Mindful eating is an effective weight-loss strategy that encourages you to slow down and pay attention to your food, noticing each sip or bite you take. It helps focus your senses on exploring, savoring and tasting your food, and teaches you to follow hunger cues. Put mindful eating into practice with these ideas as you prepare and eat meals. It gets easier over time!
- Practice acceptance. Be aware of critical or judgmental thoughts about food, your eating habits and your body. Concentrate on the moment. Accept your body as it is.
- Make a conscious decision to eat. Before you eat, ask yourself, “How hungry am I right now? Am I eating out of hunger, habit, boredom or emotion?”
- Reserve time for your meal. Don’t eat on the run. If you’re eating with others, involve them in preparing the food to make that time social.
- Avoid distractions while eating. Eat at a table. Turn off the TV and put away your phone, work, books and magazines until you are done.
- Appreciate your food. Start your meal by taking a moment to express your gratitude for the food in front of you.
- Breathe. Before and during your meal, consciously take a few deep breaths.
- Use all your senses to fully experience your food and drinks. Observe the smells, textures, sounds, colors and tastes. Ask yourself how much you’re enjoying the food and how appealing it is.
- Choose modest portions to avoid overeating.
Eat small bites, and chew slowly. Appreciate that your food fills you up and makes you healthy.
Of course, there will be times that you have to rush through a meal to get to an activity or an appointment. But if you can practice mindful eating on a regular basis, it can help you reach your weight-loss goals.
Have you noticed that when food temptations strike, it often has more to do with your mood than when you last ate? You may crave food to relax, relieve stress or boredom, soothe anger, or cope with loneliness, sadness or anxiety. Indulging in cravings during these emotional times may lead you to eat too many high-calorie, sweet, fatty foods.
Everyone has a food craving at times — and yes, chocolate is at the top of most people’s list. The first step to managing your cravings is being able to identify when you’re truly hungry. Learn how to recognize the difference between a craving and hunger.
- Are usually for comfort foods, such as chocolate, sweets and fatty foods
- Are often caused by negative feelings
- Lead to eating that makes you feel good at first, but then guilty
- Increase during a woman’s pregnancy and menstrual cycle
- May be stronger when you’re dieting, especially if you’re giving up your favorite foods
- Can occur even after you’ve recently eaten
- Pass with time
- Usually occurs when you haven’t eaten for a few hours or more
- Results in a rumbling stomach, headache or feeling of weakness
- Doesn’t pass with time
- Isn’t just for one specific food
- Can be satisfied by a healthy snack or meal
If you have a craving, distract yourself. Try calling a friend, listening to music, taking a walk or bike ride, reading, or writing. If a negative feeling is causing your craving, use positive self-talk, exercise or a fun activity to improve your mood.
In case you haven’t noticed yet — muscle mass naturally diminishes with age. If you don’t do anything to replace the muscle you lose, you’ll increase fat. But regular strength training can help you preserve and enhance your muscle mass — at any age. As part of your weight-loss plan, building lean muscle mass will help you control your body fat: As you increase lean muscle mass, your body burns calories more efficiently.
Strength training also helps you:
- Develop strong bones, reducing your risk of osteoporosis
- Reduce your risk of injury — building muscle protects your joints from injury
- Boost your stamina — as you grow stronger, you won’t fatigue as easily
- Improve your body image
- Get a better night’s sleep
Consider the options
Most fitness centers offer various resistance machines, weights and other tools for strength training. But hand-held weights can also work well. In addition, resistance bands — elastic-like tubes or bands available in different tensions — are inexpensive. Of course, your own body weight counts, too. Try pushups, pullups, abdominal crunches and leg squats.
Start slowly and work your way up
When you begin strength training, start slowly. Warm up with five to 10 minutes of stretching or gentle cardio activity, such as brisk walking. Then grab a light weight that you can lift at least 12 to 15 times, using smooth, controlled motions. Eventually, train with a weight that tires your muscles — so it’s difficult to finish the motion by the 12th repetition. (The number of repetitions refers to the number of times you do a specific exercise. One set means completing a specific number of repetitions.) If you use the proper weight or amount of resistance, you can build muscle just as efficiently with a single set of 12 repetitions as you can with more sets of the same exercise. When you can easily do 12 or more repetitions of a specific exercise, increase the weight or resistance by up to 10 percent.
To give your muscles time to recover, rest one full day between exercising each specific muscle group. But stop if you feel pain. Although mild muscle soreness is normal, sharp pain and sore or swollen joints are signs that you’ve overdone it. Two to three strength-training sessions a week for 20 to 30 minutes are enough for most people.