10 meditation apps to reduce anxiety and help you sleep

“Suffering is due to our disconnection with the inner soul. Meditation is establishing that connection” ~ Amit Ray

Sometimes we use the words meditation and mindfulness interchangeably. However, they are actually two different concepts. Both have some great health benefits so today I wanted to give you a quick run down on what meditation and mindfulness are AND in particular, arm you with a list of the latest meditation apps to reduce anxiety!

Mindfulness is in essence living in the present moment in a particular, purposeful way. Mindfulness also incorporates a sense of curiosity and non-judgemental awareness.

There are two different types of mindfulness:

  1. Formal mindfulness – This is something we practice with intention and usually for specified amount of time. Examples include meditation, yoga and tai chi.
  2. Informal mindfulness – These are everyday things we do that allow us to bring a sense of presence to how we do them. Some examples are practising mindful eating, mindfully moving our body and staying in the moment when we wash our car, brush our teeth or drink our tea.

What is meditation?

As mentioned above, meditation is a formal type of mindfulness. It’s a skill that we practice (usually sitting down) that brings awareness and compassion. Although the roots of meditation have come from religion, you don’t necessarily have to follow a religion such as buddhism to meditate.   The awareness that comes from meditation helps us understand what we are thinking and really make sense of it. The compassion part of meditation helps us bring an intention of loving kindness to both ourselves and others.

There are a number of ways we can meditate. We can undertake meditation that is guided by the voice of someone else or we can go it solo with periods of silence, music or sounds.  There can also be a focus on the breath, parts of our body (often called a body scan), use of visualisations or chanting of mantras.

Benefits of meditation

A lot of the research about mindfulness is based on studies involving meditation. This is likely because it is fairly easy to control in a scientific setting.

Meditation has been shown to reduce the size/density of the amygdala (the stress centre) and increase the density of the front brain. The front brain (pre-frontal cortex)  helps us to have empathy and compassion, learn, remember and basically make better decisions for our mental and physical health. The more regularly we meditate, the weaker the link between the stress-ey amygdala gets with the rest of the brain – BONUS!

What this means for our health is that regular meditation has been associated with a reduction in anxiety, depression, pain and improvements in sleep, ability to focus, pay attention, learn and work.

Woo hoo!

A special note, meditation is not for everyone. If you are reading this and you have a history of trauma, you should consult a trauma-informed therapist to assist you to gain the benefits of mediation and mindfulness without causing you harm.

OK. As many folks aren’t heading off to their local monastery to meditate, meditation apps can be the alternative and are a great (and effective) way to practice mindfulness. That is, you can get some real health benefits.

Here are 10 meditation apps to reduce anxiety and help you sleep:

  1. Calm
  2. Headspace
  3. The Mindfulness App
  4. Smiling Mind
  5. Insight Timer
  6. 10% Happier
  7. Simple Habit
  8. Happify
  9. Stop, Breathe and Think
  10. Buddhify

We’d love to hear how you’re going with your mindfulness practice. Make sure to connect with us over on instagram to stay in touch!

How to tell if you are emotional eating

Most of us eat with our emotions. Whether we’re sad, tired, upset, angry or happy, food is something many of us over our lifetime have learnt to use in response to these feelings. For some of us, it can result in frequent overeating which understandably in our current diet culture, lands us feeling guilty.

So why do we do it and how do we tell if we are emotional eating of just hungry? Continue reading How to tell if you are emotional eating

What is binge eating disorder? (and why it’s going unnoticed)

When you think of someone with an eating disorder, what image comes to your mind?

If you’re like most people, you might have pictured a very frail teenage girl?  This is often the image that we think of, these are the stories we most frequently hear and whilst these stories are incredibly important there are plenty of people living with an eating disorder who do not fit this image.

So it might surprise you to know Binge Eating Disorder (BED), is more common than Anorexia Nervosa?  It’s going unnoticed by health professionals and community members alike. Continue reading What is binge eating disorder? (and why it’s going unnoticed)

Forget weight, let’s talk about weight stigma

You may have noticed I’m passionate about non-diet approaches to health.  In fact, the whole reason why I studied mindful eating was to explore anti-diet strategies my clients could use (and news alert – mindful eating is a fantastic non-diet approach skill!)

Now if you’re new to the topics of diet culture and the non-diet approach, you might be interested in an article about weight stigma I wrote some months ago. It recently got picked up by WHIMN website. I wrote the opinion piece because this year, I made a pact with myself to speak up more on the topic of weight stigma.  Again, you might not be that familiar with the topic of weight stigma. If so, don’t worry. The article will shed a little bit of light for you. Continue reading Forget weight, let’s talk about weight stigma

The Top 10 Mindful Eating Apps

I’ve previously written many blog posts about mindful eating ph Apps. However, things change quickly in technology and so it’s time for a market update!

What is mindful eating?

If you’re new to mindful eating, you can read all about it by clicking here. In a nutshell, mindful eating means eating with awareness. 

Why use mindful eating Apps?

Eating slowly, being focused on the experience of eating and becoming more in-tune with our hunger, fullness & satisfaction signals are all mindful eating strategies. A ph App is just a helpful way to bring more attention to these aspects of mindful eating.

 

How to choose a mindful eating App

When I first wrote about mindful eating Apps in 2012, there were hardly any on the market. Now, with more available you’ll see quite a difference in the ethos behind each App.   The best Apps are those focused on bringing awareness to the eating experience by looking at the speed we eat and our emotions or decision making around food. Here are three tips to help you choose:

  1. You’ll notice some Apps involve documenting or tracking what you eat. Be aware. For some people this may be problematic as it can start to feel like a food diary, “calorie counting” and a diet.
  2. Some Apps mention they’ll help you lose weight. If weight loss is mentioned as an outcome from using the App, it’s not truly mindfulness-based. Mindfulness and mindful eating are centred around bringing awareness to the moment and not focusing on the future. As weight loss goals are something for the future (and for many folks are not helpful or achievable anyway), they don’t actually fit with the mindfulness concept. The same goes for calorie counting.
  3. Some include information about the developer and a “further support”. Accessing further professional help for your personal situation is super important (and useful). A “further support” section is a good sign the App is credible.

 

Ok, so here they are (in no particular order):

The Top 10 Mindful Eating Apps

  1. Am I Hungry? ® – This App is based on Dr Michelle May’s Am I Hungry ® Mindful Eating cycle. Every time you would like to eat, the app takes you through a series of decisions to make mindful choices.
  2. Eat Drink and Be Mindful – This App from Dr Susan Albers allows you to record your hunger level and kind of hunger. It also shows how you respond to food (mind, body, thoughts & feelings) and includes reminders to eat mindfully.
  3. Rise Up and Recover – Although specifically designed for people with eating disorders (and by the way, there are some brilliant apps for Eating Disorders such as Recovery Record), this App has some really useful tools for everyone. Meals can logged, emotions and behaviours can be tracked and it has a large inbuilt extra support and resources section.
  4. Mindful Bite  – Mindful Bite is focused on the time we take to eat. It flashes at either 30 or 60 seconds and you take a bite then. It also gives you periodic prompts to think about your hunger and fullness levels.
  5. 20-Minute Eating Similar to Mindful Bite, the 20-minute eating App allows you to pre-set intervals for eating. For example when to start, when to pause and “check-in” and when to stop. The App uses sounds and vibrations to alert you.
  6. In the Moment – This App is centred around identifying how you feel before eating (e.g. hungry, anxious, sad, bored etc) and guiding you through strategies for each feeling.
  7. Mindful Eating Tracker – Based on mindfulness, this App allows you to notice a food idea or thought (and decide what to do with the thought), rate and track levels of gratitude, hunger, thirst and satisfaction and food enjoyment.
  8. Mindful Meal Timer – Available in Google Play, this useful App guides you to eat slowly and has a timer for main meals and snacks (with an alert halfway).
  9. YouAte Food Diary Encourages taking photos of food eaten, documenting the time of your meals, time between meals, why you ate and your enjoyment from the meal.
  10. Eat, Chew Rest Based on the concept of slowing down, the App takes you through 3 eating steps using a trafiic light colour system. As it moves to each colour you can move to the next step of eating. For example,  1) Put the food in your mouth (green), 2) Chew (yellow) and 3) put eating utensils down, reflect and express gratitude (red).

 

I hope you find the list useful. If you know of any other Apps, please let me know. (Just email me here).

Christina x

 

Have you tried our mindful eating challenge?

If you’re inquisitive about mindful eating, you might like to try our FREE 5-day  mindful eating challenge.

free mindful eating challenge

What’s the non-diet approach and how to start using it

If you’ve been following my shenanigans over at SOL nutrition, you’ll know I’ve been writing about this thing called the non-diet approach for quite sometime.

If we’ve just met, maybe you’re wondering what is the non-diet approach? And why would Diet-itians be using it?

Yeah, I guess it’s kind of a puzzling phrase. So let’s learn more.

Continue reading What’s the non-diet approach and how to start using it

What does mindful eating mean? – Advice for hashtagging

What does mindful eating mean to me?

Well, I feel like it’s time for a blog rant. My last little tirade was on the Paleo diet in 2014 (you can read it here on our sister website). So I’m well due for another rant, right?

Mindful eating is actually HOT right at the moment. On the one hand, I’m happy. I believe in it 100%. But…. You know. I’m also annoyed by it right now. There are still many insta-tribes and facey-folks using mindful eating to promote weight loss and fad dieting. So if you’re a health professional, clean eating warrior or Instagram celebrity bandy-ing the term around, you’d better have your Zen boxing gloves on.

“Just because you took a pretty picture of your dinner at a too-cool-for-school restaurant or a “before and after” weight loss pic and hashtagged it #mindfuleating, it doesn’t mean it’s #mindfuleating. In fact, you could be misleading the lovely folks who are trying to get happy about their relationship with food; potentially making them super confused”

Back to basics – what does mindful eating mean?

OK. For the last time, mindful eating is not a diet. It’s a way of eating based on a core philosophy of mindfulness. In fact, mindfulness and mindful eating go hand-in-hand.

Practising mindfulness means living moment to moment, paying close attention to your thoughts and everything around you – without judgment. (hot tip – focusing on a weight loss goal for some time in the future is not living here and now).

When it comes to mindful eating, it’s not just a matter of saying “I watch what I eat” “I’m mindful of what I eat”. Cos, let’s face it. Anyone can say that.

It’s more about being in the moment when you eat. It involves really, truly listening to your body and learning to TRUST YOUR BODY’s cues for when, how much and what to eat in a variety of situations. It’s about watching and learning from eating (without judgment). This happens by paying close attention to internal body cues like hunger, fullness and emotional triggers and also using your outer wisdom about nutrition.

 

“The long-term aim of mindful eating is to feel at ease (aka happy) with every eating experience”

 

Let me cut to the chase. What does mindful eating mean?

What mindful eating will do for you

  • help you eat slowly and savour food
  • help you to connect with your own body’s cues of when, what and how much to eat
  • help with exploring any personal triggers to eating
  • help you feel happy about the eating experience

What mindful eating won’t do for you

  • “fix” an acute eating disorder situation like Anorexia Nervosa
  • help you eat less than your body requires
  • guarantee you lose weight
  • create world peace 😉 😉

 

Christina’s ranty lesson for #mindfuleating and #cleaneating hashtagging

Please think before using the term mindful eating. It’s awesome if it’s coming from a place of mindfulness. If it’s not, please note you are potentially harming vulnerable groups in our communities by doing so. Please stop.

Rant over  – haha 

Have you tried our mindful eating challenge?

If you’re inquisitive about mindful eating, you might like to try our FREE 5-day  mindful eating challenge.
 free mindful eating challenge

Mindfulness resources – The top 15 mindful tools you can start using today

A lot of people ask me about my favourite mindfulness resources

Meditation and mindfulness have become pretty mainstream and are no longer the domain of the ultra-enlightened. So it makes sense many folks are looking for easy to use mindfulness resources.

I’d love to share my favourite straightforward (and) super useful mindful tools you can use in your life. (today).

Before we get to the mindfulness resources let’s talk a little bit more about mindfulness in general.

 

What is mindfulness?

Being “mindful” means you are living moment to moment, paying close attention to your thoughts and everything around you, without judgment.

 

Why does mindfulness work?

When looking at happy-fying our relationships with food, establishing a regular formal mindfulness practice (like meditation) can work really well.

Mindfulness aids our attention, focus and can support us in reducing stress, anxiety & depression. Importantly, one of the keys to “getting the best” out of mindfulness lies in making it a regular part of (every) day.

It’s also a good idea to find a mindfulness practice that you actually enjoy and fits with your life. It could be meditation, yoga, tai-chi and if not, perhaps something a bit less formal like mindful walking.

 

So here we go,

My top 15 mindfulness resources

I’ve divided the list into books & ph apps. Just click on each title to read more.

Books/reading on mindfulness

  1. The Headspace Guide to Mindfulness by Andy Puddicombe (New York: St Martin’s Press. 2016)
  2. Mindfulness for Beginners by Jon Kabat-Zinn (Boulder: Sounds True Inc 2016)
  3. The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris (Boston: Trumpeter Books 2008)
  4. Real Happiness The Power of Meditation by Sharon Salzberg (New York: Workman Publishing Co Inc 2010)
  5. The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh (London: Rider & Co 2008)
  6. Radical Acceptance. Embracing your life with the heart of a Buddha by Tara Brach (New York: Random House 2007)

Meditation ph apps

  1. Calm
  2. Headspace
  3. The Mindfulness App
  4. Smiling Mind
  5. Welzen
  6. Insight Timer
  7. 10% Happier
  8. Simple Habit
  9. Happify

Keen to learn more?

Maybe you might like to try our FREE 5-day mindful eating challenge?  It’s a fab way to include informal mindfulness into your day.

free mindful eating challenge

How I discovered mindful eating

“When walking, walk. When eating, eat.” ~ Zen proverb

I discovered mindful eating by chance. It’s funny. It’s actually the most effective tool in my “nutritionist tool belt”. Yet, I didn’t study it in either of my university degrees. It’s also probably the most simplest nutrition strategy ever.

Welcome to the SOL food blog. In case you don’t know my story, I “discovered” mindful eating 10 years after I started working in nutrition. I originally trained as a Dietitian and Nutritionist in Australia. I worked in a ton of different areas in nutrition. From hospitals to research to public health projects both in Australia and the UK. Over the years I saw A LOT of people who wanted help with losing weight. I “helped” hundreds of people (many women) lose weight and “get healthy”.

 

How I discovered mindful eating

As I went along my way in the nutrition field, one thing kept bothering me. I actually hated. No. Dreaded weighing people. From a personal viewpoint, I felt losing weight was not important. I felt like it didn’t really matter and that if we focused on health, we would be the “right weight for us”.

So slightly weird. I was a Dietitian that hated weighing people! After a number of years of working I actually stopped weighing clients. I gravitated more and more towards the psychology of eating and what is now called the Non-Diet Approach. It turns out it was much a much kinder, gentler approach to helping people change the way they eat. Surprise. Surprise. No scales or diets were required!

It was through my search for novel, non-diet strategies for my clients, I came across this fun little thing called mindful eating. Mindful eating had become a super-useful strategy for anyone struggling with over-eating, binge eating or an unhappy relationship with food. My 3 biggest influences were Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh for all things mindfulness, and Evelyn Tribole and Jan Chozen Bays for their intuitive and mindful eating expertise. From there I embarked on formal training in meditation & mindful eating and in fact, I’m now a proud Volunteer Ambassador* for The Mindfulness App!

 

How mindful eating works

Mindful eating is an informal way of practising mindfulness. It’s as simple as other everyday activities like brushing our teeth, drinking tea or going for a walk. It allows us to really hone in on the eating process.

Mindful eating works best alongside cultivating a formal mindfulness practice like meditation and yoga. The formal mindfulness practice allows us to manage all those crazy little life happenings that keep us feeling a little anxious or a bit reactive. Therefore we can come to meal times with a calm mindset.

Being calm when we eat is the first step of mindful eating. If we are calm, we are more likely to notice our hunger, fullness and how we satisfied with feel from eating. It also helps us to notice our emotional and environmental triggers to eating and we can start to change things (if we need or want to).

 

Want to try mindful eating for yourself?

We have a fun, free 5 day mindful eating challenge. To access just head here.

A bit hesitant? Start here with a short meditation. Becoming less reactive to our everyday stress is an awesome way to start…

“Remember, it’s not often about the food”