Friday, December 04, 2015

Mindfulness Eating and Weight Management

[NEW: This blog post was updated on 20 January 2016. The new material is at the bottom of the post.] 

In May, 2011, I wrote a blog post about how I used calorie counting and vegetable to lose 50 pounds (

Since that time, my weight has gone up and down. I travel a lot for my work, mostly to Asia, and when I travel I cannot count calories. In addition, I want to eat the local foods when I am overseas, so I pay less attention to limiting my calories. I usually gain between 5 and 10 pounds when I go to Asia, and I usually lose it in a couple of weeks (sometimes more) after I get back to calorie counting when I get home.

For the past year, however, even my lowest weight has been somewhat higher than I would like it to be - in the range of 165-169. In part, this is because I have been traveling so much. But also because there were limits to how much I was willing to cut my calories ... until now.

More recently, I wrote about my three months in Taiwan and how I "discovered" Buddhism. After getting back to the US from my most recent overseas trip (two months in Japan), I decided to apply Buddhist mindfulness meditation practice to eating. I called in Mindfulness Eating. Soon after I started doing this, I learned that my daughter learned mindfulness eating in a mindfulness meditation class that she had taken a year or so ago. So I did not invent this, and an online search on "mindful eating" will bring forth a lot of articles and books on the topic.

Mindfulness, or mindful, eating with intention -- only doing one thing at a time -- only eating and not doing anything else. It is focusing on your food as you eat it, and not multitasking with other things (like reading a newspaper). It can help to turn off the TV and radio, and even to close your eyes if you are alone. It is preferable to not talk to other while you are chewing the food, though that can be hard, so I am careful not to go too far. Chewing is complete, as you savor and enjoy the changing taste and texture of the food as you consume it.

All I can say is that it works for me!  This past week, by using mindful eating, my daily calorie count has been under 1400 a day, and my weight has quickly plummeted to levels that I have not been at in about a year.  Today, I ate less than 1000 calories (including a granola bar), and I feel fine. It takes me a lot longer to eat my food than anyone else in my family, but I am eating only about half as much as most others. I am still counting calories, although I plan to stop doing that and just do the mindfulness eating once I reach my goal weight of 159 (very close to it now).

So, the lesson here is that Calorie Counting combined with Mindful Eating is an incredibly powerful way to lose weight. 

I have another trip in a month or so, and I will update this blog with a report on how it goes with mindfulness eating on the road....

[UPDATE: 20 January 2016]

It has been a month and a half since I wrote the post above. During that time I have made a couple of week-long out-of-state trips, which have challenged my mindfulness eating and weight management -- as I totally expected.  Here is what I have experienced...

I gained weight. No surprise. The reasons are also very well known to me, and include:

  • I was not counting calories (I never do when I travel)
  • My will power to resist new and interesting foods was quite weak (which also always happens when I travel)
  • I ate out a lot, which usually means foods that are tasty, but high in calories and salt

The one new thing was that I was trying to remember to eat mindfully. Again, my will power and memory to do that was not as steadfast as when I was at home. But at least I was doing it some of the time. I am now clearly the slowest eater in my family!

The result of mindfulness eating while traveling was that I did not gain as much weight as I might have if I were not being mindful. I can't say for sure, but I think that is true.

I have now been home for a couple of weeks from my last trip. When I first got home, I tried to see if I could lose weight using mindfulness eating alone. Well, mindfulness alone was not very successful for me. I managed to lose 1.5 pounds after a week being home, which could easily have been due to eating less salt.

I came the conclusion that mindfulness is able to keep me stable (not gaining weight), but it was not enough to get me to lose weight at the rate that I am used to after I get back from a weight-gaining trip.

So after more than a week of that, I decided to go back to the combination of calorie counting and mindfulness.  This accelerated my weight loss, as I expected, though I did get stuck at a plateau for 4 days -- those things happen.

I am now back to my goal weight, which for me means that I can stop counting calories and just rely on mindfulness eating to maintain that weight. Although I am just starting that, I feel confident that it will work -- until my next travel food adventure, at least!

No comments: