Mindful Eating for Weight Loss

— Written By and last updated by Patricia Burch

Did you know that more research is pointing to mindfulness as being a large contributor to weight management, more so than the types of foods we are eating? The Eat Smart, Move More, Weigh Less team has examined the impact of mindfulness, specifically mindful eating, on weight loss, weight management, and weight regain. The results continue to point to mindfulness, tracking what we eat using an app or paper and pencil, being strongly related to weight-management. You can practice mindful eating every day, at every meal, and every time you consider what you are going to eat.

The Eat Smart, Move More, Weigh Less team has had a recent article that was published in the Current Obesity Reports showcased in The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, Women’s Health Magazine, MedPage Today, and the American Mindfulness Research Association. This published article looked at work in the area of mindful eating from multiple studies. The team was interested in the concept of mindful eating as opposed to general mindfulness. Overall they were asking, does mindful eating specifically help in weight loss? Could including mindful eating specifically in a weight management program help people become more aware of their eating, hunger, satiety, purposeful selection of food, portion size, etc. and be a tool in weight management? What they found overall was the answer to that question is yes, mindful eating shows great promise as a way to help people be more aware of what and how much they are eating.

To practice mindful eating means eating with awareness. This is the awareness of what is on one’s plate, how hungry an individual is, if the hunger is emotion related, and paying attention to external stimuli that may be triggering one to eat. Sometimes we tend to eat out of habit or because of our environment, such as certain smells, the atmosphere, or peer pressure. For example, if you see a pizza commercial, are you triggered to want pizza that evening? Or if you are at an event or a fair and smell or see funnel cakes, do you buy one? This is not mindFUL eating, but mindLESS eating. Paying attention to your body, your environment, and the whole eating experience can help you to understand your eating habits. You can also begin tracking your eating habits using an app or just pen and paper. This will help bring awareness to what you consume throughout the day and also help with weight management.

The take-home message is that mindful eating is a powerful tool to help us eat healthy and manage weight. You can learn more about eating mindfully by enrolling in Eat Smart, Move More, Weigh Less, a 15-week online program delivered in real-time by a live Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. You can also practice mindful eating locally by participating in programs offered at the Sampson County Extension Office. A current local program that involves mindful eating is Med Instead of Meds, a six-week series that teaches participants about the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle. Other programs offered involving mindful eating include Take Control and Faithful Families. To learn more about these programs, call Sydney Johnson, Family & Consumer Sciences Agent. 

This information was adapted from Dr. Carolyn Dunn of Eat Smart, Move More, Weigh Less. To sign-up for their newsletter, visit esmmweighless.com.