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. 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 .
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.
Here are just four reasons:
1. If you adopt any lifestyle behaviour with the intention of losing weight it is still a diet.
2. 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 to food so that you can learn to eat more intuitively, no matter the outcome.
3. Restrictive eating, whether you're on a diet or being mindful of what you eat, leads to over- and 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 body and causes us to continue to feel out of control with food.
4. 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 is lifestyle behaviours, which can impact health irrespective of weight. Furthermore, 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.
 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