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19 Nov 2014

In spite of massive evidence that diets and dieting don't work and--even worse--typically result in greater weight gain over time, they continue to be pursued avidly by vast numbers of people.

Most methods of weight loss--natural and otherwise--continue to leave out what is perhaps the single most important factor in achieving truly healthy and long-lasting weight loss--namely, how to eat much less without feeling deprived. Regardless of how healthy, natural, and well-balanced one's diet may be, weight gain will inevitably occur if average total caloric intake exceeds total calories burned.

Although this truism is recognized almost universally, it continues to present what is perhaps the greatest challenge to successful weight loss and long-term maintenance of such loss. To date, the most common healthy ways of overcoming this challenge have consisted in exercise programs, building increased muscle mass, and low glycemic food plans that aim to lessen hunger by stabilizing blood sugar levels. Arguably, some natural appetite suppressants could be included on this short list as well.

There is, however, another completely natural and highly effective solution to this problem that most people have never considered--or most likely even heard of. It's called Mindful Eating.

Mindful Eating is one of many applications of the simple, albeit challenging, means of living in the moment that is now commonly referred to as "mindfulness." Mindfulness, a form of meditation, consists in simply paying careful, moment-to-moment attention to all internal and external experience while simultaneously accepting it and allowing it to be just as it is, without judging or trying to change it in any way whatever. It is, in other words, a means of living fully, consciously, and non-reactively in the present moment, instead of reacting negatively, or getting attached, to current experience and/or getting lost in thoughts about the past or the future. Although we are all endowed with the capacity to be mindful, most of us spend the vast majority of our waking moments being relatively "mindless,"--that is, acting automatically while simultaneously being "lost in thought." Consider, for example, how many times you have driven for miles over a familiar route with little or no conscious awareness of the passing scenery. In this common "driving trance," it's not uncommon to miss a turn that deviates from the habitual route.

Not surprisingly, this is also how most of us eat. That is, instead of staying focused fully and continuously on all of the varied, rich, and ever-changing sensations associated with the food we're eating, we are prone to engage simultaneously in various forms of "multi-tasking" such as reading, watching TV, talking, or being caught up in endless forms of thinking.

By contrast, mindful eating consists, quite simply, in maintaining full, continuous awareness of all aspects of eating. Very importantly, this includes full awareness of the rich array of ever-changing visual, olfactory, auditory, textural and gustatory sensations associated with the food being consumed. The richest and most subtle flavors of most foods can be savored fully only by chewing them thoroughly with full, continuous awareness.

Mindful eating, then, entails relating to food in a very full, one-pointed and leisurely way. Not uncommonly, the time taken in eating just a few bites mindfully is greater than the duration of a full meal for most people. An inevitable result of this marked slowing down is that the appestats in the brain signaling satiety are activated by a much reduced total intake of food (and calories) from what occurs through "normal" eating. By applying this simple strategy consistently over time, then, the bottom line results, are the consumption of far fewer calories and weight loss--natural, healthy, and long-lasting.

This natural weight loss solution has other major advantages as well. First, it places absolutely no restrictions on the particular foods you eat as long as they are enjoyed fully and mindfully. This removes the common feeling of being deprived that often sabotages other weight loss strategies. People who eat mindfully commonly discover that they gain far greater enjoyment and satisfaction from markedly smaller portions of their favorite calorie-laden foods than when they eat them "mindlessly."

Secondly, since mindful eating entails thorough chewing of all food, it's a helpful aid to complete digestion. The same can be said for the intrinsic relaxation and stress reduction that accompanies all forms of mindfulness.

A strong argument can be made, then, that mindful eating may well be the ultimate strategy for achieving weight loss that's natural and long-lasting. It also lends itself ideally as an adjunct to nearly any other healthy weight loss strategy and greatly increases the probability of long-term success.


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