Can Choosing to Eat More Mindfully Free Us From a Dieter's Mentality?

03/27/2015 02:35 pm ET | Updated May 27, 2015


What did you have for breakfast the day before yesterday? Do you remember? And aside from what you actually ate, how did you actually eat it? Or were you so rushed to get your day started that you skipped breakfast on that day all together?

Too often in our multitasking-oriented society, we rob ourselves of the quiet moments in life that we not only deserve but require. And for those of us with a dieter's mentality, this can be especially destructive. Fact is, if we ate more mindfully, many of us wouldn't even need an actual diet plan to lose excess weight and feel better about ourselves and our bodies in the present moment.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not knocking diet plans all together. When I weighed over 450 pounds, I was so out of touch with healthy eating (as were my body's "hungry" or "full" sensors), that I required an actual plan (based on sound nutrition and pure, clean eating) to head in the right direction (in my case, down the scale). But my weight loss success (dropping more than 250 pounds within a year's period without fad dieting, pills or surgery) came more from mindful eating than it did a so-called diet.

Learning to pay attention to what tasted good (sans additives, preservatives and other potentially harmful chemicals) and paying heed to how my body felt after a meal, led me to being more mindful about almost every aspect of my life -- from exercise to walking my dog to even being more present when talking to someone on the phone (e.g., no more checking facebook on my smartphone while on a phone call, listening to my mother-in-law tell me how a recent doctor's appointment went).

Me. In the now. And being aware of it. Crazy concept, right?

And yet mindfulness doesn't have to be a mystery that we spend a lifetime trying to decipher. True mindfulness is simply about being fully present in the moment. That means being still and recognizing everything going on around us and being fully aware of it all.

Take a moment to stop reading this blog post, and just sit still (or stand still -- reader's choice). Feel the cushion of the chair beneath you? The comfort of the seat back? The hardwood floor underneath your shoes? Or maybe whatever you're sitting or standing on isn't so comfortable. You might be reading this while on a subway train. Or while standing in line. Or perhaps while lying down.

Notice the elements surrounding you at this moment. Is there a clock ticking? Is someone talking loudly nearby? Can you feel the heat of the sun? Or maybe a cool breeze? Whatever is going on around you, take note of it. Soak it in. It's not bad. It's not good. It simply is. And now you get a gold star for noticing what's happening around you, being aware of your surroundings, and taking it all in.

Next, turn to your breathing. Are your breaths short and shallow, perhaps signaling that you're anxious about something? Or are they soft and deep? Maybe your calm breathing is letting you know that you're very confident, that life is good (even with all the many challenges you're facing), and that you know you are enough, in this moment.

Let's now take this fully aware mental state and apply it to our eating. All of our eating. That means being as mindful when we're planning or preparing what we're going to eat as when we're sitting down to actually consume the food. (Yes, sitting down! Eating at the kitchen counter while on the go doesn't often compliment being mindful.)

Too often the choices we make about food have less to do with what we're really craving (whether regarding a specific food or even a portion size) and more about what is habitual. Our routines can turn us into zombies. And living life like The Walking Dead is no way to... Well... Live.

This is now. And since this moment is all we really have, we might as well choose to enjoy it -- and all of life's subsequent moments -- fully. As we learn to embrace the now, we can allow ourselves to make choices about our food, our eating, and our self-acceptance that can literally transform life around us -- and, perhaps, even transform our bodies in beautifully positive and healthy ways.