is forbidden. I also rarely “mess up” because I experience pleasure with food all the time. If I do mess up, it isn’t “over the top” anymore. In other words, I rarely “fall off the wagon” and stuff my face until I am painfully full.
Being mindful is about being aware of your food as you are eating, and being aware of how your body is feeling. My body never feels good after overeating, and I can’t enjoy the rest of my day when I feel so uncomfortably full. When I mindfully eat, I slow down, and notice my fullness sooner.
With Mindful Eating, Food Doesn’t Have the Power over You Anymore
Not only is Mindful eating helpful with weight loss, but could also be helpful for people struggling with binge eating and food obsessing. When people are constantly dieting, they are constantly obsessing about food. When there are no forbidden foods, food doesn’t have that power over you anymore. Mindful eating works because you don’t feel deprived, you enjoy your food, there are no forbidden foods, you feel less guilt, and it takes less willpower.
If you want a more detailed explanation as well as the opportunity to intigrate mindfulness into your life with a hands-on book and mindfulness worksheets, I would recommend “Mastering Mindfulness” by dietitian, Gina B. I am so excited about this book. I have included the link to her book below.
This makes portioning super easy. You can take these portion rings with you anywhere and place them on your plate to make sure your food is the appropriate portion. I think this product used in combination with mindful eating could greatly help with portion control.
Instead of focusing on restricting foods, when you mindfully eat, you focus on having high quality, relaxed and pleasurable eating experiences. With Mindful eating, you learn to eat only when you are hungry and only when you are truly enjoying your food. This means you would avoid grabbing a chip from a serving bowl at a party or while cooking dinner. When I am not focusing on mindful eating I sometimes grab food from my toddler’s unfinished plate. Afterwards I think why did I even do that? Cold chicken nuggets are not even tasty! Whenever I do this mindLESS grabbing, I am never really enjoying my food.
I had a client once tell me that the last bite on her plate always tastes the best because that is the only bite she notices. She then always wants a second helping because she didn’t pay attention while she was eating the first serving. So how do you know if you are mindlessly eating? If you are grabbing bits of food here and there and eating from the serving bag or bowl, you are probably mindlessly eating. Are you are scooping up your next bite while you are still chewing your first bite? If so, you are probably mindLESSly eating. If you are a fast eater, then you are probably mindLESSly eating? So what are the steps to mindfully eating?
(Remember, for every step of the eating process, from preparing, plating, and tasting your food, you should focus on being aware of the moment you are in.)
Step 1: Preparing your food
When preparing, don’t taste and nibble while you are cooking. You should always sit down and eat from a plate.
Step 2: Plating your Food
When plating your food, be conscious of how much you are plating. PAUSE and ask yourself is this a reasonable amount of food? Do not starve yourself. Don’t eat so little at one meal or throughout the day that you binge the next day. Just look and ask yourself is this a reasonable amount of food. Think about a healthy plate vs. an over-the-top plate. How does your plate compare? If you want to see examples of a healthy plate check out myplate.gov plate below.
One technique that may help in combination with Mindful eating is to plate your food on a smaller salad plate. If you use a smaller plate but have issues with piling your food too high; grab another plate, turn it over, and use it as a lid. If the rims of both plates do not touch, you may have piled the food on too high.
Remember to sit down and eat from a plate. Before putting a bite in your mouth, PAUSE. Really notice the food. Thank God for this time to enjoy your food. Notice the color, textures, and smells before your first bite. Continue to do this for every bite. Put your fork down between each bite. DO NOT PREPARE the next bite until you have swallowed and taken a sip of drink. Take a sip of drink between each bite. During the meal, PAUSE occasionally to notice if you are full and ask yourself questions. Ask questions like “Am I full?”; “How does this bite taste?”; “Am I enjoying my food?” “Am I hungry or emotionally eating?” Asking these questions helps you stay mindfully aware throughout the meal. You will be surprised at how full and satisfied you will be on less food. The key is pausing before you put food into your mouth.
Step 4: Snacking on Food:
Just like with a meal, PAUSE before and during the snack to ask yourself if you are mindfully snacking. Before putting a bite in your mouth, ask yourself “Is this mindLESS eating?” If the answer is ‘yes’, then don’t do it. Save your food for when you can truly enjoy your food. No sense in wasting your allotted calories on food you are not enjoying.
Examples of mindLESS snacking are during cooking, store samples, social nibbling, dinner clean up, and (my issue) cold toddler leftovers. If the answer is ‘yes, I am mindlessly eating’, then ask youself why? Are you bored, stressed, or tired and wanting to eat even when you are not physically hungry? If you are not hungry, tell youself you can wait until the next meal, which is only BLANK hours away. Usually you only have 30 minutes to 2 hours before the next meal. If you would like more of these tips to use in combination with Mindful Eating, click here.) If you ask yourslef the question, “Are you hungry?” and you are hungry, get a plate, sit down, and follow steps 1 through 3.
Step 5: Eating at Restaurants
Ask the waitress for a box as soon as your food arrives. Mindfully, fill the box with food from your plate until your plate looks like an appropriate meal. Remember mindfulness is being aware of what you are doing at each moment. Be aware of what you are leaving on your plate. Then, follow step 3 to eat your food.
Why does Mindfully Eating Work?
By eating this way, you will notice that you are full on less calories and are even craving more high quality foods.
Still not convinced that mindful eating can drastically change your calorie intake? Let me put it to you this way. Let’s say you are eating a meal with a big athletic young football player. Of course he will need AND eat much more than most so he scarfs down 3 plates full of food in 45 minutes. You use the Mindful eating techniques and only eat one appropriate plate but it also took you 45 minutes. You chewed slowly and really tasted each and every bite while he gulped down his food.
If you think about it, you had your food in your mouth and were tasting your food the same amount of time as the football player who ate 3 times as much as you. He ate more, but you had food in your mouth and tasted your food the same amount of time as he did. So you were able to enjoy it for as long as if you had quickly eaten 3 plates full.
Develop Your Own Weight Loss Plan
In another blog post, I discuss that we all have reasons for our gain weight. If we don’t understand our reasons, then we won’t be able to develop solutions. Mindful eating can often be used exclusively to help with many of your weight loss barriers or in combination with other techniques.
Middle school is tough, especially when you are on the heavier side. Fortunately by 8th grade I had lost all of my excess weight. In fact, my weight struggle is what inspired me to major in nutrition in college. I managed to keep off all the weight all way through high school, college, and grad school; and learned the best practices for weight loss and nutrition in college and grad school. When I practiced what I preached, I was able to keep the weight off, and I kept the weight off until I got married….
After I was happily married, the weight began to creep back on. For the first time since middle school I was overweight again. Using my training and dietetic counseling skills on myself, I was able to muster enough will power to lose the weight again. (You can read more about my weight journey and training here). Four years later, I had a baby and managed to muster up the motivation and willpower to lose the baby weight again.
Mindfulness was Life Changing
As I began getting older, the weight was harder and harder to keep off. I noticed cheat days had much more of an impact. When I became pregnant again, I didn’t want to gain as much weight as I did with my first child. However, I didn’t want to diet while pregnant. I decided to use only one weight loss technique. I decided to simply mindfully eat. For the first time, I did not need willpower. After the birth of my daughter, I continued with the mindful eating, and the weight just dropped off. The. Easiest. Weight. Loss. Ever!
I didn’t deprive myself and didn’t even feel the need to have cheat days. I discovered the most important component of mindfully eating, for me, was to PAUSE before eating. That pause or lack of the pause was the determining factor for whether I would mindfully eat or not at that particular meal. So why is this pause so crucial?
When I pause, I remind myself to take my time, notice my food, notice if I am eating an appropriate amount, and most importantly, I thank God for the food. During this pause, I remind myself to eat God’s gift of food for enjoyment and nourishment. I remind myself to take the time to pay attention to my food instead of over consuming without even noticing that I am eating.
Mindfulness Did so Much More than Help with Weight Loss
This one pause before the meal was crucial for my nutritional health, but I also began to notice how crucial the pause was in every aspect of my life. The Bible talks about praying continuously. In a way, the pause in life helps me pray more continuously.
I began to notice the impact of pausing and praying before entering any new environment whether the new environment is a park, a friend’s home, or the grocery store. Pausing and praying, was life changing. I began to notice the importance of pausing and praying when I felt angry, or before saying something difficult, or before even talking with my children. I noticed the importance of not only pausing and praying before meals and snacks, but also before bed and before getting up in the morning.
When I forget to do this, I notice the difference in MY actions and my strength to endure life. On the days that I do a better job of pausing, I notice God’s presence and God’s guidance more. When I pause more, I feel like I am truly letting God lead me, and I am reminded that no matter what happens, God is right there. I can feel God’s presence in the very room with me, and I feel I have the strength to focus on God’s will instead of my emotions. We don’t have to rush into every situation, and we don’t have to rush to speak. We can and should PAUSE and take our time in life.
Want to Learn More About Mindfulness?
To learn more details about how to incorporate mindful eating into your life click here. If you would like to do your own nutrition assessment and develop your own weight loss plan, click here.