Mindfulness Can Help You Eat Without Putting On the Pounds

By: Saira Malhotra

NPR's The Salt recently brought up a very timely topic for those with New Year resolutions: How To Eat Out Without Putting On The Pounds. At a time when search engines deliver results relentlessly on miracle diets, fad diets, cookies with a promise of that perfect body and colonic cleansing to make you drop a size in less than a week, The Salt demonstrates a different perspective.

When we throw in the towel on radical diets, cleansing programs and other self- imposed restrictions, one could ask whether we are looking in the right places to achieve and sustain our goals. In a recent study performed by researchers at the University of Texas, published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, there is another way - mindful eating.

Women that joined in on a 6 week mindful eating program were able to eat substantially less even when they were around tempting environments.  According to Gayle Timmerman, author of the study, post program, women were eating 297 calories fewer than before they did the program and many lost around 2 pounds of weight.

Part of the program retrains women on how to eat "Slowing down was really key. You're paying attention to the texture [of each bite] and taste and smell," says Timmerman. "You're really kind of savoring it." Women learned to either eat less on the whole or to trade calories, by saving calories at home to be used in a restaurant.

To get a taste of an exercise from the program, Stephanie Vangsness of Brigham and Women's Hospital provides an excerpt:

"Do this exercise with a friend. You will need one small slice of an apple for each person. One person reads the instructions listed below while the other person completes the exercise.

Take one bite of an apple slice and then close your eyes. Do not begin chewing yet. Try not to pay attention to the ideas running through your mind, just focus on the apple. Notice anything that comes to mind about taste, texture, temperature and sensation going on in your mouth.

Begin chewing now. Chew slowly, just noticing what it feels like. It's normal that your mind will want to wander off. If you notice you're paying more attention to your thinking than to the chewing, just let go of the thought for the moment and come back to the chewing. Notice each tiny movement of your jaw.

In these moments you may find yourself wanting to swallow the apple. See if you can stay present and notice the subtle transition from chewing to swallowing.

As you prepare to swallow the apple, try to follow it moving toward the back of your tongue and into your throat. Swallow the apple, following it until you can no longer feel any sensation of the food remaining. Take a deep breath and exhale."

Photo: jk5854

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