It seems like every time I turn around, there’s a new diet plan or diet book that is being pushed in the media as the “next big thing”. In my lifetime, I’ve seen the quick rise (and sometimes fall) of so many of these marketed diets, such as Atkins, South Beach, Zone, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem, Paleo, The Cookie Diet (wtf?)… the list goes on and on. Even the government has gotten in on the fun, pushing the all-important food pyramid (or new and improved* MyPlate).
*Some would say new and improved. I’m not one of them.
I’ll admit it — some of these plans do have their merits, and if you’ve found one of these that works for you, that’s great! Weight Watchers has some great aspects to it, and I’ve had friends who have had amazing success with this plan. Dr. Atkins, while a little extreme, did in fact have a good idea when it came to carbs vs. fat. Paleo can be an extremely nutrient filled diet/lifestyle when done correctly. However, I don’t think there’s one of these plans that can work for every. single. person. And we also have to be careful of those evil marketing scams that are masquerading as “healthy diets” such as the aforementioned Cookie Diet, and anything endorsed by the Kardashians.
So with all of these diet plans, why can’t we all get it right? Why can’t we all just pick one and stick with it? Maybe, and this is a BIG maybe here, it’s because it doesn’t have as much to do with “diet” per se, but more to do with the way that we eat. I came across this article the other day on cnn.com about Mindful Eating. It’s less a diet, and more a style of eating. What they’re saying is that being mindful of the foods you eat, how full you are, how hungry you are, etc. can help people to stop overeating. Think of the French: the bread-loving, croissant obsessed, cheese fiends across the Atlantic.
Why can the French have a national diet full of butter, cheese, bread and wine, yet they have an 11% obesity rate, compared to our 33%? Some say that it may have something to do with genetics. Methinks that may play some part of it, but the other part of it most likely has to do with the way in which they eat.
Raise your hand if you regularly eat in front of the TV, or in your car, or standing over the sink. (Me Me Me!) OR if you have ever finished a meal, and not really remembered anything about eating it (Me! Pick Me!!)
That, my friends, brings us to the idea of Mindful Eating. The French, and many Europeans in general, are notorious for making food an event; an actual part of their day. Not an I’m-running-out-the-door-with-a-liquid-yogurt-in-my-hand part of their day, but a time where they sit, socialize, and enjoy their meal. They savor. They enjoy flavors, textures, aromas. They enjoy the experience.
On the contrary, many of us in our go-go-go society rarely ever take the time to sit and simply enjoy a meal. Take me, for example. I eat lunch a couple of bites at a time in between seeing patients, because I Don’t Have Time to just sit and enjoy lunch in the middle of a work day. Do you think this allows my body to become satisfied, or my brain to realize that yes, I did in fact, just eat a meal? Probably not.
Yes, the study that is cited in the Mindful Eating article is flawed, but there is something there that warrants further attention by the medical community. Can simply focusing on your food and the sensations that come with it allow you to curb overeating? When I come home from a stressful day at work and ALL I WANT IS CHOCOLATE,
will being mindful of my emotional state and savoring a small bit of chocolate help to curb the craving and stop me from over eating? Quite possibly, according to the research. See, I know that I’m a stress-eater, I have been my whole life. It’s just that within the past couple of years, I have learned how to control myself so that I don’t get into that habit of “dazed eating” where stuff is going in, but it could be cardboard for all of the attention I’m paying to it. I’ve learned to be more mindful.
Mindful Eating is something that I have been reading more about lately and have started incorporating into my own lifestyle, but I know that I can work harder at it. What do you guys think about mindfulness? And I’m not just talking about diet here. If mindful eating can help people to eat healthier, can mindful living allow us to be healthier overall? I think that’s a bigger subject for another post, but in the mean time, I’ll leave you with this because it makes me smile.