Yelena Luzhanskaya is a psychology doctoral level practicum student at the Center for Weight and Eating Disorders at Penn. She also works with the Penn Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Program psychologists weekly.
Mindfulness is a mental state you can reach by focusing on the present without judgement. It’s a way to deepen your awareness, pay attention with curiosity, be more compassionate and let go of some stressors.
When practicing mindfulness, it’s important to remember that your practice doesn’t have to be perfect. You also don’t need make sure your mind is clear or that you’re relaxed. Mindfulness simply involves paying attention to what is going on in the moment and accepting things that did not go as planned.
Mindfulness and Mindful Eating
When eating mindfully, pay attention to the food you eat and observe – don’t judge – how it makes you feel. Also be aware of how the food tastes, your fullness, and whether the food made you feel satisfied.
Here are eight steps to practice mindful eating:
- Pay attention to your body and notice your hunger cues.
- Notice when your body is full.
- Take your time while eating and pay attention to each bite.
- Make thoughtful food choices.
- Eat at planned times and in specific places.
- Avoid distractions while eating. Turn off the television, step away from your work, or put down your reading.
- Acknowledge less healthy choices and redirect yourself toward behaviors and choices that will help you reach your goals.
- Be aware of cravings and make conscious choices.
Why Mindful Eating Matters
Mindful eating doesn’t mean you can’t eat certain foods or that you’ll be free of cravings.
However, it can allow you to make choices that can help you get to and maintain a successful and healthy lifestyle after bariatric surgery. Practicing mindfulness and being fully present during meals can help you reach your diet and nutrition goals in the following ways:
- You're able to better avoid impulsive eating
- You're more likely to consume fewer calories
- You're more likely to make healthier food choices
Mindfulness is not about being perfect, but it’s most helpful when intentionally practiced every day. For more mindfulness resources, visit Penn Medicine’s Mindfulness Blog.