Practice Mindful Eating Exercises for Stress Relief and Weight Loss
About the Author
Abby Campbell, BSc, SFN, SSN, CPT, is a leading professional fitness and nutrition expert, researcher, and published author of One Size Does NOT Fit All Diet Plan, one of Amazon's Top Gluten-Free and Weight Loss Diets. (You may read more about Abby at the bottom of this article.)
4 Mindful Eating Tips to Relieve Stress Symptoms
We see food, we eat food! That seems to be the motto of America unfortunately. Though we get much pleasure from the tasty little morsels of food, we then stress over the consequences of weight gain and health issues. A little mindfulness can be put into practice to help to relieve stress symptoms.
Training the brain can relieve stress hormones
Believe it or not, mindful exercises for stress relief and weight loss are scientific. In fact, studies have shown that when humans engage with their intentions and goals, the pre-frontal cortex of the brain is stimulated.1 What does the pre-frontal cortex do? When stimulated, the pre-frontal cortex takes part in planning, decision making, and behavior. Activity from this part of the brain is orchestrated by the thoughts and intentions in accordance to goals. It executes the plan into action - motor action. Research also shows that when the thoughts of intentions or goals are delayed or put on the back burner, the pre-frontal cortex decodes; execution therefore does not happen. What does this tell us then? We must engage with mindfulness. Training the brain can help you overcome the stress hormones and attain your weight loss goals. There are four things you can do to become more mindful:
What do you do for stress relief?
(1) Think positively.
Desire plus intention equals change, stress relief, and goals attained. Your mind is powerful, and it is very important for you to place your energies in focusing on things that you want to achieve and not on the negative. Remember how the pre-frontal cortex works? If you ever wondered why you couldn't make headway with weight loss, then maybe it was because of the way you were thinking. Overcome the stinkin' thinking with positive thoughts, and you'll also have less stress. You have 100 percent control of every thought, so you must master your communication with yourself. If you have to, write positive quotes and put them in your surroundings (i.e., bathroom mirror, refrigerator, computer monitor, etc.). Memorize them. Every time a negative thoughts begins to cross your mind, chant these quotes to yourself. Also, remove yourself from negative people who gossip, complain, and nag. Instead, make friends with those who love life and encourage you towards your goals.
Meditating conjures up many thoughts for many people. You may be thinking of a yoga instructor sitting cross-legged in the OM position. However, meditation is also thinking about something deeply or intensely. By doing this, you're once again preparing your brain's pre-frontal cortex for executing your plans. There are a few steps you may want to even think about in reaching your goals. Here's the synopsis, but you can read about them in more depth at my hub titled 9 Steps to Reach Your Weight Loss Goals.
- Self-evaluate your behaviors that are holding you back from your goals.
- Plan your goals with a list of behaviors you can engage in to reach them.
- Plan deadlines for your goals.
- Immerse yourself with good books, magazines, and tv shows regarding the topic of your goals.
How to do a deep breathing exercise:
- Find a quiet and comfortable place to sit or lie down.
- Breathe normally until fully comfortable.
- Take in a deep breath slowly through your nose, allowing your chest and lower belly to rise while filling your lungs.
- Breathe out slowly through your mouth.
- Practice for 10 to 20 minutes per day (twice per day if you can).
(3) Relax through controlled breathing methods.
In Harvard Medical School's Family Health Guide, breath control is an excellent relaxation technique.2 Though it may seem unnatural to some, deep breathing fills the lungs and encourages full oxygen exchange. The benefit is slower heart rate as well as lower or stabilized blood pressure which in turn relieves stress. On the other hand, shallow breathing can make you feel as if you're not getting enough air. It can also create tension and anxiety. Therefore, deep breathing exercises will help you with stress relief. Due to stress creating a cortisol reaction in the body, it tends to make one hold onto body fat. Therefore, relieving stress also helps with weight loss.
(4) Eat until 80 percent full.
Human nature, aversion to hunger, and love for food stems from our minds. We love our social gatherings whether they are family barbeques, potlucks at church, or just dining out with friends. Social eating can be a great stress reliever for some, but it also stresses our waistlines. We come home from our gatherings feeling overly full and sometimes miserable. Moreover, the guilt sets in that we abused our bodies and the weight scale tells us so. How do we overcome such a dilemma? We can't just give up our family and friends! Fortunately, the choice is yours. You have control of the amount of food you eat. Eating slowly and to only 80 percent full is a great mindset to have. It allows you to join in social events without feeling deprived. Yet, you don't have to suffer afterward. In fact, you can feel joy and fit as you take control of your mind.
Losing weight can be difficult and cause you to be anxious and stressed. By putting a few mindful exercises in place and practicing them can help you overcome just that. In turn, the pounds will begin to shed. So, relax and enjoy the process.
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About the author
Abby Campbell, BSc, SFN, SSN, CPT, is a leading professional fitness and nutrition expert, researcher, and published author. For the past 10 years, she has coached thousands of women locally and online to lose body fat and lead healthy lifestyles. Her clients have lost thousands of pounds, reclaimed health, and call her “Coach No Gimmick.” She is from Northern Virginia but now resides near Charlotte, North Carolina. Abby has been married for 20 years and has three grown daughters, one of which is autistic. She is a 19 year cancer survivor.
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 Haynes, J.D., Sakai, K., and Rees, G., et. al. (2007, February 20). Reading Hidden Intentions in the Human Brain. Current Biology, 17(4), 323-328. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2006.11.072. Retrieved from http://www.icn.ucl.ac.uk/executive_functions/pubs/Haynes%202007%20curr%20biol.pdf.
 The Harvard Medical School. (2006, October). Relaxation Techniques: Breath Control Helps Quell Errant Stress Response. The Harvard Medical School Family Guide. Retrieved from http://www.health.harvard.edu/fhg/updates/update1006a.shtml.