Eating Mindfully

When I quit drinking,  I acquired a sweet tooth. For the first time in my life I started eating until I was painfully full. I very unconsciously tore though whole pizzas and third helpings of ice cream. Clearly I was coping with the loss of alcohol by overeating, and for a while that was okay. It was better than a fifth of vodka and a hangover.

It didn’t take long before my body was very unhappy with all the junk food, but I was hooked and couldn’t seem to stop. Soon after this I began practicing meditation daily and mindfulness spilled over into my eating habits. I was less stressed and more in touch with what I was actually feeling.

The first time I noticed a change in regard to my sweet tooth, I was in a diner feeling overly full, but staring a huge piece of cake in the dessert case. The chatter in my mind was arguing with itself, “get the cake” “don’t get the cake”. Just then my practice kicked in. I noticed what was happening in my mind was just mental talk. I didn’t have to let it run the show or stress me out. I also noticed the contraction and expansion in my chest. At first it seemed unpleasant because it was attached to the mental talk. It was “craving” and that was bad. But, as I allowed the activity of my mind to be in the background, the sensation stopped having meaning and started to feel almost pleasant. I stayed with the movement in my chest and it very quickly broke up and passed. I recognized that I was full and didn’t get the cake. This took a matter of minutes and I did it while I sat and chatted with a group of people. After that I began to have the  freedom to choose to eat sweets rather than the compulsion. Today meditation continues to assist me in my relationship with food. The article below discusses a study about the benefits of mindful eating.

 -Jessica

Reducing Stress and Mindful Eating Curbs Weight Gain in Obese and Pregnant Women: Study

By Sangeeta Ghosh Dastidar from International Business Time

Help is at hand for those who cannot but reach out for that extra helping of festive treats and then suffer the “holiday blues”.

In a new study, professionals from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) have urged women to be cautious of what they eat and also combat their stress levels as a proactive means to prevent them piling on the pounds during the festive season. The research, published online in the October issue of the Journal of Obesity, explained that managing stress and mindful eating can actually help in weight loss even in the absence of hardcore diet regimes.

The current investigation is part of ongoing UCSF research into how stress and the stress hormone – cortisol – are linked to eating behavior, fat and health.

“You’re training the mind to notice, but to not automatically react based on habitual patterns, to not reach for a candy bar in response to feeling anger, for example,” said lead UCSF researcher, Jennifer Daubenmier, from UCSF’s Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, “If you can first recognize what you are feeling before you act, you have a greater chance of making a wiser decision.”

The study investigated individual capabilities in recognizing hunger pangs, feelings of satiation and also taste. The researchers looked for changes in the amount of deep abdominal fat and overall weight. They also measured the levels of secretion of cortisol shortly after awakening, a time when cortisol peaks in those under chronic stress.

Cortisol secretion runs in a daily cycle and normally ramps up when we wake from sleep. However, it is also triggered by both real and perceived threats. Daubenmier explained that when we wake up and anticipate the day’s events, experiencing them as stressful, cortisol secretion may spike even higher.

Among women in the treatment group, there were clear links between changes in body awareness, chronic stress, cortisol secretion and abdominal fat. Those who had greater improvements in listening to their bodies’ cues, or greater reductions in stress or cortisol, experienced the greatest reductions in abdominal fat.

Among the subset of obese women in the study, those who received mindfulness training had significant reductions in cortisol after awakening and also maintained their total body weight, as compared to women in the control group who had stable cortisol levels and continued to gain weight. Also, women whose cortisol levels dropped were apparently able to sustain their overall body weight, without any further gain of body mass.

Read the rest of the article here

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