Mindful eating for weight loss – a powerful tool to help you lose weight, keep it off, and build a healthy relationship with food along the way.
In this post, we’ll take a look at:
- what mindful eating is
- how it can empower you to enjoy the foods you love
- how you can use it to find balance and create the sustainable results you want
Let’s dive in.
What is Mindful eating?
Mindful eating is deliberately paying attention to your experience of food and eating, without judgement.
It’s about being fully present – noticing the tastes, and noticing how you feel as you eat.
With mindful eating, there are no restrictions, and nothing is off limits.
For many people, this can feel pretty scary.
Diet culture often makes us think that we need to follow rules and cut foods out in order to lose weight.
But this isn’t the case.
When you take away the rules and restrictions, and give yourself permission to enjoy the foods you love, food loses it’s power over you.
It’s not ‘bad’ or ‘naughty’ or something that makes you feel guilty. It’s just food.
You can enjoy every delicious bite.
And you’ll find it easier to eat less of it, because you know you can go back for more anytime you’re hungry.
Allowing yourself that freedom removes the urge to eat it all now. You don’t have to be ‘really good’ after.
You can just move on, and continue to enjoy your balanced and flexible lifestyle.
But how does this work with weight loss?
Mindful eating for weight loss
Many people think if they remove all the rules, they’ll just eat junk all the time.
In reality, this doesn’t happen.
We all want to feel healthy and energised, and eat foods that feel good for us.
The clients I work with want to nourish their body and make healthy choices.
They just also want the freedom to indulge in a meal out, takeaway, or some chocolate and wine now and again too.
I’m guessing it’s the same for you too.
And the great news is, that’s something we can all do.
Making room for your favourite foods
When you know you can eat anything, you may as well make it special.
With my online weight loss clients, we talk about saving calories for the best of what they love.
We get them creating a simple and realistic daily food plan.
This allows them to:
- make sure they are getting enough nutrition (protein in each meal and 3-5 servings of veggies each day)
- have easy choices available when needed
- avoid extra calories from impulsive or unplanned choices
That last point is key – avoiding extra calories from impulsive or unplanned choices.
When you have a plan, and it’s doable (not a ‘perfect diet’ plan, but choices you’ll actually want and be able to eat), it minimises decision-making for the rest of the day.
If anything else pops up, it’s easier to say ‘No thank you’, or ‘Awesome, thanks! I’ll enjoy that tomorrow’.
It saves the bites, nibbles, and raiding of cupboards that often occurs when we lack that structure.
I recommend planning snacks too, so you know you’ll have what you need.
In this busy world we live in, the less thinking you need to do in the moment, the better your chances of success.
How to practise mindful eating
Each time you’re about to eat, check in with yourself to ask:
Am I actually hungry?
So many times we eat out of habit, because it’s a certain time of day, because other people are, or because we’re mistaking hunger for thirst.
If you’re unsure, drink a glass of water and wait 15 minutes.
Check in with yourself again. If you’re not hungry anymore, great. You just practised listening to your body and saved unnecessary eating.
Still hungry? Go for it. Now you can use:
Your Mindful eating checklist
Some of these points won’t always be practical (i.e. if you have a toddler joining you for dinner), but follow as many as you can.
- Sat down at a table
- Minimal distraction (no screens)
- Observe the food you’re about to eat. How does it look? Does it look tasty or nourishing?
- Notice how the first bite tastes. If you’re hungry and it’s scrumptious, you’re taste buds will be screaming ‘Yes! Thank you!’
- As you go through the meal, eat slowly and enjoy each bite
- Keep aware of how the taste changes or fades
- Check in with your body midway through the meal or snack
- How do you feel? Do you notice any changes? Are you still enjoying the food?
- If you feel you may be satisfied and ready to stop, pause there.
- You can always go back to the food later if you’re hungry again.
When you practise slowing things down and really enjoying each bite, you may start to notice that you’re satisfied with less than you thought.
Mindful eating helps you discover where you’re eating more than your body needs.
If you think you could be satisfied before the end of the meal, try leaving some food on the plate.
You really can go back to it if you’re still hungry later. And when you tell yourself that, it can take away the urge to finish it all now.
Most times, if you suspect you’re satisfied and leave some food behind, it’s likely you’ll find that 15 minutes later you’re full. It just takes a bit of time for the signal to kick in.
Options for food left behind:
- put it in a box in the fridge for a small meal or snack the next day
- give it to the dog
- throw it away (this can feel hard if you’ve been brought up being told you ‘mustn’t waste food’. But eating it when you’re already satisfied is still a waste. It’s better in the bin than in your body if it’s food you didn’t need that makes you feel rubbish after)
Saving calories for the best of what you love
When my online clients begin practising mindful eating, they often find that they’re satisfied before the end of a meal.
In this case, it’s time to start serving smaller portions or eating from a slightly smaller plate.
You can always go back for more if you’re still hungry.
Planning your food, eating slowly and mindfully, and stopping when satisfied, is likely to save you a considerable amount of calories over time.
Some of these saved calories can be ‘banked’ for weight loss.
And some can be ‘spent’ on your favourite indulgent foods.
To make weight loss sustainable, it’s vital that you enjoy the way you eat.
That means factoring in less healthy foods or meals that you love now and again.
It could be a takeaway, meal out, your favourite dessert, or a piece of cake while out with a friend.
Make sure what you have is awesome and feels totally worth it to you.
Raising Your Food Standards
Some people find it helpful to think about raising their standards for what they eat.
Think about it this way: you and your body deserve the best.
You’ll feel at your best when you eat food that nourishes your body and makes you feel great.
And you also want the best indulgent foods now and again, that just make you happy because they’re so damn delicious.
In my case, that means saying ‘no thank you’ to generic biscuits or shop bought cake.
But ‘hell yes’ to chocolate covered biscuits at Christmas, a slice of freshly baked cake at my local cafe, or anything my nan makes.
It also means saying ‘no’ to most generic chocolate bars, but ‘OMG yes’ to white chocolate toblerone or Hotel Chocolat.
What does it mean for you?
Getting clear on this can be really powerful.
Nourish your body, save calories for the best of what you love, and eat mindfully…
And you really can lose weight while gaining a healthy relationship with food along the way.
To sum up Mindful Eating for Weight Loss
I’ll finish with this quote from the fantastic book (which I highly recommend checking out) The Joy of Half a Cookie – Using Mindfulness to Lose Weight and End the Struggle with Food:
When we give ourselves permission to eat our favourite foods without guilt, we eat less of it than usual, without struggling.
We also enjoy them more, crave them less, and don’t (as it’s common to fear) want to keep eating them endlessly.
Give it a try. You could start with the tips in this post, and use the guidance and exercises in The Joy of Half a Cookie.
It takes time, practise and patience.
But it’s worth it to reach your goals while eating in a way that feels enjoyable and sustainable, and know you’ve got the tools to keep the results for good.
If you’d like to do this with the support and guidance of a coach (me), you can find out more about online coaching here: