Most of us know what a nutritious diet should consist of.
When it comes to eating healthy, the most difficult part may be the actual act of choosing foods that you know are more nutritionally beneficial; your mind is sometimes your biggest obstacle.
And of course it’s not just the quality of the food that matters, but also the quantity. It becomes even trickier to follow healthy eating habits when your emotions play a role in your relationship with food.
“Healthy eating is a challenge because most of us don’t just eat when we’re hungry—we eat to soothe sadness or upset, to make ourselves feel better,” explains Dina Proctor, a Mind-Body Coach and creator of the 3x3 Meditation Method. “The answer lies in changing the way we think about food.”
She says one of the biggest problems is that many people associate junk foods, especially those high in sugar, with “feeling better.” It’s often viewed as a reward.
“Most of us struggle with battling unhealthy food cravings and trying to eat healthy even though we don’t really want to,” Proctor said. “Who wants to eat carrot sticks when there’s a pint of Ben & Jerry’s in the freezer? But if you think about it, we didn’t come into the world craving junk food and sugar. We found out as children that junk food is special, so we associate unhealthy eating with feeling better.”
Proctor says that meditation, along with a few other tips and tricks, can break this cycle and help you develop more consistent healthy eating habits that aren’t constantly interrupted by cravings for foods that you shouldn’t eat as frequently.
Her first piece of advice is to “change your brain.”
“Change the way you relate to food, and your body will change along with it,” she said. “Instead of giving in to compelling, urgent junk food cravings, drink a big glass of water and try to take a couple of minutes to breathe deeply and tune into what your body’s cells are truly calling for.”
Secondly, Proctor suggests practicing short bursts of meditation. Her appropriately named 3x3 method calls for just three minutes of focused meditation, three times per day.
“These meditation breaks interrupt the normal incessant pattern of the usual mind chatter and allow us to sit still and listen more deeply to what our body’s cells are really asking for,” she said.
Proctor explained that as you continue to practice and become better at listing to your body and honoring what it really needs, you’ll begin to have eating experiences that are more satisfying.
“It’s a powerful process, to connect mind and body, and once we learn to do exactly that, the satiation and satisfaction we experience—physically, mentally and emotionally—so heavily outweighs the fleeting pleasure of a junk food binge, that it becomes our new normal way of eating,” she said. “From there, extra weight can release and our bodies can get themselves back in balance naturally.”
Keep in mind, there’s not much science to support that meditation can directly help you to lose weight, but it can certainly be a powerful component of a strategic plan that also involves exercise and a smart approach to eating nutritiously.