Mindful Eating: A Fit4100 Beginner’s Guide

how to practice mindful eating

Mindfulness and eating might seem like a strange pairing, but changing the way you experience food doesn’t just make eating more enjoyable – it can also result in surprising health benefits and better lifestyle choices.

What is Mindful Eating?

Mindful eating is a simple adjustment that can revolutionise the way you eat and think about food. It draws on the traditions of mindfulness to help you more fully experience each mouthful and scientific study has shown this change can improve health and foster better eating habits. 

Practicing mindful eating is about using the basic skills of mindfulness every time you eat. It involves placing your full attention on the experience of eating without self judgement or criticism.

How to practice Mindful Eating

Creating a mindful diet does not mean choosing particular foods and rejecting others. Instead, the emphasis is on how you think and feel while eating.

Building a non-judgmental and healthy relationship with food is the heart of the mindful eating diet’s success. Many people find that once conscious eating becomes routine, they naturally make different choices about what, why, and how often they eat.

The first step in creating a mindful eating program is practicing basic mindfulness skills. Use the Fit4100 Mindfulness Guide and spend two minutes each day developing your ability to be present and self-aware in the moment. Once you feel comfortable, extend your practice to eating using these tips on how to do mindful eating –  

1) Start small

Begin by choosing only one meal each day or one meal each week as your ‘mindful meal’. Allow yourself time to develop the habit of mindful eating, rather than pressuring yourself and becoming frustrated.

2) Set a time goal

Try to extend the time you spend eating. Instead of eating quickly in front of the computer, your phone, or the TV, set a goal to take 15 or 20 minutes to finish the meal. Use the time to chew every mouthful thoroughly, experience how the flavours develop, and pause between bites to check-in on your thoughts.

3) Use all your senses

 Flavour is only one part of the experience of eating. Engage all of your senses in your meal by concentrating individually on the colours, textures, aromas, and even the sounds that are connected with your food.

4) Think about your food more holistically

Another key part of the mindfulness-based eating solution is gaining a deeper understanding of food. Use the time you are preparing and eating your meal to think about how your food was grown – the labour, water, sunshine, and soil that supported it – and how the cooking has transformed its form and flavour.

What are the benefits of Mindful Eating?

There are two ways mindful eating improves health.

The first is the direct physiological benefits that come from eating more slowly. The process of digestion relies on hormonal signals sent between the gut and the brain. Research on Mindful eating shows that it takes an average of twenty minutes for the brain to identify that enough food has been eaten. Practicing mindful and intuitive eating allows time for this signal to be received, helping you to better judge when you are full and avoid over-eating, which can lead to a series of digestive problems.

The second group of benefits arising from mindful eating stem from changes in behavior and are proven to have a significant impact on health. Experts like psychologist Jean Kristeller say this is because mindful eating creates a “moment of choice” between the urge to eat and the act of eating, which allows people to cut down on instances of emotional eating and to make better choices about what they eat.

This idea is backed by research – including this 2013 study on Mindful Eating that found mindful eaters chose smaller portion sizes and this 2011 study that indicated mindful eating techniques could decreases instances of binging. 

While eating in this way is not intended as a method of mindfulness for weight loss, there is strong evidence of a connection between mindful eating and shedding kilos. Sustainable maintenance of a healthy weight is a key factor in better aging. 

The 16 8 Diet Explained

Why the 16 8 Diet works, how keto and fasting are linked, and how to do it.

intermittent fasting hours

What is the 16 8 diet and how can it help you live longer?

The 16 8 diet is a popular form of Intermittent Fasting (IF) that is sometimes also called Time Restricted Feeding (TRF).

This diet has quickly gained popularity in the last five years and scientific study is beginning to indicate that it is more than a fad. Human and animal trails of the 16 8 diet show early indications that it is an effective tool for weight loss, can help reduce the risk of heart disease and some cancers, is a treatment option Type 2 diabetes, and can improve brain function. Each of these outcomes are defences against major diseases of aging and can help you to live longer and live better.  

While the 16 8 diet is a version of Intermittent Fasting, it has some major lifestyle benefits not available with other kinds of IF. The 16 8 diet does not require you to fast for long periods and does not impose severe calorie restrictions. Instead, it closely mimics your Circadian rhythm by prescribing that you eat for eight hours in every 24-hour cycle and observe a 16-hour fasting window.

Most people choose to have their eating window during daylight hours; from 10am-6pm or 12pm-8pm, allowing them to keep eating two regular meals each day and snacks in between. Relatively recent evidence points to an increase in effectiveness of the 16 8 diet when the eating window is located earlier in the day, for example from 8am-4pm.

Keto and Intermittent Fasting

Keto is shorthand for Ketosis – a process that is triggered by food deprivation. Researchers have discovered that Keto is a major reason that Intermittent Fasting interventions like the 16 8 diet have such wide-ranging health benefits.

Keto involves what experts call a metabolic switch, which occurs when the body isn’t provided with food.

When not in Ketosis, the body uses glucose from food for energy, but when ketosis occurs the body changes and begins converting stored fat into ketones, which become its energy source.

This results in weight loss as fat is burned off, but researchers – like those who conducted this 2017 study on “The impact of intermittent fasting on health and disease processes” –  say food deprivation also triggers “adaptive responses of the brain and autonomic nervous system” that “play major roles in the fitness-promoting and disease-allaying effects of IF”.

These adaptive changes lead to health improvements like decreases in inflammation, reduction in cholesterol levels, and lower blood sugar levels.

The 16 8 diet is one Intermittent Fasting keto schedule that can induce a metabolic switch and help you enhance your longevity.

How to follow the 16 8 diet

If you want to try keto and fasting, experimenting with the 16 8 diet is an excellent place to start.

To induce Intermittent Fasting Keto, researchers have determined most people need to fast for 8-12 hours, after which the level of ketones in the blood will begin to rise. The 16 8 diet creates a daily fasting window of 16 hours, meaning the body will be in a state of ketosis for 4-8 hours in each 24-hour period.

Before beginning the 16 8 diet it is important to talk to your doctor as your medication or individual nutrition and energy needs could make it inappropriate for you. If you are cleared to try Keto and Intermittent Fasting, then look at your normal schedule of meals and determine which eight-hour eating window will result in the least disruption to your routine. For example, if you normally eat between 8am and 8pm, you could consider swapping to eating between midday and 8pm, so you can still eat dinner with your family.

During the eating window, you can eat any food you like, but experts say the 16 8 Diet works best when paired with healthy food choices such as the Mediterranean Diet.

If you are having trouble making the change to eating only eight hours each day, try phasing the change in gradually. Start with a ten-hour daily eating window. After two weeks of transition, narrow the window down to eight hours. Many proponents of the 16/8 diet and Intermittent Fasting say their bodies eventually adapted to eating only during a four-hour daily window.

How to Stay Young

Stay Young and Love Life

Forget the mythical fountain of youth. Science has brought us three reliable answers to the often-asked question: ‘How do you stay young?’.

The importance of staying young

The motivation to slow the process of aging – to keep healthy, active, and happy even as decades pass – is different for everyone.

One person may want to stay youthful so they can travel to unexplored places in their retirement, while another might want to stay younger longer so they can continue to live independently in a wild and beautiful, yet remote, home.

Underlying all the myriad personal reasons for staying young there is usually a single driving factor – quality of life. Most of us want to continue feeling, looking, and acting young so we can experience life at its best.

Remaining youthful is everybody’s passport to a life that fulfils its boldest potential.

As well as warding off diseases of aging that can make the world feel like its shrinking, keeping your body young means there is more time to reach out and embrace opportunity.

More years and better health can create the space for new dreams and goals – from playing with grandchildren and great-grandchildren, to winning a Nobel Prize at 85-years-old, or even water-skiing on your 100th birthday.

How to stay young naturally

Contemporary health and medical researchers are constantly identifying new methods that might help you to stay young-looking or help keep your body and brain active longer.

From among the multitudes of advice and information, there are three natural and achievable changes that are reliably cited as among the most effective ways to remain younger longer.

           #1 – Nutrition.

Eating better – whether that be through the Mediterranean Diet, intermittent fasting, or by restricting calories – has a profound anti-aging effect. Changing the food you eat can protect you from life-shortening conditions like diabetes and heart disease, while also improving energy levels and mental health.   

           #2 – Exercise.

Getting active has been shown to have more positive health benefits than any other single intervention. Exercise can help keep your body young by reducing the effects of conditions like arthritis, guarding against fractures, improving chronic pain, and maximising quality of life by tackling depression and anxiety.   

           #3 – Mindfulness.

When practiced routinely, mindfulness has a proven effect on a range of health conditions that can significantly reduce lifespan – including mental health, Alzheimer’s disease, and stroke – and it can help solve complex and multi-layered lifestyle problems like insomnia.

Practical advice to keep your body young (and your mind too!)

Fit4100’s articles bring you up-to-date breakthroughs, tips, and information on how to stay youthful. 

Explore the archive to find ideas that work for you, or try one of these easy suggestions to get started:

  • Add a new daily exercise to your routine. This could be a simple 30 minutes of walking, or something a little more adventurous like Pilates.
     
  • Experiment with introducing the 16:8 intermittent fasting diet to your day by extending your regular food-free window by two hours. This might mean that if you usually eat between the hours of 7am and 9pm, you don’t begin eating until 9am instead.  

Intermittent Fasting Benefits

Intermittent Fasting 101

Intermittent Fasting studies have been conducted for decades. The volume of information about the dietary intervention can be confusing, but a recent academic review published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) brings much-needed clarity.

In the review, the authors analyse a proliferation of Intermittent Fasting research. Their conclusions show that there are broad health benefits of fasting that could be associated with longevity and anti-aging.

In this article, Fit4100 takes a deeper look at the findings.

What is Intermittent Fasting (also known as IF)?

Sometimes it can seem like Intermittent Fasting’s meaning is blurred because there are so many different methods recommended by various experts. Some popular examples of Intermittent Fasting techniques are the 5:2 diet, the 16/8 fasting method, and alternative-day fasting.

Because fasting can be approached in so many different ways, it’s most accurate to think of Intermittent Fasting as an umbrella term that describes a dietary intervention involving limits on when you eat.

The NEJM review authors analysed evidence on the effects of Intermittent Fasting generally – their pool of research included studies that dealt with all the versions of IF mentioned above.

What happens to the body during Intermittent Fasting?

Regardless of what specific fasting method you use, the purpose of Intermittent Fasting is to trigger a physiological process called a metabolic switch.

When food is eaten regularly and often, the body uses glucose from that food for energy. Research shows that after 8-12 hours of fasting, the body switches to a new fuel source. The liver begins to convert fatty acids into ketones and these ketones are used to power the body’s tissues – including the brain.

This change can trigger weight loss, as it allows stored fat to be burned off as energy. But, the authors of the NEJM review say that weight loss is not the most important result of metabolic switching:

“Ketone bodies are not just fuel used during periods of fasting; they are potent signaling molecules with major effects on cell and organ functions. Ketone bodies regulate the expression and activity of many proteins and molecules that are known to influence health and aging.”

This is the core of Intermittent Fasting science; when fasting occurs regularly, the metabolic switch triggers a series of positive changes in the body. Among these changes are decreases in insulin resistance and inflammation, and improvements in heart rate and blood pressure – all of which are important for reducing the risk of multiple life-shortening diseases.

What are the health benefits of Intermittent Fasting?                                                                                            

In the NEJM article the authors review Intermittent Fasting research and outline key proven Intermittent Fasting benefits. Below is a selection of those most relevant to longevity –

Intermittent Fasting and diabetes

Animal studies have shown that fasting can result in less obesity and insulin resistance – both risk factors for Type 2 Diabetes. Research in Okinawa, where the population typically eats in an intermittent fasting pattern, also reveals low rates of diabetes. Further information about IF and and Type 2 Diabetes can be found here.

Intermittent Fasting and cardiovascular disease

The study’s authors state that, “Intermittent fasting improves multiple indicators of cardiovascular health in animals and humans”. Among the listed benefits of fasting are positive changes in blood pressure, resting heart rate, cholesterol, glucose, and markers of systemic inflammation.

Intermittent Fasting and cancer

This is another area where human trials are in the early stages, but animal trials have shown consistent positive results from Intermittent Fasting – including reduction in the spontaneous occurrence of tumours and suppression of tumour growth. There are tentative positive signs in human studies, with multiple case studies of patients with glioblastoma suggesting that “intermittent fasting can suppress tumor growth and extend survival”.

Are there Intermittent Fasting side effects?

The article’s authors warn that “on switching to an intermittent-fasting regimen, many people will experience hunger, irritability, and a reduced ability to concentrate during periods of food restriction”.

But the article goes on to state that “these initial side effects usually disappear within 1 month”.

Anyone considering Intermittent Fasting should discuss it with their doctor before beginning. This is important for everyone, but especially relevant to those on regular medications that might require adjustment.

Intermittent Fasting and Type 2 Diabetes

The evidence behind intermittent fasting as a treatment for Type 2 Diabetes and what it means for you.

Since Michael Mosley super-charged the world’s awareness of Intermittent Fasting (IF) in 2012 with his TV series Eat, Fast and Live Longer, the diet has been steadily gaining popularity.

Eat and Fast For Type 2 Diabetes

But Intermittent Fasting is more than another nutrition craze. Slowly, research is mounting to show the method can be used to manage serious life-threatening and life-shortening diseases, including Type 2 Diabetes.

How Intermittent Fasting works for Type 2 Diabetes

The underlying cause of Type 2 Diabetes is insulin resistance. Insulin is produced by the pancreas and its role is to transfer sugars from the blood and into the tissues, where it can be used as fuel or stored as fat.

For many people with Type 2 Diabetes, this process does not work efficiently, resulting in the body producing more insulin while blood sugar continues to climb. The ongoing production of higher levels of insulin creates even greater resistance to it, often resulting in Type 2 Diabetes getting progressively worse over time.

Most traditional Diabetes treatments and medications focus on reducing blood sugar levels, but some experts argue this addresses only the symptom of the disease, but not the cause.

Advocates of Intermittent Fasting as a treatment for Type 2 Diabetes say the method treats both symptom and cause. Fasting periods trigger a series of changes in the body that allow insulin levels and blood sugar levels to simultaneously reduce. Intermittent Fasting proponent Dr Jason Fung explains the process in this short video and this more in-depth video.

The evidence of the benefits of Intermittent Fasting for Type 2 Diabetes

Intermittent Fasting is a relatively new intervention for Type 2 Diabetes and the research behind it is qualified, but hopeful.

Anecdotal evidence tells of Type 2 Diabetes patients making significant improvements using IF – with some people no longer requiring medications and others ridding themselves of all signs of the disease.

The scientific evidence is more cautious, but still shows tentative positive results.

In a 2018 case study and a 2017 pilot study, strong improvements were shown in patients using Intermittent Fasting to tackle Type 2 Diabetes, but the authors caution that further research – with larger sample sizes and over a longer period of time – are needed.

A systematic review from 2020 compares Intermittent Fasting with a consistent low energy diet and finds that both are effective in patients with Type 2 Diabetes, although the researchers go on to stress that the link between IF and remission needs further investigation.

This 2019 in-depth review article is also encouraging. It was analysed by Harvard Medical School’s Dr Monique Tello – who is skeptical of IF’s superiority as a diabetes treatment – but still says this article provides evidence of IF as “a more realistic, sustainable, and effective approach for weight loss, as well as for diabetes prevention”.

What does the research mean if you have Type 2 Diabetes?

These early results indicate that Intermittent Fasting can be useful to treat and prevent Type 2 Diabetes, but it’s important that you choose an intervention that is sustainable and realistic for you.

All health treatment is personal. If you think IF might work for you, get started by following these steps:

1) Talk to your doctor about whether intermittent fasting is safe for you.

This is important for everyone, but especially if you have Type 2 Diabetes as you may need your medication adjusted and require close monitoring to guard against the possibility of low blood sugar incidents.

2) Choose between the different types of intermittent fasting.

Some popular variations are the 5:2 diet, the 16/8 diet, or the Circadian Rhythm fasting method.

Some recent research shows the Circadian method – which involves limiting eating to a 6 to 10-hour window during the daylight hours of each 24-hour cycle – may be more sustainable and effective.

3) Pair Intermittent Fasting with good nutrition.

Many experts encourage those with Type 2 Diabetes to follow a low-carb diet that includes plentiful fats, vegetables and proteins. The Mediterranean Diet is an often-cited and easy to understand example, and IF advocates like Dr Jason Fung encourage patients to pair their fasting with this kind of nutrition.