Avril Reilly, pharmacist and weight-loss coach in LloydsPharmacy Governey Square, talks to us this week about Mindfulness and how we can apply its techniques to help us be more aware of what and why we’re eating. Avril is currently coaching 20 of her customers through their weight-loss journeys, supporting them in making real and lasting changes to their lifestyles.
Mindfulness is a real buzz word at the moment, isn’t it? Everyone seems to be talking about it and how it can help to alleviate stress, anxiety and even depression. Mindfulness meditations and mindfulness colouring books have become a huge craze for a reason and millions of people are leading more controlled and happier lives as a result. Even though mindfulness has only been embraced in western societies over the past few years, it’s actually an ancient Buddhist practice.
I first came across mindfulness a few years ago while browsing the self-help section of my local bookshop! I saw a book called “Mindfulness – a practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world” by Mark Williams and Danny Penman. After reading the back cover I decided that this book was definitely worth a read. At that point, I felt that life was just too hectic and days were passing by in a blur. The days and weeks just merged and my mind was constantly cluttered with things I needed to do or things I didn’t get done that day. I just felt like I was always chasing my tail and I never really felt relaxed or in control. That book was a life changer for me and really opened my eyes to a whole new way of living. Living in the moment.
Simply becoming aware of my thoughts and my feelings and observing them in a non-judgemental way. Sounds complicated? It really isn’t, it just takes practice. Here’s a little example of how I integrate it into my life. Previously, I would go for a walk, headphones on and head in the clouds – by the time I finished my walk, I couldn’t even tell you what songs I had listened to because my mind was wrapped up in my thoughts. Now I try to soak up everything around me, like the feeling of the cool breeze on my face, the colour of the sky, the sounds of the birds or children playing. When I get home, I feel relaxed and refreshed – like I have had a real break.
So I’m sure you are wondering what this has to do with weight loss. Well, have you ever eaten half a tin of chocolates at Christmas without even realising? Or what about all those times you finish your dinner, yet you barely remember eating it?! Next thing, you are going for seconds because you don’t feel in any way satisfied! Mindful eating really just means eating with true awareness, without distraction. It allows us to listen to our hunger and satiety cues. It’s a way of tuning in with your body’s true hunger signals.
Next time you feel hungry, ask yourself is it genuine hunger or is there something else triggering a desire to eat? When you sit down for a meal, try to eat slowly and appreciate all of the colours, flavours and smells of the food in front of you. Chew your food thoroughly and put down your knife and fork between mouthfuls. Put away your smartphone or laptop and turn off the TV. Allow yourself the time to enjoy and truly appreciate your food. I’m not saying that it’s always possible to do this with our busy lifestyles and hectic work schedules, I don’t even manage it myself all of the time, but perhaps try to introduce mindful eating for at least one or two of your meals each day. It really can make a difference to your waistline and to your overall health, particularly if you deal with digestive issues from eating too fast, or if you tend to overeat or binge eat. It can take twenty minutes for our brains to realise that we are full, so just try to give yourself that time before reaching for more food.
It does take practice but this simple advice can really increase your awareness of how much you are eating and whether you are eating to nourish your body and satisfy hunger, or is there something else causing you to reach for the packet of biscuits after your dinner?
Free weekly weight-loss support is available at any branch of LloydsPharmacy nationwide as part of our Change your Health direction programme. We have helped hundreds of customers reach their goals. Ask in any branch for details.