Do a Mindful Body Scan for Weight Loss, Better Health

Ruth Wolever, PhD, is a clinical health psychologist, the Director of Research at Duke Integrative Medicine, an advisor to the Duke Diet and Fitness Center, and an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences at the Duke School of Medicine. Beth Reardon, MS, RD, LDN, previously the Director of Integrative and Functional Nutrition at Duke Integrative Medicine and Senior Nutrition Advisor for Caring.com, currently has a private practice in the Boston area.

breathe_400Tune in to your mind and body through a technique called a Body Scan. It’s especially helpful to people who struggle with weight, who often shut off their awareness of their bodies out of fear, anxiety, or distress over how they think they look or what their physical limitations might be. The Body Scan helps us “be” in the body–as opposed to thinking about it–focusing on different areas in order to notice the signals it might be sending you. From The Mindful Diet: How to Transform Your Relationship with Food for Lasting Weight Loss and Vibrant Health.

1. Get comfortable in your chair, with your feet flat on the floor. Close your eyes or find a spot on the ground to softly focus on. Bring your attention to your breathing. Breathe in space to discover and accept what is. Breathe out tension, breathe in calm.

2. Take a few moments to feel your body as a whole, from head to toe. Feel the sensations associated with each part of your body. Then bring your attention to your feet. Direct your breathing to them, so that it feels as if you are breathing in through your feet and out from your feet. Allow yourself to feel any and all sensations from your feet. If you do not feel anything, let yourself become aware of that, too.

The Mindful Diet: How to Transform Your Relationship with Food for Lasting Weight Loss and Vibrant Health

The Mindful Diet: How to Transform Your Relationship with Food for Lasting Weight Loss and Vibrant Health

by Ruth Wolever PhD, Beth Reardon MS, RD, LDN and Tania Hannan

  • Get The Mindful Diet: How to Transform Your Relationship with Food for Lasting Weight Loss and Vibrant Health
  • Get The Mindful Diet: How to Transform Your Relationship with Food for Lasting Weight Loss and Vibrant Health
  • Get The Mindful Diet: How to Transform Your Relationship with Food for Lasting Weight Loss and Vibrant Health
  • Get The Mindful Diet: How to Transform Your Relationship with Food for Lasting Weight Loss and Vibrant Health
  • Get The Mindful Diet: How to Transform Your Relationship with Food for Lasting Weight Loss and Vibrant Health

3. Now move on to your calves. Allow yourself to become aware of whatever sensations are present. With your attention focused on them, direct your breathing to them, so that

4. As you breathe in, now scan up your legs through your knees to your thighs. Allow yourself to become aware of whatever sensations are present, or not present. Direct your breathing to this area. If you find that you are thinking about, rather than experiencing, sensations in your thigh area, see if you can just notice the thoughts, but redirect your attention to the sensations.

5. Now progress upward to your genital area, buttocks, and hips. Allow yourself to become aware of any sensations that are present in these areas. Then breathe in through these areas—and out.

6. Move your attention all the way up to your lower back and stomach area. Dwell here for several breaths. What sensations do you experience? Are there areas in which you don’t have sensation? Breathe in, letting yourself be aware of this area of your body. And breathe out.

7. Move your scan up to your lungs and your chest. Again, as you breathe in, attend to your lungs and chest, and the sensations you experience in these areas. As you breathe out, notice how the sensations change.

8. Now move up to your shoulders and down the arms. As you breathe in, attend to your shoulders, arms, and even hands—then breathe out.

9. Now scan your neck and face, allowing yourself to notice any sensations that you may be feeling in these areas. As you breathe in, attend to your neck, jaw, eyes, and forehead—then breathe out.

10. Take a few moments to feel your body as a “whole,” from your toes up to your head. As you breathe in, attend to your whole body. As you breathe out, keep noticing.

11. Whenever you’re ready, open your eyes.

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