Jacqui Lewis - September 2021
Does Eating Mindfully Really Have Merit?
Eating Speed Bumps?
How to slow down and become more present at mealtimes
Of the more common issues related to eating after Weight Loss Surgery is the process of getting a better handle on our food cues and the different things that motivate us to eat in either a helpful way or a potentially harmful way.
On top of gaining an understanding of meal sizes and the rate at which we eat food. Bariatric patients are also encouraged to master protein intake, remaining hydrated, and meeting nutritional needs every day to ensure long-lasting and healthy results. So by no means is it as simple as it looks, and there is much to learn along the way!
There are some incredibly effective tools to use alongside WLS to help harness your best efforts and make life happier and healthier.
Some of them are visual or practical tools - such as Portion management plates and bowls, egg timers and Bariatric cutlery.
But to cut right under the "why" of mindless eating and improving overall eating habits, we need to have a sense of some intrinsic tools to support healthy habits. A somewhat 'Woo Woo' term as mindful eating or eating mindfully is becoming more familiar when talking about behavioural change.
Now to some of us, this might sound like something the yogis do on the top of a mountain to gain that one step closer to an enlightened state, and we couldn't be further from having the time or inclination to embark on that!
However, more research shows what this powerful tool called mindfulness can 'bring to the table' when combating maladaptive eating habits, emotional eating, hunger cues, and overall weight control.
Let's look at what "being mindful" is and how we can implement mindfulness during mealtimes.
Overall, being mindful is a term for bringing focussed attention to whatever you are doing, thinking or feeling, and exploring each component of that action.
So when we apply this to eating mindfully, here's what that might look like at mealtimes.
Start by sitting in a comfortable and alert position with your eyes open. Take a moment first to monitor your hunger. On a scale of 1-7, with 7 being uncomfortably full and 1 being horribly hangry:
How hungry are you at this moment? Are you choosing to eat because of physical hunger or emotional hunger?
Take a look at this graphic to evaluate where your
After noting your hunger, take a deep breath, the deepest one you have had all day, removing the air from your lungs. Take three more intentional deep breaths as you let go of the tension in your body.
The following steps will guide you through a mindful eating journey with each of your five senses.
Take a close look at the food you chose. Become aware of its colour and notice the space it takes up. How does your meal look? Observe the shape of the food. Where did it come from, and what journey did it take to get to you?
Now, pick up the food lightly. Touch the surface. What words describe your food? Is it prickly or smooth, sticky, round or oval, soft or hard?
Hold the food up to your nose and notice the odour.
How does what it smells like make you feel about putting it in your mouth?
Take a small taste of the food. Chew it slowly and mindfully as you observe the texture, flavour, and all the other sensations that are occurring. Is it sour, bitter, sweet, or salty? Pay attention to your mouth salivating. After fully experiencing the food, swallow it and detect the movement of the food going down your esophagus as it goes down toward your stomach.
As the food travels down your body, pay attention to any noises that may occur.
Pause for a moment and then take another slow, small taste.
Listen to the sound of your teeth biting into the food.
How satisfying is each bite? Do you enjoy the taste?
Pause and take a breath between bites to investigate your hunger and fullness.
Pay attention to how your stomach feels and if you desire an additional piece.
Listen to what your body is telling you.
Now you're eating mindfully! It really is that simple.
Engaging your senses in the ritual of eating food serves a range of purposes, and can be a potent tool when you are looking for weight change, improved feeling of fullness from small volumes of food and an overall healthier eating style.
Fun fact, eating mindfully has also been shown to increase the amount of nutrition you will absorb from your food if you are tuning in and eating in a more relaxed state of mind.
So, now you have applied this method to the act of eating. This mindful approach can also be a fantastic help with emotional regulation where we need to have around our hunger. When looking to have a better connection with deciphering if we are genuinely feeling "real" hunger or whether the hungry sensation we feel is more an emotional reaction to a feeling, food or situation.
Here's a handy guide to use as a method of checking in with yourself when hunger 'strikes!"
Comes on gradually and can be postponed
Comes on suddenly and feels urgent
Can be satisfied with any type of food
Causes specific cravings, pizza, chocolate, ice cream...
Once you're full you can stop eating
Eat more than your normally would. Feel uncomfortably full
Causes satisfaction, doesn't cause guilt
Leaves you feeling guilty and cross with yourself
Between 18 months to 2 years post gastric bypass or gastric sleeve surgery, some patients report weight to regain and a ferocious return of hunger. Using this type of awareness training has proven to be a powerful tool for really exploring these hunger cues and working with more curiosity than fear of hunger.
Remember, hunger is a healthy sign when we recognise it correctly and treat it with care. When we connect fear or any negative emotion with hunger, we can be pushed back down the unhelpful road of the diet mentality, something to avoid after having weight loss surgery.
By becoming more curious, intuitive and mindful, our food choices, meal sizes, and overall emotional connections around food are often changed for the better.
BHSc Nutritional and Dietetic Medicine