But Will I Lose Weight? Gaining Health Through Mindfulness

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Weight loss. It’s a major concern for the vast majority of women who pass through our doors at Green Mountain.

Honestly, with an estimated 45 million Americans dieting every year, it’s clearly a major concern for many people. Dieting has become a central part of our culture because society has trained us to believe that the only path to health and happiness is through a thin body.

At Green Mountain, Our Philosophy Is A Little Different.

We help women achieve happier, healthier, and more fulfilling lives through a non-diet, weight-neutral, mindfulness-based approach to eating, moving, and living.

We teach women that their health is not defined by a number on the scale, how to shift their focus from weight loss to wellness, and ultimately, how to truly care for themselves independent of what happens with their weight. Because if your self-care depends on what happens with your weight, it’s easy to get off track.

These messages are not always met without resistance – and we get it – it’s so counter to everything that we hear, see, and read about health, wellness, happiness, and success.

As our participants are contemplating this approach, I’m often asked the following:

  • But I want to lose weight. How will do that if I give up dieting?
  • But I need to lose weight. What if I do all of these things and my weight doesn’t change?

If you are wondering the same things, here is my response:

Every week in the first class I have with our newly arrived participants I ask, “How many people have ever lost weight, and permanently maintained that weight loss, by dieting?”

No one raises their hand – ever. That’s because greater than 95% of people who lose weight through dieting gain it back, and often more. For the vast majority of people, diets simply don’t, and won’t ever, work.

So, if we know that our typical approach doesn’t work, isn’t it at least worth considering a new approach?

One in which the number you see on the scale in the morning doesn’t determine what kind of day you are going to have. One in which, eating a piece of birthday cake doesn’t make you a bad person. One in which, you don’t need to obsess about every calorie, point, or fat gram. One in which, a change in weight is a natural outcome of the process, if a change in weight is what your body wants.

Introducing the New Approach: Mindful Eating.

It is not a set of rules that dictates our decisions about what, when, and how much to eat. It is not a list of good and bad foods. It is not a calorie goal.

Instead, it’s tuning into our hunger and satiety cues to determine when to eat and when to stop. It’s choosing foods that are nourishing to our bodies and satisfying to our taste buds. It’s slowing down, savoring each bite, and engaging all of our senses as we eat. Ultimately, it’s learning how to trust ourselves to be our own authority on our food choices.

And learning how to trust ourselves again is hard! Especially when we’ve spent years internalizing the notion that we can’t trust ourselves, or our bodies, to make decisions about food.

For many, scarier yet is the thought of not only not losing weight, but gaining weight if we let go of diets.

However, research shows that eating mindfully/intuitively, is not associated with significant weight gain and is actually associated lower body weights (1, 2). It supports what we at Green Mountain have observed for years – when we nourish ourselves adequately and care for our whole self, our bodies will find, and settle at, their natural healthy weights.

That said, weight loss isn’t always what our body wants. And just because our weight might be higher than what is conventionally considered “healthy” doesn’t mean we are, in fact, unhealthy.

Health is complex to define and is influenced by many factors – diet and physical activity are part of that but so are things like stress level, socioeconomic status, access to adequate healthcare, genetics, etc.

Moreover, weight loss, on its own, doesn’t necessarily improve health (3). And repeated weight loss and weight re-gain, known as weight cycling, can actually be harmful to overall health (4).

When we can shift our focus from weight loss to well-being we are better able to focus on meeting all of our needs – eating in a way that is satisfying and nourishing, moving our bodies in a way that feels good, and allowing ourselves to live our lives fully.

And, when we shift our eating practice away from one that is rigid and restrictive to one that honors our body, we see improvements in many important health parameters (e.g., blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, etc.), even in the absence of weight loss (1, 5).


Resources:

  1. Clifford D, Ozier A, Bundros J, Moore J, Kreiser A, Morris MN. Impact of non-diet approaches on attitudes, behaviors, and health outcomes: a systematic review. J Nutr Ed Beh. 2015;47(2):143-55.
  2. Camilleri GM, Méjean C, Bellisle F, Andreeva VA, Kesse‐Guyot E, Hercberg S, Péneau S. Intuitive eating is inversely associated with body weight status in the general population‐based NutriNet‐Santé study. Obes. 2016;24(5):1154-61.
  3. Tomiyama AJ, Ahlstrom B, Mann T. Long‐term Effects of Dieting: Is Weight Loss Related to Health?. Social and Personality Psychology Compass. 2013;7(12):861-77.
  4. Montani JP, Schutz Y, Dulloo AG. Dieting and weight cycling as risk factors for cardiometabolic diseases: who is really at risk?.Obes Rev. 2015;16(S1):7-18.
  5. Schaefer JT, Magnuson AB. A review of interventions that promote eating by internal cues. J Am Diet Assoc. 2014;114(5):734-60.

2 responses to “But Will I Lose Weight? Gaining Health Through Mindfulness”

  1. Compliments. Good to see the bibliography. So much info about health and weight is full of pseudo-science. Shifting perceptions from fictions to facts is essential for individuals and for addressing nation-wide public health. Brava!

  2. Connie says:

    Thank you for your kind post. I think we should all be more compassionate to ourselves and mindfully excuse the inner critic to move along. I’d love to read more on mindful eating. Do write more on it!

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About the Author

Dana Notte, MS, RD, CD

Dana has dedicated her career to helping individuals establish a balanced and healthy relationship with food. She has extensive training and experience in coaching for behavior change, mindful eating, and motivational interviewing. Dana has spent years leading group-based behavior change classes, developing and leading interactive workshops for worksite wellness programs, and providing nutrition counseling to individuals struggling with eating, weight, and chronic health conditions. Her practice style is client-centered, compassionate and empowering, with the goal of helping individuals develop the confidence to achieve their health and wellness goals. Dana is the Nutrition Lead at Green Mountain at Fox Run.

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