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4 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Adopt Mindful Eating for Weight Loss

by Tansy Boggon

Mindful eating has been hijacked by the diet industry as a tool for weight loss; however, this objective perpetuates harmful diet mentality. Allow me to share 4 reasons why you shouldn’t adopt mindful eating for weight loss.

Mindful eating is eating with your full awareness of the sensory experience of eating without distraction or judgement. It is somewhat a mindfulness practice applied to eating. However, it has been employed by some as a practice for weight loss.

Mindful eating is not a weight loss tool

In the book Joyful Eating, I call the practice of drawing your full awareness to your eating conscious eating. I use the term conscious rather than mindful because the phrase mindful eating can be misinterpreted and has been hijacked by the diet industry.

Some diet proponents use mindful eating practices for weight loss. However, mindful eating is not a weight loss tool.

Although I made the above statement in the book, Joyful Eating, it’s not entirely accurate. That’s because researchers, the world over, are exploring whether mindful eating could be an effective weight loss tool.

Does mindful eating help with weight loss?

Some of the research is positive. For example, a 2019 review found that mindful eating was just as effective for weight loss as limiting energy intake and restricting food choices [1].

Mindful eating, therefore, could be an effective weight loss tool. However, I believe we need to completely ditch the desire for weight loss to form an intuitive and joyful relationship with food.

You may wonder why.

Joyful Eating book

JOYFUL EATING: How to Break Free of Diets and Make Peace with Your Body

“…shines a light on the countless beliefs that starve people of happiness and contentment with their bodies, and themselves.”

★★★★★ — Michelle Stanton,
author of The Timeless World

Available on all online booksellers

Here are 4 reasons why you shouldn’t adopt mindful eating for weight loss.

— ONE —

If you adopt any lifestyle behaviour with the intention of losing weight, it is still a diet.

Diet mentality will remain so long as there is a glimmer of hope for weight loss.

Diet mentality is any thinking that there is a right way to eat or belief that there are food rules to follow for good health or to meet an accepted ideal of body weight, shape or size.

The above may seem harmless. However, it is diet mentality that causes us to restrict and deprive, trust other’s expertise over our own bodies or ourselves. It is diet mentality that leads to a must-achieve and an all-or-nothing mentality; and is the source of guilt and shame that keep us in a cycle of diet after diet.

If you’d like to learn more about the harm of diet mentality, I encourage you to download the free chapter from Joyful Eating, Debunk the Diet Myth.

— TWO —

Short-term weight loss does not equate to long-term change.

Research shows that 95% of dieters will put the weight lost back on after a diet and often gain more weight than before dieting, no matter what means by which they lost the weight. Short-term weight loss does not equate to long-term change.

Anything done for a short-term gain—calorie restriction, lifestyle diet or mindful eating—is likely ineffective long-term.

So, instead of seeing mindful eating as a weight loss tool, I encourage you to see it as a way to transform your relationship with food so that you can learn to eat more intuitively, no matter the outcome.

— THREE —

Restrictive eating, whether you’re on a diet or being mindful of what you eat, leads to over-eating or uncontrollable eating.

If we limit the intake of certain foods or intentionally eat less, even under the guise of mindful eating, it can cause us to overeat or feel out of control with food when we eventually give in to hunger and temptation. Thus, it erodes trust in our bodies and causes us to continue to feel out of control with food.

— FOUR —

Weight is not an accurate measure of health or self-worth, anyway. Nor is it the most important thing about you.

Weight loss research assumes that weight is one of the most important markers of health. However, more important than weight, size or body shape are lifestyle behaviours, which can impact health irrespective of weight. Furthermore, a focus on weight loss promotes weight stigma, which is correlated to many of the same health concerns as weight.

Not only this, you do not control the body you have or your body’s response to the food you eat and the movement you do.

Therefore, I believe that the first step to forming a healthy relationship with food and your body is to ditch dieting and diet mentality entirely. That way, any lifestyle changes that you choose to adopt are not predicated on a desire to lose weight but a desire to feel your most energetic, alive and happy.

It can seem counter-intuitive to what we’ve been led to believe—that we need goals to create change. However, I believe that only when we release the goal of weight loss can we begin to tune into, listen to and trust our body.

Want to learn more?

You may also enjoy reading these blogs to help you release the desire for weight loss and ditch diets for good.

Reference:

  • [1] Fuentes Artiles R., Staub K., Aldakak L., Eppenberger P., Rühli F., Bender N. Mindful eating and common diet programs lower body weight similarly: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Obesity Reviews. 2019; 1– 9. https://doi.org/10.1111/obr.12918

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2 comments

Matthew February 23, 2022 - 8:53 pm

About connection between mindfulness and weight loss, there isn’t quite enough scientific evidence available for us to say “yes, definitely!” However, I think it has great promise for aiding weight loss because of its other benefits. Practicing mindfulness for weight loss clearly shows great promise, but this area of research is still quite new, and the results are not yet conclusive. There are certain limitations in the current literature such as small sample sizes and a lack of standardized procedures among studies. I found one book by Julia Hanner, which guides you through mindfulness techniques that helps you to develop this self confidence, and by this you can achieve some endurance which is very important in changing your habits (weight loss is all about changing your habits).

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Tansy Boggon February 25, 2022 - 5:47 am

Thanks for your input, Matthew.

The practice of mindfulness definitely has many psychological and physiological benefits, although I always discourage looking at it as a way to attain a certain outcome.

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