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“Mindful eating” could help in losing weight, from the Harvard Health Letter

Does this sound familiar? You’re at your computer, facing a wall of e-mails. Before you know it, you’ve finished lunch without even noticing it. A small yet growing body of research suggests that a slower, more thoughtful way of eating could help with weight problems and maybe steer some people away from less-healthful choices, reports the February 2011 issue of the Harvard Health Letter.

Applied to eating, mindfulness includes noticing the colors, smells, flavors, and textures of your food; chewing slowly; and getting rid of distractions like watching TV or reading. If you eat too quickly, your body's signals of satiety (fullness) may occur after you have overeaten instead of providing a signal to stop eating.

Several studies have shown that mindful eating strategies might help treat eating disorders and possibly help with weight loss. One study included 150 binge eaters and compared a mindfulness-based therapy to a standard psychoeducational treatment. Both active treatments produced declines in bingeing and depression, but the mindfulness-based therapy seemed to help people enjoy their food more and have less sense of struggle about controlling their eating.

Mindfulness helps people learn the difference between emotional and physical hunger by introducing a “moment of choice” between the urge to eat and eating. It also helps people learn to recognize the signs of satiety. Experts suggest starting gradually, eating one meal a day or week in a more mindful manner. The Harvard Health Letter offers some tips that may help you get started:

• Set your timer to 20 minutes, and take that time to eat a meal.

• Eat silently for five minutes, thinking about what it took to produce that meal, from the sun’s rays to the cook.

• Take small bites and chew well.

• Before opening the fridge or cabinet, ask yourself, “Am I really hungry?”

Read the full-length article: "Mindful eating"

Also in this issue of the Harvard Health Letter

  • The vitamin D-cision brings surprises
  • Mindful eating
  • Update from the cold front
  • Understanding the ECG: Reading the waves
  • Palliative care: Sooner may be better
  • Ask the doctor: What do you think of these so-called sunless tanning products?

More Harvard Health News »

About Harvard Health Publications

Harvard Health Publications publishes four monthly newsletters--Harvard Health Letter, Harvard Women's Health Watch, Harvard Men's Health Watch, and Harvard Heart Letter--as well as more than 50 special health reports and books drawing on the expertise of the 8,000 faculty physicians at Harvard Medical School and its world-famous affiliated hospitals.