Every season, men and women alike decide that they want to get in shape and change their ways for a more healthy lifestyle and more fit body. You may come across diets that involve rigorous structures and only allow certain foods, which can make it a bit daunting to start the diet in the first place.
One option to consider is a mindful eating diet – one that doesn’t specifically rule out any foods, making it an easier diet to follow if deprivation diets have let you down in the past.
Basic Principles of a Mindful Eating Diet
A mindful eating diet works off of the principle that you don’t have to stop eating the things you like in order to lose weight. Instead, the diet revolves around only eating when you really need to, as opposed to snacking constantly throughout the day or eating huge portions that go above and beyond what you really need.
While it’s very easy to snack on things like chips and candies throughout the day, it only adds empty calories and carbs. Typically, you would want to wait until you’re really hungry, and then eat a balanced and healthy meal.
You can also still eat unhealthy foods, like chips and candies, but just in smaller quantities. Instead of a whole bag of gummi candies, eat a single serving to go along with your meal.
If you’re still hungry and craving after that, you can always get more, but typically you won’t really be too hungry. Whenever you get the feeling that you might be hungry or even just want to eat, think about how hungry you really are at that moment.
Once you cross that line of needing some food, make the right choices and pick out your meal carefully. If you’re feeling like having some chips, check the serving size on the nutrition facts, and have just one or even one half of a serving.
By only eating when you’re really hungry, you cut back significantly on the amount of calories you take in, even if you’re eating unhealthy foods. This also means that you can spend more time doing things you enjoy, instead of just mindlessly eating.
By eating mindfully, you’re more aware of how much food you’re eating and what that food is. While eating mindlessly, like snacking while watching a movie or a TV show, it’s very easy to lose track of how much you’ve eaten.
There are some downsides to this diet, but there are way more positive aspects. For example, you may find it a bit more difficult eating in this new way, and have to teach yourself to not snack mindlessly.
However, the upside is that you can still have all of the foods that you like, just in more moderate quantities. Mindful eating has been proven to be an effective form of dieting, and is much better for beginners.
Since you don’t have to completely cut out any foods, you’re less likely to trail off from the diet due to cravings. There are no good foods or bad foods, and when you realize that nothing is off-limits, you aren’t as panicked wanting to binge on unhealthy foods – so it paves the way for better food choices.
Who a Mindful Eating Diet Works Best For
Mindful eating diets work really well for beginners or those who always fail to adhere to a deprivation or restrictive diet, because you don’t have to cut out food choices in your usual diet like you would with other stricter diets.
The hardest part of it is reversing the old habits you may have built up when it comes to mindlessly eating. You’ll have to actively think every time you eat and make sure you’re genuinely hungry, and if you’re not, make the decision to not eat until you are.
If you have a fair bit of time on your hands, then the mindful eating diet can work better for you. You have to forget about rushing through a meal and eat slower so that you can check your hunger cues.
You’ll be able to take time to prepare your meal when you’re hungry, and be able to wait and see if you’re still hungry after you eat. It’s recommended that you wait about 20 minutes after eating to see if you’re still hungry, because your body takes that much time to digest the food.
Mindful eating diets will allow you to get more acquainted with healthier foods, acting as a bit of a gateway into dieting. You’ll end up eating more healthy, low calorie food naturally because you’re still getting all the other foods you want that you previously considered a guilty indulgence – only in much smaller portions.
Fruits and vegetables as well as lean protein will help satisfy your hunger faster, allowing you to consume smaller portions. Mindful eating diets may not work as well with people who are very athletic, because they may need to eat even when they’re not hungry to fit in caloric and macromolecule goals.
People who don’t have a lot of time and have to eat a lot on the go may get frustrated with this diet as well, since they won’t be able to sit down and think about how hungry they are and if they really need to eat at that moment.
The mindful eating diet involves a lot of patience, so if you’re impatient, it might be worth checking out a different diet. If you’re very observant and patient and willing to take the time to understand your hunger cues, then this diet is definitely for you.
It takes willpower to be able to realize that you’re not hungry and then not eat until you really are. You’ll have to be able to say no to yourself when you want to snack or eat mindlessly, which isn’t an easy task.
Nonetheless, it’s entirely possible to do it successfully, so don’t get deterred. It will take some practicing, and you may slip once or twice, but once you get used to this diet, it will just come naturally.
How to Get Prepared for a Mindful Eating Diet
There are a few steps you can take to get yourself prepared for your mindful eating diet. These steps will make your transition to this new diet much easier, and make you more likely to succeed and not drop the diet.
If you try to just jump right into the diet without taking a few steps to ready yourself, you’ll find it to be pretty difficult and a very jarring transition. One step that you can take to get yourself ready is buying smaller portions of foods – especially those you love to eat that you deem “unhealthy.”
Instead of a large bag of chips, get individual portion sizes so that you become familiar with what a normal portion is. Get some healthier foods to balance it out, though, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grain, and white meats.
Because no food is off limits, you’ll need to begin practicing how to balance the good with the “bad” so that you’re not living off of an unhealthy diet 24/7. You should also spend a few days before even making any changes to your diet just thinking about how hungry you really are while you eat.
The sooner you start taking note of things like this, the sooner you’ll get used to doing it naturally, making the whole diet a lot easier. Eat as you normally would, but just think about whether or not you’re really hungry when you eat – and to what point you eat, too – until you’re no longer hungry, or until you’re so stuffed that you’re miserable?
You’ll also want to get used to eating without doing something else at the same time. For example, you might be used to eating while watching TV, but that only leads to mindless eating, since you’re more focused on the TV than you are on how hungry you are.
Instead, try to get used to sitting down at a table and eating without any distractions. You’ll be much more observant about how much you’re eating and how hungry you really are, whereas if you were engrossed in a TV show, you could go through an entire large bag of chips without even realizing it.
It will also help if you roughly plan out your meals in advance. If you eat more on impulse, you’ll find that you end up eating more than you really should. Plan on eating a smaller sized meal, and then after you eat, wait before eating any more.
You can even prepare your smaller meals ahead of time and refrigerate them, so when you’re ready to eat them you can just microwave them. Try investing in smaller plates, too – more like the kid sized plates, bowls and cups.
This makes your brain think your plate is fuller, but the reality is, it’s a much smaller portion than you’re used to. It prevents you from overloading your plate with food your body isn’t truly hungry for.
Sample Meal Plan for a Mindful Eating Diet
One of the best parts about mindful eating is that you don’t have to follow an exact diet plan, with some foods being allowed and others not. While you should be incorporating more healthy foods, it’s not required with the mindful eating diet, since the whole point is just taking everything in moderation.
You can still have some dinners that aren’t that great for you, as long as you have less of it and only eat when you’re hungry and stop eating when you’re no longer hungry (not until full).
When craving snacks – make sure that your body is genuinely hungry for it. It might just be a mental hunger or even mouth hunger, where your mouth is used to the habit of eating.
If you are truly hungry, you have options. You can have something you crave that’s unhealthy, but try to use a very small portion of it to take the edge off – and use healthier foods to fill the rest of that void.
For example, fruits are a really great mid-day snack. Whether it be bananas, apples, oranges, or any other fruit, they can stop your cravings and provide you with lots of nutrients.
You can also snack on peanuts, almonds, and other nuts, which are good sources of protein. You may also want to get foods that you can make in advance and refrigerate. For example, you can cook and store some chicken and vegetables.
Raw chicken is fairly cheap when bought in bulk, and it can be cooked in many different healthy ways for variety. You can pair the chicken with either cooked or raw vegetables, store it all in some plastic containers, and refrigerate it.
If you end up eating out at a restaurant, you can usually get to-go boxes that let you bring a good portion of your meal home. It’s very easy to overeat at restaurants, since they give you such large portions of food and you don’t want to waste it.
Always ask for a to-go container and only eat until you stop being hungry, rather than eating until you’re full. You can always put the food from the restaurant into the plastic containers to keep it fresh for a longer time.
The best kind of food to eat on a mindful eating diet is food that’s fresh and enjoyable – and full of flavor. You want to eat slowly when you eat mindfully because it takes time for your body to send the signal to your brain that you’re not hungry anymore.
You don’t want the kind of food that you scarf down quickly and eat a lot of, especially those that are high in calories and not filling. Ideally, when it comes to mindful eating, you would vary the sizes and contents of your meals according to what you felt like eating and how hungry you were at that time.
Don’t follow a structured schedule when it comes to meals, setting a time for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. While you don’t want to graze all day, learn how to be in tune with your body’s needs and eat only when true hunger strikes.
Tips to Increase Success on a Mindful Eating Diet
There are a few extra tricks that you can employ to increase your chance of success on the mindful eating diet. For example, it’s worth trying to keep a log of all the food that you eat.
When you eat mindlessly, you don’t realize how much you’re actually eating – especially since you don’t lay it all out at once before you eat it all. By keeping a log of what you eat and how much you’re eating, you can look back and see how much you’re really eating.
You don’t have to write it. You can create a private Instagram account and simply snap a picture you can look back on. You can even take 2 pictures per meal – a before and after, to see how much food you left on your plate.
Another good tip is to drink some water before you eat. The water will make you feel a bit fuller, making you want to eat less that you’ll usually want to. This also helps you get a good amount of water in your system, which will help you digest the food better.
Similarly, tea is a good thing to make and drink before eating or when you get the urge to snack when you’re not really hungry. Whenever you get the urge to snack without being hungry, work on a hobby that engages your mind and keeps your hands busy.
For example, you could mess around with some modeling clay or whittle some wood. It doesn’t really matter what you’re doing as long as it takes your mind off of snacking. You should also avoid doing other things while you eat – unless you take time to stop periodically and assess your hunger cues, with 10 being miserably stuffed and 1 being starving.
If you’re watching TV shows, movies, reading, or doing anything else while you eat, you’re not going to be paying attention to how full you are or when you stop being hungry, leading to mindless eating.
Make eating more of an event by sitting down at a table and only focusing on eating food. This will make you much more conscious of what and how much you’re eating. Some have even recommended watching yourself eat in a mirror, which can really make you see how much food you’re eating.
You can also end up eating less if you slow down and enjoy your food more. Many people tend to eat very quickly, and don’t really realize how much they’re eating when they do that. Instead, chew each bite thoroughly.
This will not only make the food more enjoyable, but it will also give your body time to let your mind know if it’s hungry or not anymore. Finally, you should still eat some of the things you like and enjoy eating, even if it’s not healthy.
The hardest part of diets for everyone is the immediate switch in food choices, so if you don’t pull such a hard switch, you’ll find it much easier to stick with. You shouldn’t feel bad about eating, you should just be mindful of how much you’re eating and know when to stop.