Trying to Lose Weight? Focusing More On Your Food Can Help

How to stop dieting and practice mindful eating

When you’re trying to lose weight, it may seem like all you do is focus on food. But training your attention on what you eat and how you eat it — some call it mindful eating — can have some real benefits for those trying to lose weight, new research shows.

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Participants in the study, conducted by researchers at North Carolina State University, took part in a 15-week online program that uses planned behavior to help alter their eating habits. They were divided randomly into two groups.

The participants who were placed in the mindful eating group used strategies such as planning mealtimes and snacks, paying attention to how food tastes and having just one or two bites of higher-calorie foods.

When the study concluded, the people in the mindful eating group averaged a weight loss of about five pounds, where the people who did not practice mindful eating lost about a half pound.

Why diets don’t work

The results confirm what many dieters already know — that diets often don’t work, says psychologist Susan Albers, PsyD. Dr. Albers did not take part in the study.

Instead, with mindful eating, you are not chained to impossible diet rules or bland menus, Dr. Albers says.

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“Mindful eating is not a diet,” Dr. Albers says. “There are no menus or recipes.”

Many of us have eating habits that we aren’t even aware of, Dr. Albers says.

“We’re sitting on the couch, mindlessly popping chips into our mouth,” she says. “We get to the bottom of the bowl and we say, ‘How did I get there? I didn’t even taste it.’ ”

Mindful eating is all about developing a new relationship with food in which you are more in control, Dr. Albers says. As  a result, you can enjoy foods more and still eat the foods you love without cutting them out completely.

Mindful eating strategies

There are easy strategies you can try to become a more mindful eater. One is the eliminate distractions when you dine and focus on your food.

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“Unplug when you eat,” Dr. Albers says. “Turn off all of your distractions or turn them down. Turn off your phone, turn off the TV. My motto is: When you eat, just eat. Give it all of your attention.”

Learning to be a mindful eater takes time, Dr. Albers says.

“Mindful eating takes practice,” Dr. Albers says. “The good news is that once you become a more mindful eater, it’s hard to go back, because you’re so aware of your eating habits.  You develop this new relationship where you’re so much more in control.  You enjoy food more and you eat the foods you love without having to cut them out. You learn just a new way of eating that you can do for a lifetime.”

Results of the study was presented at the European Congress on Obesity in May.

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