Mindful eating: a way to lose weight?

Jan 29, 2020
Posted by: Monique Parker


When you google the word ‘Mindfulness’ you will get about 211,000,000 results.
Is it a buzzword, a trend, or is it more than that? And what has it got to do with losing weight?

What is Mindfulness?

Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, retired Professor of Medicine emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Clinic and the Centre for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society, defines Mindfulness as follows: “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally”. Or, as the Vietnamese Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh calls it, “the practice of being fully present in each moment”.

Mindfulness is basically thinking of what you’re thinking, being aware of your surroundings and choosing to focus your attention on something in a positive and helpful way.  For example, when you’re walking through a forest and you focus on each step you make, feeling the soil under your feet, you’re already being mindful.



It is not something new. Mindfulness has its roots in Buddhism and has been practised for centuries. Since the early 90s Mindfulness has been extensively researched and the research shows that it has great benefits for physical and mental health. The University of Oxford’s Mindfulness Centre has been conducting research and training in Mindfulness since 2008.

As a result, it has become incredibly popular in different ways.

The Mindfulness technique is being used by individuals, in the corporate world, schools, prisons, and let’s not forget the many Mindfulness courses, Apps and even colouring books.

A good example is the NHS introducing Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy in 2004, to prevent relapse of depression.


The relationship between Mindfulness and nutrition

I’m sure many of you have eaten your lunch at your desk. You put your sandwich next to your computer and you suddenly realise it is gone…you have eaten it without even noticing.

The same often happens when you’re eating while you’re on the go. Let’s call it ‘Mindless’ eating.

Mindless eating often leads to overeating or unhealthy food choices. Comfort eating is a good example of this. Often there is no feeling of hunger but just a desire to feel better or manage stress: emotional hunger versus physical hunger.

Mindful eating can help people be more aware of the triggers to eating and could change bad eating habits, as it is not just about what you eat, but why you eat and how you eat.


Weight loss

Mindless eating is a big factor in weight gain and obesity. Forget about the past, don’t think about the future, now is the moment to start eating mindfully and change your relationship with food. Don’t be judgmental, blaming yourself or others for your weight gain. Try to understand why you’re overweight and believe that by following the path of Mindfulness you can achieve a healthy weight.


Putting it in practice….

  • Before you eat, listen to your body. How are you feeling? Are you hungry, and if so, how hungry are you?
  • Eat at the table, away from your computer or other distractions such as your mobile phone.
  • Eat slowly. While you’re eating, hormones are produced, that tell your body that you’re full. So, if you’re eating too quickly, this signal hasn’t happened yet, and it is very easy to overeat.
  • Chew your food very well. Research has shown that increasing the number of chews before swallowing actually reduces the amount of food you eat.
  • Chewing well is good for your digestion and nutrients will be absorbed more efficiently.
  • Be aware of what is going on in your body and your mind while you’re eating. Are you starting to feel full? How is the food affecting your mood?
  • Be aware of what you’re eating. The texture of the food, the taste, the smell etc. And your food experience.
  • Mindful eating is not a fad diet and it doesn’t ask you to give up certain foods. It is all about awareness.

I personally don’t believe in drastic weight loss diets, as I think they are often not sustainable. 
I believe more in awareness. Knowing why you eat, when you eat, and what you eat, and most importantly, trying to find out what is the underlying cause of why you are over-weight.

As much as it is a myth that you get ‘fat’ from just inhaling air, it is also a myth that only overeating, being inactive or eating unhealthy food can cause obesity. I do know people, who eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and are still over-weight, which is very frustrating, as according to the books they do everything right. However, chronic stress, inflammation, gut dysfunction, thyroid problems, and insulin resistance can all contribute to obesity and it is worth finding out if this is the case.