“Mindful eating” could help weight loss, from the Harvard Health Letter

BOSTON—Does this sound familiar? You’re at your computer, facing a wall of e-mails. Before you know it, you’ve finished lunch without even noticing it. A small yet growing body of research suggests that a slower, more thoughtful way of eating could help with weight problems and maybe steer some people away from less-healthful choices, reports the February 2011 issue of the Harvard Health Letter.

Applied to eating, mindfulness includes noticing the colors, smells, flavors, and textures of your food; chewing slowly; and getting rid of distractions like watching TV or reading. If you eat too quickly, your body’s signals of satiety (fullness) may occur after you have overeaten instead of providing a signal to stop eating.

Several studies have shown that mindful eating strategies might help treat eating disorders and possibly help with weight loss. One study included 150 binge eaters and compared a mindfulness-based therapy to a standard psycho-educational treatment. Both active treatments produced declines in binging and depression, but the mindfulness-based therapy seemed to help people enjoy their food more and have less sense of struggle about controlling their eating.

Mindfulness helps people learn the difference between emotional and physical hunger by introducing a “moment of choice” between the urge to eat and eating. It also helps people learn to recognize the signs of satiety. Experts suggest starting gradually, eating one meal a day or week in a more mindful manner. The Harvard Health Letter offers some tips that may help you get started:

  • Set your timer to 20 minutes, and take that time to eat a meal.
  • Eat silently for five minutes, thinking about what it took to produce that meal, from the sun’s rays to the cook.
  • Take small bites and chew well.
  • Before opening the fridge or cabinet, ask yourself, “Am I really hungry?”

Read the full-length article: “Mindful eating”


The Harvard Health Letter is available from Harvard Health Publications (www.health.harvard.edu), the publishing division of Harvard Medical School, for $29 per year. Subscribe at www.health.harvard.edu/health or by calling 877-649-9457 (toll-free).

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Media: Contact Raquel Schott at Raquel_Schott@hms.harvard.edu for a complimentary copy of the newsletter, or to receive our press releases directly.

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