When Diets Fail - Try Mindfulness for Weight Loss
A survey asked over a thousand psychologists which strategies were essential to losing weight and keeping it off. They cited that “understanding and managing the behaviors and emotions related to weight management” were critical. More than 70 % identified cognitive therapy, problem-solving and mindfulness as “excellent or “good” weight loss strategies.
Diets increase a client’s inner critic and further disconnects him or her from their true needs. When emotional eating is not addressed, weight loss is temporary (in many or most cases) and leaves the dieter feeling more hopeless and frustrated than ever. Mindful eating promotes mindful self-compassion and self-empathy. It is my belief that a non-dieting approach to overeating and obesity is the only longterm way for a client to achieve peace with food and their body.
Here are some helpful practices, which will assist you in replacing the powerful ritual of "eating instead of feeling.".
Practice #1 - Explore your triggers with gentle curiosity.
Start by keeping a food & mood journal for a minimum of one week. Gently explore and acknowledge the main emotional triggers, which cause you to reach for food when you are not physically. Ask yourself: "What am I really in need of right now?" "Am I bored?" "Am I lonely?" "Am I feeling unappreciated?" This simple practice will serve as a supportive tool for understanding and overcoming emotional eating. Do this without judgment.
Practice #2 - Pause and tune into your needs.
By building in a mindful pause, you can create space and learn how to be in tune with your body and differentiate physical from emotional hunger. You may realize that you are actually in need of comfort, relaxation or support. Gently focus on crafting and developing healthy rituals, i.e. taking a walk, talking to friend, having a cup of soothing tea, writing in a journal, and understand the true need for comfort or relief. “I need a treat!” means: “I need a break.” “I need comfort.”
"Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom." – Viktor Frankl
Practice #3 - Give yourself a self-compassion break.
I follow Dr. Kristin Neff's self-compassion research and have been using this practice whenever I am in need of emotional comfort. In moments of emotional distress, you can use the following practice. It can be used any time of day or night and will help you evoke self-compassion instead of reaching for food.
After placing both hands on your heart, breathe deeply in and out and speak the following words out loud or silently, in a warm and caring tone:
This is a moment of suffering.
Suffering is a part of life.
May I be kind to myself.
May I give myself the compassion that I need.
Practice #4 - Have the courage to take a deep dive.
It takes courage to take a deep dive into our early woundings and inherited beliefs. There is no quick fix when it comes to understanding and overcoming well worn paths and old patterns. Healing takes time and is never linear. The good news is that you can heal, you can repair and develop new healthy coping and self-soothing skills. It is never too late to re-mother yourself and learn to nurture and nourish yourself differently.
Practice #5 - Focus on your overall wellbeing.
Eliminate chronic stressors and negative influences in your life. Add positive things to your life like gentle yoga, meditation or try a new hobby. Give yourself the gift of self-love and treat yourself with kindness, patience and compassion. Discover when you feel most alive and energized. Trust your intuition. Put things in perspective. Read inspirational literature. Trust that you can handle all your feelings, and in time emotional eating will be replaced by self-nurturing and life-enhancing rituals.