Restrictive diet doesn't work? This is how mindful eating approach helps you avoid overeating
Up to 2019, Malaysia has the highest rate of obesity and overweight among Asian countries with 64% male and 65% of female population being either overweight or obese. Complex risk factors including environmental and genetic are at play. In addition, researchers have found that overeating could be one of the driving forces for obesity.
Overeating is a condition when you consume an excessive amount of calories more than what your body uses. In short, the calories you consumed is more than what you need. It is highly related to eating disorder conditions that might be caused by stress, anxiety, boredom or any psychological reason.
One way to curb overeating is by mindful eating. I don't know about you but something about munching on a celery stick doesn’t appeal all that much to me either. However, mindful eating uses techniques that were widely practiced during the early days of mindfulness or being present, aimed to aid in the modern eating issues. Unlike other eating practices, it is not a diet. There are no food restrictions or specific meal plan. However, it is being in control and aware of your mindset and behaviour around foods.
Applying mindfulness to eating might take time but all good things take time. After all, if it’s mindlessness that causes us to make bad decisions, then clearly mindfulness is going to give us the awareness to make the right decisions. It is feasible to ingrain mindfulness whilst eating, working or while doing any type of daily activity while enjoying your relationship with food that is sustainable at the same time.
Although mindfulness is a form of meditation to help you recognize and cope with your physical and emotional sensations, it is widely used to overcome various conditions such as eating disorder, anxiety and many food-related behaviours. Mindful eating is using that mindfulness to achieve a state of full attention to your experiences, cravings and physical cues while eating.
Some tips and how to practice mindful eating include:
- Eating slowly and without distraction, put your handphone and gadgets down
- Portion control: Eating to maintain overall health and well-being
- Eat slower and chew your food more
- Distinguishing between true hunger and non-hunger triggers for eating
- Engaging your senses by noticing colors, smells, sounds, textures, and flavors
- Learning to cope with guilt and anxiety about food
- Listening to physical hunger cues and eating only until you’re full
- Noticing the effects food has on your feelings and figure
- Appreciating your food
Portion Size vs. Serving Size
Firstly, let's set the record straight on what is the difference between portion size and serving size as it is easily confused. A serving size is the amount of food you’re served to eat, whether it’s at work, restaurant or at home. Meanwhile, portion size is how much of that serving you actually consume. For example, when buying a hot cup of coffee (about 8oz, 250 ml), you drank half of it, hence your serving size is 1 cup (8oz, 250 ml) and your portion size is half cup (4 oz, 125ml). Food manufacturers label nutrients on a package with the help of a serving size. So if a cereal lists nutrients for a serving size of two-thirds of a bowl, that doesn’t necessarily mean we should fill two-thirds of a bowl for breakfast.
Why portion control is playing a big role in mindful eating?
When it comes to practicing a healthy lifestyle, our nutritionist believes in doing and consuming things in moderation. Not too little, not too much but just enough. This concept is important and comes in handy not only while eating, but also whilst exercising, working or doing any daily activities. When it comes to putting words into action, practicing portion size is more relevant, sustainable and realistic compared to serving size in meeting or maintaining a health goal.
“Use serving sizes as a general guide, but go bigger or smaller when it comes to your portion sizes, depending on what your individual health needs are”.
In summary, using serving and portion sizes to guide what you eat comes hand in hand with mindful eating. So, you see, portion control isn't about restrictive eating, it is about eating the way that makes you happy while experiencing the joy of eating, as you can see, it does not mean eating as much as you can. Especially if you struggle with understanding your body’s signals of what and how much to eat, they can be especially useful. Just think of them as another tool for your wellness toolbox, it is there whenever you need it.