Can You Lose Weight with Mindful Eating?


child eating an almond mindfullyThe subject of weight loss is hotly debated among advocates of mindful eating or intuitive eating.  The core issue revolves around the fact that a focus on weight loss tends to take us away from listening to our internal cues.  We worry about what and how much we eat, rather than letting our bodies guide us in what we need.  If we’re worrying about our weight, can we really eat mindfully?

Still, the question of whether mindful eating can have a positive impact on body weight continues. The research definitely shows that weight gain may be prevented by  mindful eating (unless weight gain is a part of getting healthier for some people) but the jury’s still out on whether it produces weight loss.  At Green Mountain, we frequently see our participants achieve weight loss success as a result of our non-diet healthy  living program for women that has mindful eating at its core.  But we haven’t done any studies in a long time, and it’s hard to chime in on a scientific debate using anecdotal evidence.

Last month, however, a study was published that supports our anecdotal evidence. Researchers in Italy found that using hunger as the signal to eat did lead to significant weight loss over a five-month period among “overweight” people.  The “normal weight” people in the study stayed at their same weight.

I don’t have the original study so can’t elaborate more.  But suffice it to say that for those who have a hard time letting go of weight loss as a goal, this study appears to provide support for the idea that using internal cues for eating, e.g., mindful eating, may help them achieve that goal.  It would be much, much better if the study showed results from  five years instead of five months, but my guess is that weight loss achieved in this manner is likely to be weight loss that lasts if a person continues to eat in response to her body’s cues.  That’s the real definition of healthy weight loss.

I still encourage giving up the focus on weight, though.  There’s benefit that can be derived from mindful eating that has nothing to do with body size —  improved health, less stress, improved productivity, greater happiness.

Not too shabby an outcome any way you look at it.

Has mindful eating made a difference in your life?

photo by hagit via stock.xchng

10 responses to “Can You Lose Weight with Mindful Eating?”

  1. Fitness Guy says:

    I find that I do exactly this and it helps. I become aware that I am hungry and I eat. I make sure that I do not eat too much and to do this I just have to remember the feeling that I have after Christmas or Easter dinner and how bloated that I feel.

    Nice bunch of research though. I like the concept of mindful eating.
    .-= Fitness Guy’s last blog post..Eric Chopin – Biggest Loser Winner and then Loser =-.

  2. Sagan says:

    I definitely believe that there’s something to mindful eating… but I’d go a step further and say that it’s not only awareness that’s important, but also changing our perspective and attitudes towards food and dealing with any issues we might have which manifests itself in food.
    .-= Sagan’s last blog post..The Living Healthy in the Real World Guide to Grocery Shopping, Part Four: Where to Shop =-.

  3. Mindful eating is the cornerstone of Ayurveda, which is what I am practicing currently. Your thoughts can change the makeup of the food you are eating and the water you are drinking. Thinking bad thoughts, the food will have little impact for you. Think good thoughts, and the opposite is true. and with good thoughts, even with not so good food, will have a tremendous impact on the way you feel about yourself and the world around you.

  4. I recommend mindful eating and using your senses to all of my clients. It really helps people register how full vs how hungry they truly are.
    .-= Nutritioulicious’s last blog post..Calcium, It Does a Body Good =-.

  5. Lynn Haraldson-Bering says:

    I eat mindfully most of the time, but sometimes I’m steered by calories. What I mean is that if I know I “can” eat 1500 calories in a day and at the end of the day I’ve only eaten 1400, I don’t always check in with my body and ask, “Am I hungry?” I go with, “Hey! I have calories to spare!” This is an area I’m working on. I want to be more mindful and aware and eat only when I need to eat, not when it’s “permissable.”

  6. julie says:

    I think learning mindful/intuitive eating is the best way to normalize food intake and managing emotions regarding food. If you can learn to eat “normally”, you can then learn to eat just a bit less, or do a bit more exercise, tip the balance in favor of weight loss.
    .-= julie’s last blog post..Thoughts on reaching goal =-.

  7. […] Can You Lose Weight With Mindful Eating? […]

  8. sheejapaulos says:

    Great article!!! Proved to be a great help. I am gonna share it with my friends. Looking forward for some more related article.

  9. Shenika Keis says:

    Thanks Marsha for this, your blog contain much information of weight loss. I am also started with this but my elder says ki take some Ayurveda helps a lot.. And it really does.. Thanks for sharing and keep posting.

    • Marsha Hudnall, MS, RDN, CD says:

      You’re welcome, Shenika. Most of the women who come to us are struggling with weight. We try to change their focus to self care which we believe will help end their struggles with weight. There is a lot to it but we’ve been at it for 43 years now so have a little insight, which deepens as we go on. Glad you find the blog helpful!

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About the Author

Marsha Hudnall, MS, RDN, CD

If you’re looking for an embodiment of dedication disguised as obsession, look no further. Marsha is a registered dietitian who has spent the last four decades working to help women give up dieting rules and understand how to truly take care of themselves. Her mission in life is to help women learn to enjoy eating and living well, without worries about their weight. She encourages women to embrace their love of food, which you might call being a foodie. If so, it’s appropriate because being a foodie means you pay attention when you eat. That’s a recipe made in heaven for eating well. Marsha is the President and Co-Owner of Green Mountain at Fox Run.

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