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Rethinking Nutrition – Why It’s All About Mindfulness, Not Deprivation

January 12, 2021

Mindless eating is a bad habit for many people who struggle with their weight. All too often, you find yourself caught up in the hectic day-to-day, not giving food the time and respect it deserves.

Successful weight loss – whether you’ve had bariatric surgery or not – requires mindful eating.

Mindful eating is all about the HOW. HOW you eat is just as important as WHAT you eat, explains Andrea Bookoff, Registered Dietitian with the Jefferson Health – New Jersey Bariatric Surgery Program.

“Mindful eating looks different for everyone,” Bookoff said. “It may involve eating slower, eating without distractions, paying attention to how satisfied you are, and listening to how food makes your body feel. What feels good for one person, may not feel good for the other.”

Mindful eating allows for better digestion, weight loss, and mental clarity.

After bariatric surgery, mindful eating is even more important, as your stomach is working even harder to digest. Patients are encouraged to focus on chewing slowly and putting the fork down in between bites, says Bookoff. If this isn’t done, it can lead to overeating, stomach upset, and, in some cases, stomach stretching.

On the other hand, eating mindlessly – such as quickly eating a protein bar or bag of chips on the car ride to work – or depriving yourself is like telling your body that you don’t care what you’re giving it, explains Cheri Leahy, Lead Bariatric Dietitian with Jefferson Health NJ. If you don’t fuel your body properly, you can’t expect it to function properly.

Additionally, a “restriction” mindset can be harmful and lead to binge-eating, adds Bookoff.

Mindful eating doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself of the foods you enjoy most; in fact, it’s the exact opposite, continues Leahy. Mindful eating promotes truly savoring and appreciating your food. You can and should respond to cravings; but when you take your time eating a treat, you’re much more likely to just have one serving size.

When you’ve made this healthy lifestyle change, choosing what you eat shouldn’t feel like a chore. Try to have fun learning what new flavors go well together and what foods give you the most energy.

It’s incredibly important to create an individualized plan – unlike anyone else’s – with realistic and sustainable “micro-changes” (small changes that don’t come with the pressure of goals), says Bookoff.

“The way you eat and treat your body, in general, is a form of self-love. It’s your story, which you should put a lot of thought into,” noted Leahy. “Ask yourself what it means to be healthy to YOU and define this with the help of your healthcare team.”