November 23rd, 2021

Why Mindfulness Matters

Katie Abbott, MS, RDN, INHC

Out of all the recommendations for preventing or treating heart disease, maintaining a healthy weight is at the top of the list. Excess weight may raise blood pressure, blood glucose, triglycerides, and cholesterol – all of which harm the heart. With one in three Americans are now overweight or obese, and about 1 in 13 adults are considered to have extreme obesity, so it is no wonder heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States.

A strategy that has been gaining ground in recent years is to focus less on what you eat and more on how or why you eat. In order to focus on the how and why, one must become familiar with and practice mindfulness more regularly.  The practice of mindfulness teaches awareness, while peacefully discovering and accepting feelings or thoughts about food or our body. Admittedly, that may sound a bit out there and touchy-feely. However, a recent review of about 12 studies, published in the March 2018 Current Obesity Reports, demonstrated that there is definitely strong support for including mindful eating practices in weight management programs.

Another great benefit of mindful eating is to help people tune in to their emotional eating or other habits around food.  Very few of us eat solely based on hunger cues (stomach growling). We also tend to eat to soothe stress, anger, depression, anxiety, or even boredom. We also have habits of eating while distracted, such as while watching TV, checking email, or reading the newspaper.  This may eliminate the chance to truly enjoy your food. When this happens, satisfaction and satiation lessens and overeating can occur, even if you’re not actually hungry.

Mindfulness practices help you notice these common patterns and rewrite your patterns for betterment.