Mindful Eating

10 Mindful Eating Tips to Help You Eat Less

10 Mindful Eating Tips to Help You Eat  Less

If you struggle with overeating, then you might be as surprised as some of my clients when I tell them it’s not really about the food.

What you eat, is only a small part of the overeating story. The other part that’s often overlooked – is how you eat, and how you eat is a major component of Mindful Eating. 

(In my book Unhooked: A Holistic Approach to Ending Your Struggle with Food, I explore why we overeat from 6 different perspectives, including: environmental, physiological, behavioral, emotional, mental and spiritual. Learn more about getting Unhooked here.)

Many of my clients have been able to curb overeating, reduce food cravings and work towards healing a disordered relationship with food through the simple, yet powerful practice of mindful eating.

Top 10 Mindful Eating Tips to Help You Eat Less

Here are ten quick and easy ways to incorporate mindful eating into your life to help prevent overeating.

1. When You Eat, Only Eat: Remove All Distractions

When it comes to mindful eating, this is one of the best first places to start. It’s hard to be mindful of what you’re eating when you’re distracted by the TV, are multitasking on the phone or while driving in your car – when you really should pay attention to where you’re going! (more…)

7 Things Your Food Cravings are Trying to Tell You

7 THINGS YOUR FOOD CRAVINGS ARE TRYING TO TELL YOU Food cravings are like the scary monster that hides in your closet. They’re hard to get a good look at because most of the time, you’re either resisting them or running like hell in the other direction. They also leave you with a sense of uneasiness because you’re never really sure when they will jump out and strike next. Food cravings can hijack your willpower, sabotage your judgment and interfere with your health goals, all in the blink of an eye.

They can even take over your rational brain and cause you to unintentionally lapse into mindless eating – sounds like the scary monster most of us fear the most! Being struck by food cravings can oftentimes feel overwhelming and can wreak havoc on daily living. But what you might not know is that this big bad scary monster is simply trying to talk to you. Facing your food cravings rather than avoiding them is a good place to start. If you’re willing to face your fears and listen to what they have to say, they may have the key to help you drop your struggle with food cravings for good.

7 Things Your Food Cravings are Trying to Tell You

1. It’s time to ditch the refined and packaged foods

When was the last time you had an intense craving for apples? How about bananas or figs? Most often, the foods we crave are processed junk foods that all tend to have one thing in common: they’re high in sugar, fat and salt. Not only are real foods not refined, but they’re also not naturally high in all three of these ingredients in the same bite. But food manufactures found out that they could combine refined sugar, fat and salt to find a perfect “bliss point” that literally rewires your brain to want and crave these fabricated foods – and prompt you to keep eating them despite being full. Getting unhooked from food cravings means returning to a whole foods lifestyle where real, fresh, organic foods predominate. (more…)

Mindless Eating: Increased Food Variety Causes Overeating

Mindless Eating: Increased Food Variety Triggers Overeating

Mindless eating: we all do it to some degree, each and every day. Even the most subtle things can prompt us to keep eating, without even noticing it. Would you believe that if you were to sit down to a bag a Skittles with a variety of colors, you would most likely eat more than if you sat down to a bag of just red or just orange Skittles – subtle right? But it’s little things like this that food manufactures are well aware of to help “encourage” us to keep eating, sometimes eating hundreds more calories on a daily basis than we actually need.

If weight loss is a priority for you, and especially if it’s been a challenge for you, you might want to consider exploring mindless eating habits and subconscious triggers that prompt you to eat more than you realize.

One of the more common mindless eating triggers: food variety. The more variety that you see when you sit down to a meal, the more likely you are to overeat. Most people can intuitively sense the truth behind this statement. But sometimes it’s trickier to catch then other times – like with increased color variety. Read More: (more…)

What is Mindful Eating?

What is Mindful Eating?At first glance, mindful eating may sound simple – maybe even boring. Maybe you’re even thinking: “What the heck is mindful eating anyways?

And at its most basic level, mindful eating is simple – but diving into the vast realm of mindful eating, you will soon realize that it’s anything but boring.

What is Mindful Eating?

Mindful eating is the act of paying attention while you eat.

Some of the basic principles of mindful eating include:

Mind Over Milkshakes: Can Your Thoughts Influence Your Weight?

Mind over milkshakes: can your throughs affect your weight?

At last, science is finally catching up to what the mystics have been saying for thousands of years: the mind and body are intricately connected. More than ever, people are talking about the power of our thoughts – and I for one, am a believer. We’ve all heard some variation of these popular sayings:

“As you think so shall you be”

“If you can think it, you can be it”

“Visualizing what you want will attract this into your life.”

But does this apply to how we think about our own body or about the food we eat? Can we wishfully visualize ourselves in top shape and see it manifest for ourselves? Can our thoughts influence our weight?

What if I told you that the thoughts you think about the food you’re eating in addition to the perceptions that you have about food can affect your body on a physical level and influence how much you eat, and also have a direct affect on your weight.

Consider this one study from the American Psychological Association titled “Mind over milkshakes: mindsets, not just nutrients, determine ghrelin response”. The goal of this study was to determine whether an individual’s perception of a food affects physiological hunger as measured by ghrelin levels.

Ghrelin is one of the two primary hunger hormones that transports hunger messages between the stomach and the brain. When you are hungry, ghrelin levels increase. When satiated (meaning full and satisfied) ghrelin decreases.

Scientists from both Yale and Arizona State Universities asked 46 healthy men and women to drink milkshakes on two separate occasions. Although these milkshakes were the exact same 380 calorie milkshakes, they were led to believe on the first occasion that they were a 620 calorie “indulgent” shake and on the second occasion, they were led to believe that they were drinking a 140 calorie “sensible” shake.

The researchers wanted to know if mindset and perceptions of the food would affect something as measurable as a hunger hormone, which effects how satiated we are after we eat, thus influencing how much we eat and ultimately how much we weigh.

Ghrelin was measured through blood samples in participants at three points, before during and after the milkshakes. They were also asked to view and rate the (misleading) label of the shake and then asked to drink and rate the milkshake.

Conclusion: Do Our Thoughts Influence Our Hunger and Our Weight?

I bet you can guess where this is heading. The interesting part of this research actually found that mindset (or perception based on what they thought they were drinking) did indeed affect participants hunger hormones.

When drinking the “indulgent” shake, participants reported more satiety, but even beyond that, this perception of fullness was directly seen on a physical level by a decrease in the levels of ghrelin.

In comparison, when they drank the “sensible” shake, despite it being the exact same shake, participants reported less physiological satisfaction and this too was also directly seen in a corresponding shift in the hunger hormone, resulting in a less pronounced ghrelin response.

This means that participants’ satiety was consistent with what they believed they were consuming rather than the actual nutritional value of what they consumed.

Our hunger hormones, ghrelin and leptin, strongly influence weight management. High ghrelin levels are associated to increased food consumption and weight gain.

This research is extremely important given that we thought these hunger hormones were only strictly influenced by food consumption. But as this study has demonstrated, it’s not that straight forward. How we choose to perceive food can also potentially affect how satiated we are.

The first thing I thought about when I read this study was fruit. So many people exclaim to me that fruit can’t make up a meal; that it’s not a substantive food in it’s own right. I used to think this way too, years ago, but the more I educate myself, the more my perceptions change and the more I view fruit as not only a meal, but one of the best meals designed for our bodies.

Like I tell my clients transitioning to a low-fat raw vegan lifestyle: If you think that the food before you is not going to satisfy you, then it probably won’t.

How does this change your perception of your next meal?

Aloha from the Big Island of Hawaii,

Laura Dawn, Registered Holistic Nutritionist

The Top 3 Ingredients to Loving Every Minute You Spend in the Kitchen

Top 3 Ingredients to Loving Every Minute You Spend in the Kitchen

“The key to creating a sacred kitchen in your house is changing your attitude toward it. Realize the divine nature of the forces involved: the life force in food, the contribution of your own energies, and your ability to convey divine energy into the meal.” Sacred Kitchen 

This post is for you if:

  1. You’ve experienced a life-long battle with food, eating and your weight and you’ve become less-than-thrilled about spending time in your kitchen making food;
  2. You view preparing food for you and your loved ones as a chore or mundane task that you’d rather not have to do because you feel your too busy and too overloaded with life.

For many, the kitchen has become either another workplace or another battleground where wars of temptation are being waged. And unfortunately for some, meal preparation has become another item to cross off the daily ‘to-do’ list of responsibilities – especially when feeding a family, working a full time job and feeling pressured to come up with a range of meals creative enough to keep everyone healthy and happy.

If this pretty much sums it up for you, I would like to introduce to you:

The Top 3 Ingredients to Loving Every Moment You Spend in the Kitchen – Even When You Don’t Want to be There.

  1. Gratitude: When you think about it, the kitchen is a very special – even sacred – place. It’s the place where you can consciously collaborate with the earth to nourish your body, support you and your family’s health and literally sustain your life. That’s a lot to give thanks for! If you’ve ever struggled with food or losing weight then shifting towards a deep sense of gratitude for food and viewing food as the miracle that it is can help free you from the life-long battle so many people experience with eating. The act of preparing food can be a powerful mindfulness practice where you can tune into and align with one of your most precious and potent sources of healing – your food.
  2. Mindfulness: When you’re rushing from place to place and are constantly living five steps ahead of yourself, it’s hard to slow down, relax and breathe – heck, it’s even hard to enjoy life.Taking the time in your kitchen to really slow down and enjoy the process of reconnecting to yourself, to your friends and family, and to your food can support a sense of rejuvenation, which without a doubt influences your health.The practice of mindfulness affords you the time and space to discover inner peace, find balance in your life and listen to your body and what its communicating with you. When you become present, the simple act of peeling a carrot or washing an apple can become a truly miraculous experience as you surrender to the awe of the miracle of life that we so easily forget is ridiculously incredible.
  3. Playfulness: Most of us tend to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life and quickly fall into the trap of being overly serious. Lighten up! Try not to take yourself so seriously; what I’ve discovered is that it’s just not worth it. Think of your kitchen as your playground where you get to unleash all of your creative potential and have fun discovering new ways to make delicious things.  The kitchen is the place where magic happens – where alchemy is performed and where you can find some time to work less and play more. Whether you’re extremely busy or hyper focused on losing weight, incorporating playfulness in your life can be an essential ingredient to helping you love the time you spend in your kitchen.

What ingredient would you include to loving your time in the kitchen?

Aloha from the Big Island of Hawaii,

Laura Dawn

Top 5 Benefits of Mindful Eating

Top 5 mindful eating benefitsMindful eating is a powerful practice that can offer you many benefits. What it’s not is another quick-fix gimmick to help you “lose weight within 7 days” and I surely won’t be proclaiming that with mindful eating you’ll never binge or experience another craving ever again.

But what mindful eating does offer is a long-term solution to help improve your relationship with food. It takes more of a “slow and steady wins the race” approach to health and wellbeing, and what you may discover about yourself and even about your life, just might be more than you bargained for.

Although it sounds simple, practicing mindful eating can oftentimes prove to be challenging as you become more aware of your habitual eating patterns – and oftentimes you may not like what we see, although an essential place to start when initiating change. With focused effort, you too, can reap the many benefits of learning to eat more mindfully. What can you expect some of the benefits to be? In this post, I’m going to outline some of the top benefits of learning to eat more mindfully.

Top 5 Benefits of Mindful Eating

1. Mindful Eating Empowers You with Choice

How many times have you felt like overeating was beyond your control, as if you had no choice? Mindfulness is the anti-dote to routine, habitual patterns. Being mindful while you eat helps you step out of recurring habitual behavioral patterns and allows you to discover the newfound power of choice. We all have the freedom to choose, but only when we’re in a conscious state of awareness. I’m sure you can imaging how this simple benefit can ripple out and cause a tidal wave of other positive benefits influencing everything from weight levels to habitual eating patterns.

2. Mindful Eating Teaches You to Eat Based on Internal Cues

Just so you don’t feel alone on the matter: we are all constantly triggered to eat by millions of cues that are totally unrelated to physical hunger. The practice of mindful eating teaches you how to become more aware of these “external triggers” to eat. Some examples of external triggers that we’re largely unaware of are the time of day, eating because someone else is eating, eating because you turn on the TV, or eating because it’s raining. With mindful eating, you can learn how to tune into your internal cues of hunger and fullness and use this information to drive your eating patterns rather than non-hunger related cues.

carrot-iconPlease remember: it’s not bad to eat when you’re not hungry or because someone else is eating and you want to join them. Mindful eating simply allows you to become aware of the process and empowers you to make conscious decisions rather than continuously acting out the same habitual patterns.

Mindful eating allows you to routinely check in with yourself by pausing and asking yourself “Am I still hungry”? This single benefit can have tremendous results and help foster a positive relationship with food.

3. Develop Trust in Yourself

How many times have you felt like you just couldn’t trust yourself around food? Perhaps you’ve flexed your ‘give-in’ muscle one too many times and now you don’t trust yourself to eat a “normal” or “regular” portion sizes of food. Practicing mindful eating tunes you into your own inherent wisdom and you start to trust yourself to make the right decisions about what your body needs.

4. Craving Control

If you struggle with constant cravings, then you’ll likely know exactly what I mean when I describe that familiar urge or impulse to eat something. This is one of the main essences of mindful eating – to interrupt the impulse – the automatic pilot you’ve become habituated to and allows a moment where you can be present enough to make a choice. Mindfulness is like placing a speed bump between you and the food of your desire and allows you to insert conscious choice into the equation. Mindful eating can “wake you up” and allow you to acknowledge, “I’m about to eat, I’m acknowledging what I’m about to eat, I’m noticing why I’m about to eat, and I’m creating a space around this act of eating with the attitude of mindfulness.”

5. Weight Management

Being guided by internal as opposed to external cues enables you to naturally manage your weight. Weight management becomes easier as we learn to put down the fork before you feel stuffed or become aware of triggers to eat and choose not to eat when you’re not hungry. When you feel present with what you’re eating, you also feel more nourished and satisfied. This is a key element to sustaining a positive relationship with food and weight management.

Mindfulness allows you to honor the food we eat, and thus honor yourself. It has the power to change the way you relate to food, to your body, to the earth and even your life.

Have you given mindful eating a try? What benefits have you noticed by eating more mindfully?

Aloha From the Big Island of Hawaii,

Laura Dawn, Author of Mindful Eating for Dummies

Registered Holistic Nutritionist & Mindful Eating Mentor



What Is Mindfulness?

What is MindfulnessWhat is mindfulness? This is an important question when embarking on your mindful eating journey, and a good place to start. The practice of mindfulness, especially applied to eating, is a life-long practice. This may sound daunting,  but it’s a path that’s worth every single second of time you’re willing to dedicate to it. So many people are seeking quick-fix solutions to weight-loss if that’s the case for you, then you may be setting yourself up for disappointment. Mindfulness, in it’s more subtle and gradual ways, offers a wealth of benefits. I’m reminded of what my guitar teacher used to say to encourage me to keep practicing: “Slow and stead wins the race”. This has some truth to it. It’s your choice: you can choose to take one slow step at a time in the direction of a healthier you, opening like a beautiful flower, or you can spend your time looking for the “quick-fix”. I know when I used to jump from diet to diet, I would always find myself right back where I started!

To understand mindful eating , its essential to understand mindfulness.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a very simple tool with extremely profound results. The more mindful we become the more enriched and full our lives become. Mindfulness disengages our habitual reactive behaviors and allows for inner wisdom to emerge.

Mindfulness is inherent in everyone. We all have the capacity to be mindful to various degrees, but we can all learn to strengthen our mindfulness muscles with renewed dedication and a commitment to practice.

Mindfulness is about being present, it’s about being aware of what you’re experiencing and noticing what you are feeling, and staying with that feeling, not leaving it (through habitual patterns of distraction) but staying with it – whatever that feeling is.

According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, world-renowned mindfulness and meditation teacher, mindfulness is:

 “Paying attention, on purpose, in a particular way.”

This is a very simple statement; let’s look at it more closely. What are we paying attention to? This practice allows us to pay attention to how we live our lives on a moment-by-moment basis. If we spend our whole lives thinking about the future or dwelling on the past then we’re going to miss out on our whole lives, all the little intricacies and tiny miracles that make up our lives.

‘On purpose’ is referring to the intention that we set – setting the intention to pay attention – and how engaged we are in the process. The last part, ‘in a particular way’ is very interesting and is a really important aspect of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s teaching. He’s referring to the attitude that we show up with, fostering a space that we can hold in the present moment that has certain qualities to it. It’s the how of paying attention.

How We Pay Attention – Mindfulness Qualities

How we choose to pay attention and with what attitudes we choose to bring to the mindfulness practice is of prime importance. This is like setting the mood or the tone of our practice. In the same way we know how to create a nice pleasant atmosphere, like lighting candles, or playing soft music, these qualities help us set the atmosphere to surround our mindfulness practice. Consider the difference: we could be mindful in an extremely self-critical way versus being mindful with an attitude of loving-kindness. Surrounding our mindfulness practice with self-criticism won’t be as beneficial to us as bringing an attitude of loving-kindness to the table. We want to work towards developing and fostering the positive qualities that surround our mindfulness practice, qualities that support us in our growth and development on our mindful paths.

The attitudes of mindfulness practice include:

  • Acceptance and non-judgment rather than critical judgment
  • Openness and a willingness to stay with whatever arises
  • Deep Trust in the process as our experience unfolds on a moment-to-moment basis
  • Fearlessness in the face of what arises for us
  • Kindness, compassion and gentleness for ourselves and others
  • Non-striving, just being where you are, with the knowing that you have already arrived
  • Patience and calmness
  • Letting-go to attachment of the outcome
  • A sense of light-heartedness and humor

These are the qualities that we would like to foster in the present moment of our lives. Why? Because these specific qualities loosen our grip on what we perceive to be a fixed reality, causing us suffering, and help us connect to the root of happiness. These qualities take a dedicated effort to cultivate. Most of us have been training ourselves over the course of our lifetime to foster reactive habitual ways of closing down to ourselves and others, living within a fear-based reality. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s just what it means to be human. On this path, we simply take one step at a time and gradually we head in this direction of opening to these positive qualities that soften our hearts.

When we set out on this path, we can consider ourselves ‘warriors of fierce kindness’. It takes dedication to keep coming back to the present moments. It may be a simple instruction to follow, but for those of you who’ve meditated for even 5 minutes, you know, that this can be harder than it sounds. So we set out on the path of the warrior, applying attitudes of compassion, gentleness and loving-kindness towards ourselves and others. I love the way that Sasha T, author of Eating with Fierce Kindness describes it:

“I like to use the term fierce kindness, which is the ability to strongly devote ourselves to changing thought patterns, beliefs, and behaviours that are ultimately not in our best interest, and doing so out of self-kindness, not self-judgment or criticism. The “fierceness” is the determination it takes to face your personal challenges. And the “kindness” is the act of learning to enhance sincere feelings of warmth and caring toward yourself as you go along. ” Sasha T. Loring, M.ED., LCSW

When we start to understand that we all have the capacity to be mindful, that this is in fact our natural inherent state and that we’ve just been practicing and strengthening our methods of distraction, then we can take this awareness and apply it to eating more mindfully. Although it make be a slow practice, there are many benefits that we reap from learning to eat mindfully.

Be well, be mindful.

Aloha from the Big Island of Hawaii,

Laura Dawn

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