03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

A Mindful New Year's Resolution: Stop Mindless Eating

People magazine's latest issue, "They Lost Half Their Size" is on magazine racks now. It features everyday people who have lost 100 plus pounds without weight loss drugs or surgery.

It's hard not to be drawn in by these incredible "before" and "after" pictures. What is the allure? Perhaps, in part, as always, we are searching for the "secret" to dramatic weight loss. We want to know how these individuals found the motivation and the tools to make such incredible changes in their lives.

We can't help but be inspired. These people aren't celebrities with personal trainers or money to burn. They have challenging jobs, kids and budgets. Some of the people credited free or inexpensive, reputable programs on the Internet rather than expensive products. If your New Year's Resolution is to lose weight, then you definitely want to know how they did it.

The commonality to their stories is that they all followed these three steps:

1) A commitment to change. The first essential step? A belief that they could do it. This part is often difficult. Half the battle is not letting your doubt and fears become a road block. If you don't think you can do it, your behavior will create a "self-filling prophecy." In other words you will do things unconsciously that support the notion that it just won't work.

2) Addressing the emotional eating. This is one of the reasons most diets fail. You can change what you eat, but if you don't address the emotions driving mindless eating, it isn't likely to go anywhere. Some of the participants called themselves "closet eaters" or "emotional eaters." They had to substitute emotional eating with healthy alternatives and outlets.

3) Be mindfully aware of when you eat. Mindfulness, and more specifically mindful eating, isn't a new concept. In fact, it is centuries old and based on the Eastern concept of mindfulness or "pure awareness." If you are eating mindfully, you are aware and attentive to all dimensions of eating. It includes mindfulness of the mind, body, thoughts and feelings.

Mindful Eating

Mindful eating is about being conscious of why you are eating. Are you hungry? Are you tired? Are you bored? There is no menu or recipes to follow. It's about learning how and why you eat, and less about what you eat. When you are so closely in touch with what is going on inside, you know the exact moment you are satisfied rather than stuffed or starving. To understand the why, what, when and how we eat, we have to be compassionate and nonjudgmental. This allows us to take a closer look at our behavior.

Among many things, mindful eating includes feeling the saltiness of each potato chip on your fingers as you pick it up, and noting the taste of the salt when you put the chip on your tongue. It's being aware of and listening to the loud crunch of each bite, and the noise the chewing makes in your head. As you eat the chips, you take note of the rough texture against your tongue, and the pressure of your teeth grinding together.

When you are watchful, you notice how your stomach expands and feels fuller. You experience each bite from start to finish by slowing down every aspect of the eating process to be fully aware of each movement, swallow, aroma and feeling derived from eating.

It is helpful to consider these steps in the context of the People magazine article. In the article, we see the "before" picture and then "after" picture. We can't forget that these individuals also went through several stages of change to get there.

Maybe the next People article could show a few stages along the way? This may help give us a wider lens of the process. It would take out the "poof" effect that magically seems to happen between the before and after photos.

It would also be interesting to balance out the weight/appearance benefits with the health rewards. Perhaps include "stats" on each participant such as improvements in their blood pressure, reduction in medications, cholesterol and a variety of other things we can't see with the naked eye.

If improving your health this year is at the top of your New Year's Resolutions, that is great! As you can see from this inspiring article, change is possible. Congratulations to the individuals in the article. Fantastic work! We appreciate you sharing your stories with us.

By Dr. Susan Albers, psychologist and author of 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food and Eat, Drink & Be Mindful and Eating Mindfully