Train Your Brain: Mindset at Mealtime Can Change the Game of Weight Loss

What if I told you that the reason you aren’t losing weight has nothing to do with your body?

There is a serious correlation between the way we think and whether or not we succeed in burning away the pounds. It is about more than just willpower. There is a complicated inner working within the mind and body that could be contributing to your failure to make the scale stay at an ideal number.

While research is still coming to see exactly what contributes to this frustrating problem, many people are beginning to work not so much on their diets as the way that they think about food, their bodies and overall health.

A short term study done by a Swedish research group in 2005 found that after a 10 week cognitive therapy program participants maintained or continued weight loss up to 18 months, in reaction to coping strategies learned during the program. It was quite the result and has shown the need for cognitive changes in order to reach fitness and health goals.

The Mind/Body Connection

Of course that isn’t the only factor. We live in a society with a very warped view of food. Diet fads come and go, the diet industry is worth billions, yet we are fatter than ever. But ultimately changing your diet isn’t that hard. It is maintaining those changes that can become difficult and where cognitive retraining is necessary.

There are five excellent ways that you can begin to change your thinking on meals, food and weight loss in general.

Start Basing Meals On Hunger, Not Time

Everyone seems to have an opinion on the “best time” to eat. For people who have alternate schedules to what is normal this can be problematic at best. How are you supposed to avoid eating late at night if you work graveyards? How can you stick to three meals and two snacks when you are always on the run?

The truth is that your stress over finding the right time to eat could be screwing with your diet more than changing it would help. Why not make it easy on yourself? Begin listening to your body. Understand the signals that tell you when you are hungry versus when you are thirsty or bored. Give your body what it wants.

This is called intuitive eating and it is one of the best things you can do. You don’t have to have heavy meals, they can be snacks through the day when you energy starts to deplete and you need a pick me up, or when you stomach begins to rumble. Just eat until you are satisfied, which means you aren’t full but you are no longer hungry.

Pay Attention To Your Food

You have probably heard of the concept of mindful eating. Most of us know what it is, we just don’t practice it. Mindful eating is when you sit down and focus on your food. You pay attention to the smell, the taste, the texture. You chew slowly and fully before swallowing. You put down your fork between most bites, drink water, have a conversation with others at the table.

Mindful eating is so important that it has led my husband and I into insisting on having family meals twice a day. That means getting up earlier and sitting down a little later. But having a light meal together with our children means we are all learning that habit. No phones are allowed at the table, no TV is on, no music. It is just the four of us with our our food.

Don’t Think Of Eating Less, Eat Better

There is an obsession with eating less to lose weight. It is understable because the concept of calories in and calories out (CICO) is a pretty solid one. The problem is that while deprivation leads to weight loss it isn’t sustainable. We can only see it as depriving ourselves of something we enjoy. Is it any wonder it is so hard to lose weight?

Instead of focusing on eating less we should be focusing on eating better. Think about it, if you have half a plate of veggie does it really matter that the other half has a burger? If you have a large salad with a light dressing do you have to stress out about having two slices of pizza?

By focusing on adding things to our diet we are putting a positive spin that also leads to us lessening our intake of unhealthy foods by default.

Consider The Possibility Of Eating Twice

This sounds strange but bear with me. Let’s say you really want that jelly filled donut. It is calling your name and you know you can’t resist it. Try eating something first with the addendum that if you still really want it after you have had something healthy and filling you can eat it. So first you have an egg white omelette with veggies and a little salsa.

Guess what is probably going to happen? You won’t want that donut so badly anymore. Your body is most likely reacting to dropping blood sugar and wants to get a quick injection of energy. Sugar and simple carbs are its favorite source so it will cause you to crave those foods. Once your blood sugar has normalized after eating that healthy alternative, the craving will usually go away. At the very least, you might have a bit more self control once you’ve put something else in your mouth.

Notice that you are still giving yourself an option to eat the donut, so you aren’t obsessing over it as you eat your meal. It takes some of the stress off and provides a bit of flexibility. And you know what? Sometimes it is ok to eat the donut.

Stop Feeling Guilty!

Which brings us to the last trick: getting rid of guilt. Your diet is 100% your own business. You shouldn’t feel guilty because you don’t always make the best choices. That is the wrong mindset to have because every time you go for a bowl of ice cream or a french fry you are thinking of it as a slip up or failure, rather than just something everyone does.

Indulge yourself sometimes and don’t feel bad about it. Being healthy isn’t always about making the perfect choice, it is about making yourself happy. Own it.

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