A Mindful Approach to Weight Loss

| Posted On Dec 03, 2021 | By:

If you gained weight during the pandemic, you are certainly not alone. Or maybe you’ve been struggling with your weight for a while. Our upcoming Mindfulness and Health Coaching Strategies for Weight Loss course can help!

Turning to food may have provided comfort during an unsettling time. However, the extra weight may be affecting your energy levels, maybe your clothes don’t fit as well as they used to, and you’re having a tough time trying to lose the weight.

When you try to take away a source of comfort (in this case, food), you have to replace it with something else. Yelling, berating, or scolding yourself for overeating or eating the wrong foods doesn’t work in the long run. Through mindfulness meditation, we learn how to be kind and considerate towards ourselves, which is much more effective for losing weight and keeping it off.

To help understand mindfulness and how it can help you with your weight loss goals, we asked course instructor Ashley Norwood some questions, and below are her answers.

In our upcoming 7 session virtual Mindfulness and Health Coaching Strategies for Weight Loss course, participants will learn how to meditate to self-soothe and find peace in the midst of chaos. If mindfulness sounds like an approach you’d like to try, see information below about signing up for our 7 session virtual course beginning on January 24th.

Best of luck to you in reaching your health goals in 2022!

Q and A with instructor Ashley Norwood: 

Q: We hear and read so much about mindfulness these days. Can you give a working explanation of what mindfulness is?

Mindfulness is a particular way of paying attention. It means you’re right here, right now, on purpose, paying attention to this present moment. It’s very different from our usual mode of operation, where the mind is constantly wandering away and thinking about the past and the future.

The second ingredient in mindfulness is a little trickier to describe and to experience. It’s about coming to this present moment “without judgment.” You are open and curious about how things are right now because you realize you have never been in this particular moment before.

As you start a mindfulness meditation practice, it’s helpful to know that our human minds don’t take to this practice easily! Most people benefit from the camaraderie and support of learning and practicing in a group environment.

Q: Could you give some examples of how mindfulness works in day-to-day life?

I make a distinction between a formal meditation practice (for most people, this is when you use a recording to focus on a primary object: your breath, “touchpoints” where the body is making contact with an object, sounds, walking, etc.), and an informal mindfulness practice, in which you purposefully bring your attention to whatever you’re doing. You can use your senses to bring mindfulness to any daily activity like mindful showering or mindful driving.

To shower mindfully, you notice how the water feels against your skin and the smell of your soap or shampoo, and you listen to the sound of the water. You feel sensations occurring in your body like your muscles softening and relaxing. When your mind jumps into the future and anticipates the coming day or gets lost in a story, bring your attention back to your body standing in the shower. It’s a fun example because, from a sensory perspective, it’s usually quite pleasant!

For mindful driving, you purposely feel your body making contact with the seat of the car (contact made by the thighs, buttocks, back), the steering wheel underneath your hands, the feel of your foot pressing down on the pedal. You can listen to the sound of the traffic (make sure the radio is turned off) and notice what you are seeing (the other cars, the sky, trees, etc.). When the mind wanders away – which it will – it’s not a problem. Just choose to come back to the moment through your senses. It’s actually a very safe way to drive.

Q: Can you explain how mindfulness impacts eating and how it can help with weight loss?

Most of us practice eating mindlessly every day. This means we eat while we’re doing something else, like looking at our phone, watching TV, reading the news, or answering email and text messages. The result is that we don’t actually taste and experience what we’re eating, and we’re left feeling uncomfortably full and unsatisfied. Cultivating the opposite practice – eating mindfully – can make a huge difference in what and how much we choose to eat. When you eat mindfully, you purposefully put everything and everyone else aside and truly focus on your food. You look at the color and texture, smell the aromas. You take one bite at a time, putting the food or the utensil down in between bites so you can keep your full attention on the bite in your mouth. You ask yourself, “how does it taste?” Is it sweet, tangy, creamy, savory, or crunchy? Can you hear yourself chewing? Do you feel the impulse to swallow when it arises?

Your mind is going to tell you, “I don’t have time for this!” so tap into your curiosity and experiment with doing it just once while timing yourself. Believe it or not, eating a mindful snack or meal only takes about 5-12 minutes. You will be surprised by how much it changes your experience of eating and how much less you need to feel satiated.

Q: Many people have tried to lose weight many, many times in their lives – how is this approach different from going on another diet?

Humans have evolved to be problem solvers, which has clearly worked out for our species in a wide variety of ways. However, this evolutionary impulse to “fix ourselves” can be counterproductive – it reinforces an aggressive, inner dialogue that actually makes changing our behavior very difficult. Many people believe that they can change if they just mentally beat themselves up enough about something. We now know that lasting behavior change comes from bringing a kind, compassionate awareness to the present moment over and over again. Only then can we see clearly what we are doing and why – and choose to do things differently.

Q: How can I learn more or sign up for the Mindfulness for Weight Loss course?

Our 7 session virtual course begins on Monday, January 24th at 6:00 pm and is being offered via Zoom. Meeting weekly (with one skipped class on February 21st), the course program includes guided meditation practices, group dialogue, and weekly home assignments.

To register for this course, please contact Tracey Hubbard-Fox at 617-421-5805. For more details, view the Mindfulness and Health Coaching Strategies for Weight Loss course flyer on the Atrius Health website or contact Instructor Ashley Norwood at 617-816-1770 or ashleynorwood@comcast.net.

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About Ashley Norwood

Ashley Norwood is a certified Wellness Coach, a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Practitioner, and certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher and Yoga Therapist. She teaches mindfulness and weight-loss courses at Atrius Health.

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