The subject of weight control typically centers on the food we eat—which types of food to avoid, which foods to consume. When people arrive at the Never Diet Again workshop I lead at Mohonk Mountain House, more often than not they have been unsuccessfully dieting for years. They struggle with the sense of deprivation that all diets impose.
In my approach to weight loss, no foods are forbidden. The main requirement is to simply eat mindfully. Slow down and tune into the tastes, textures, and aromas of the food you’re enjoying. Realize that YOU are the expert in determining your body’s needs.
During my three-day workshop, attendees learn new habits that start at the dining table. We rank our level of hunger at any given moment and become mindful of our internal urges to eat.
Instead of relying on external cues, like the fact that it’s “lunchtime” so I must eat now, or the fact that it’s a party so I will have a second helping of dessert, I teach my students to focus inward. A simple change in mindset puts them in control of the choices they make.
To try it for yourself, follow these tips:
1. Do a body scan.
Picture your hunger on a continuum between totally empty and totally full, between “ravenously hungry,” and “absolutely stuffed.”
Assign a number from -5 (so hungry you’re chewing on a pencil) to +5 (so stuffed you could burst) to get in touch with your body’s signals. As you eat, continue to check your level of hunger to notice how it changes. How full are you?
2. Stay in the mid-range.
Aim to feel comfortable after every meal or snack, not overly full or still hungry. If your appetite is satiated before your plate is empty, stop eating. Ask yourself, “Why would I eat if I’m not hungry?”
When you’re mindful and not depriving yourself, you begin to relax around food. You no longer overeat for fear that you won’t be allowed to enjoy this treat again.
3. Practice “conscious eating” meditation.
Many of us are guilty of eating while we watch TV or work on a project. Being distracted can lead to overeating and a feeling of dissatisfaction.
To stay focused on the dining experience, eat slowly and deliberately. Experience every part of the process with all your senses. It may help to hold your utensil in the opposite hand to help you slow down and concentrate.
4. Understand the urge to eat.
Having an “urge to eat” is not the same as feeling hunger. Many times people eat because of boredom, stress, loneliness, fatigue, procrastination, or their environment. Before taking a bite, be aware of the motivation behind it.
5. Tackle negative self-talk.
When you catch yourself being critical of a bad decision, show some compassion. Remember, each moment is a new beginning. If you eat more than feels comfortable in one moment, you can stop doing so in the next. Instead of feeling like a failure, feel empowered: You can choose right NOW to do the right thing.
6. Be patient and persistent.
Use mindfulness every time you entertain the thought of eating. It’s easy to slip back into mindless grazing and gulping! So practice these new behaviors until they become habitual.
One day you will be slowly savoring a slice of cake and realize you’re satisfied with just a bite or two. You’re free to leave the rest on your plate—and free to reach your weight loss goals, without dieting!