The start of a new year is traditionally a time for self-reflection, resolutions and lifestyle changes. One of the most common new year’s resolutions is to lose weight and to eat healthier. Setting the intention is the first step to making healthy change. But even those with the best intentions can fall into the quick fix trap.
Ditch the diet culture
Many companies capitalize on the new years zeitgeist with gym membership promotions, health coaching, and nutritional supplements. While there’s nothing wrong with catching a new year deal, it can be easy to get sucked into the diet culture narrative that health revolves around weight loss.
While weight loss can be a healthy goal for many, it’s important that the focus on dropping pounds doesn’t eclipse overall health. One of the many issues that can arise from quick fix diets is an unhealthy relationship with food. Women are also susceptible to amenorrhea, or a loss of menstrual periods, when trying to drop pounds in an unhealthy way. Studies show that women who don’t eat an adequate amount of protein are especially prone to hormonal disruptions.
How to make change
Strict diets, cleanses, or detox programs promote the unsustainable idea that weight loss is just one quick fix away. Many short term programs can produce results since there’s a period of extreme calorie restriction but there’s very little way to incorporate these “quick fixes” into a sustainable, healthy lifestyle.
Instead, focus on habits and skills to make lasting change. Mindful eating is a healthy habit to cultivate in the new year and beyond.
The practice of mindful eating involves all the senses while eating and helps reduce binge eating or mindless snacking. With today’s switch to a work-from-home lifestyle, it can be easy to munch away on an entire bag of chips or have every meal in front of the TV.
Mindful eating can also help you distinguish between actual hunger cues and emotional or stress-eating. Studies have shown it to be a helpful tool in controlling blood glucose levels in type 2 diabetics. It has also been proven to help people recovering from eating disorders to develop a more positive body image.
Mindful eating tips
While the experience of mindful eating will be different for each person, there are a few basic practices for enjoying food mindfully.
Enjoy the planning, shopping, and cooking portion of preparing your meal. Taking time to plan for a nutritious meal and enjoying the process of cooking it can help you enjoy the end product more. Approach every day meals like you would a special occasion menu, take time to find a new recipe, try a different ingredient in your next meal.
Eating is a sensory experience. Taste is the most obvious sense used while eating but there’s more to flavor than what immediately hits your tongue. Our tongues can detect five basic flavors - sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami. Take time to detect the flavors in each bite. Act like you’re a professional chef and savor the smell, visual presentation, colors, texture, and temperature of what you’re about to eat.
Part of mindfulness is mastering the art of mono-tasking. With ever-present technology, it can be easy to watch a movie while checking Twitter and chowing down on a bag of popcorn. It’s probably not realistic to cut out all screen-based distractions while eating but it pays to be aware of what you’re consuming and to limit yourself to less technology during meals.
Experts recommend chewing each bite 20-40 times. If you’re not interested in counting while chewing each mouthful, an easier rule of thumb to follow is to put your utensil down or pause after each bite.