Americans spend billions each year on dieting. But as bank accounts are decreasing, waistlines are still increasing. Recent surveys show that one-third of American adults are obese (with a BMI of more than 30), and 64 percents of adults are overweight (with a BMI of more than 25). The often-quoted statistics are that, in 95 percent of cases, the weight lost by dieting is regained within five years. Many actually end up more obese than before they dieted.
Counseling professionals are noticing a significant emotional impact to people whose dieting attempts seem to fail (over and over again), as “experts” continue prescribing diet as the solution. To make matters emotionally worse, dieters most often hear themselves being blamed by those experts when the diet doesn’t work.
Some pioneers in dietary and counseling arenas are introducing new ways of battling the physical and emotional war with obesity. Becoming aware or mindful of what one eats, and more importantly how one eats, is a simple approach to enjoying all foods but controlling one’s portions and behaviors which can generate lasting weight loss.
Why Diets Don’t Work
Most people who want to lose weight have been on at least five to 10 diets, if not more, in their lifetime. They are dieting professionals. The thought “this time it will work, this time it will be different” is in their mind every time they start a new diet. So the cycle continues of starting a new diet, losing some weight, then, the eventual rebound of weight gain, often to a point higher than pre-diet levels.
Another common downside to dieting is the attention given to food. Dieters are often instructed to focus on and even study their food with tactics like counting calories or carbs, or to eat a certain type of food and no others. This process can actually sabotage their success, because the diet makes the dieter more preoccupied with food. Dieting makes food the enemy, especially when one eats a non-diet food. Dieting slows metabolism! And, lastly, dieting is usually a stepping-stone to eating disorders.
A Different Approach: Mindful Eating
Mindful eating means the person is aware and deliberate while eating. First, the mindful eater responds less to external cues -- the sight or smell of food, restaurant signs, television ads, or large bowls and plates. Instead the mindful eater tunes in to the body’s natural signals of hunger and fullness, so they stop eating when full and don’t start eating unless they are truly hungry. Second, the mindful eater limits distractions -- like a television which might prevent them from hearing their body’s signals. Anyone can become a mindful eater with these simple tactics.
1.) Recognize hunger and fullness. Diets convince the dieter’s body that famines are frequent, which leads the body to lower energy consumption to a survival mode, which lowers the metabolic rate. Alternatively, mindful eating is the conscious shifting of attention to the direct experience of one’s body, feelings, thoughts and surroundings while eating. Mindful eating involves focusing on one’s hunger and fullness, which decreases portion sizes.