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Mindful Eating for Weight Loss


By Autumn Lloyd, MA, Agape Counseling, Ltd.

Have you ever realized just how many fad diets and weight loss advertisements float around the media waves? And, of those, how many have not helped you lose weight? Why, in a technologically driven time with immediacy and increasing access to treatment, have we become the most overweight and obese nation? The answer is surprisingly simple: we don’t know how to slow down.

A recent trip to the 4th annual Obesity Action Coalition’s “Your Weight Matters” convention reminded me of the brilliance of mindful eating. In a convention center, swarming with health care professionals and persons affected by obesity, it was a simple truth that struck me. Those of us on our weight loss journeys do not need MORE information. What we need is to slow down and listen to our bodies. Slow down and be mindful of our five senses, and practice making confident decisions that satisfy what we are really craving.

“If you aren’t hungry when you start eating, how do you know when to stop?”
— Michelle May, creator of the “Am I Hungry?” Mindful Eating Program

So, when you’ve had a bad day and that second bowl of ice cream is tempting to soothe your woes, stop and ask yourself, “What am I feeling? What do I need right now?” If the answer is ice cream, then the plan is simple. Use a table, plate, and chair. Don’t sit in front of the television or hide from the embarrassment of inhaling a day’s allotment of calories. When we replace the act of eating with anything other than the purpose of satisfying a physical hunger, we risk no stopping point. Your job is to own your decision. Acknowledge the fact you want to eat the entire carton of ice cream. When we uncouple the knee-jerk decision from other distractions, it’s only then that we can learn if that ice cream is really what we need. My guess is that, when paired with negative emotion, eating becomes a way to hide, to numb, and to not feel. That’s not what food is for. It is not for the purpose of perpetuating the shame cycle.

“If you try to lose weight by shaming, depriving, and fearing yourself, you will end up shamed, deprived, and afraid. Kindness comes first. Always.”
— Geneen Roth

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t enjoy sweets or treats. What it does mean, though, is that a carton of ice cream in private looks a lot different than enjoying a sweet with a group of friends gathered for a birthday party. Food is wonderful, and meant to be enjoyed. The risk our private selves take in using it for concerns other than hunger leads to shame. If you are being mindful, the question you are asking about the food you are meant to enjoy is this: “Did my choice make me happy and healthy?”

Dawn Jackson Blatner, a speaker at the “Your Weight Matters” conference, presented the picture like this: when we simultaneously acknowledge our inner “health nut” and “wild child,” we allow ourselves to feel fully satisfied at each meal. Research supports this idea of vice-virtue bundling. Systems in our brain fight fiercely in a battle of “want” (instant gratification) and “should” (long-term benefits). The solution is not always doing what we want or what we should; it’s acknowledging and exercising both.

Individuals on their weight loss journey are armed with overwhelming amounts of conflicting information. When we pause for a moment, eliminate distractions, and aim to balance our mental satisfaction with physical wellness, we stop listening to what others tell us we need and what we should do. We become mindful of the choices we are making for our health. Knowledge is necessary. Awareness is crucial. Mindfulness is master. When we start from a place of love, the message you truly hear isn’t condemning, it’s filled with life, and the warmth that comes from savoring every last bite. And that’s some food for thought.

For more information, please contact Agape Counseling at 309-663-2229. They are a group of Christian counselors, social workers, psychologists, and support staff committed to a therapeutic process which ministers to the whole person. Their Bloomington office is located at 211 N. Veterans Parkway, (next to Krispy Kreme). They also have offices in Peoria and Morton. Visit: