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Mindful Meals - managing our weight mindfully with Yoga principles

Due to the current pandemic and its impact upon our working patterns and lifestyle, many of us will be moving less, eating more, and potentially feeling increasing levels of negative stress.

The gym is closed, the fridge is handy, and we turn to ‘comfort’ foods for consolation. It’s no wonder that our weight starts creeping up.

But we can use some of the principles of Yoga to help us to mindfully manage our way back into balance. Think about the following questions.


Why do you want to manage your weight?

Take time to think about your reasons. Some of the advantages might be that you feel more comfortable; are able to physically achieve more; can see that there are benefits to your overall health – including in relation to Covid-19.

Your reasons may be as simple as wanting to ‘fit’ into last year’s swimsuit, through to wanting to be ‘fit’ enough to play with kids/grandkids.

Once you have a clear intent (Sankalpa), you will increase your motivation to succeed. For example, you might state ‘I choose to be healthy & to eat foods that nourish me’. Repeat this regularly (either aloud or internally), particularly at the start and end of your Dru Yoga practice or Yoga Nidra.

In Dru Yoga, we often use Affirmations in tandem with gentle yoga movements, to anchor a goal. For example, with a simple movement like knees to chest Apanasana), you could affirm ‘I breathe in positive health’ each time that you take an inhalation.

Regular repetition of your goal helps to fix the positive statement in your mind, and helps you to make positive choices. These positive choices can influence your food choices – ‘Self-affirmation interventions can successfully influence health-promoting behaviors’. (Epton & Harris, 2008)

For the ‘What? & When?’ Sections I have drawn on information from Linia Patel, a Dietician & Sports Nutritionist with extensive experience in the public health arena


What can we eat to help us to manage our weight in a healthful way?

· Eat protein at every meal and snack (interestingly, adults need more protein as they enter later life, to maintain muscle mass & bone health)

· Eat more foods that grow above the ground, for example kale, green beans, lettuce, tomatoes etc

· Eat foods that are as close to their natural state as possible – reduce your intake of processed food

· Avoid calorific drinks – water will satisfy your thirst and if you remain hydrated then you won’t mistake thirst for hunger


When is it good to eat?

· Eat when you are slightly hungry, rather than when you are ravenous -this avoids ‘hanger’ (“Feed me, NOW!”) and allows you to make more intelligent food choices

· Eat starchy carbohydrates like wholegrains earlier in the day

· If needed, eat a mid afternoon snack that is a mix of protein & carbohydrate e.g. some nuts and an apple

· Eat protein, plus fibrous carbohydrates such as vegetables, for dinner

· Fasting period: fast for 12 hrs e.g. from 8pm – 8am

What else?

What else can we do to facilitate a holistic approach to our weight?

During the current pandemic, many people are finding their sleep patterns are disturbed. It only takes two nights of reduced sleep for cortisol to build up, signalling to our bodies that we are in stress mode. Higher levels of cortisol, combined with chronic stress, can lead to weight gain (Chao et al, 2017).

If sleep is proving elusive for you, try a mindful approach:

· Instigate a gentle Dru Yoga practice in the evening, perhaps ending with legs up the wall (Viparita Karani, if appropriate for you)– this can help to soothe the senses and prepare you for a good night’s sleep

· Investigate changing your bedtime routine and improving your sleeping environment – the NHS online guide ‘How to get to sleep’ has some useful tips for sleep hygiene

· Include a night-time breathing and relaxation practice - imagine releasing the muscles sequentially with each exhale, along with slightly extending the exhalation to activate the parasympathetic nervous system


Following the Why? What? When? What else? guidelines will help you to approach maintenance/management of weight in a positive yogic manner, treating your body with the loving kindness that it deserves.


Michelle Helstrip – Dru Yoga Therapist

Founder of DRUVA – Yoga & Wellbeing

Sources & Further Information: Health Behavior Change (Epton & Harris), Linia Patel – Dietician & Sports Nutritionist, Sugar in Wine chart –, BBC News Coronavirus, Protein & Older Adults, Colour of Urine , Cortisol & Stress (Chao et al), NHS guide to Sleeping Well


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