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An Age-Old Secret to Losing Weight

Obesity has become a public health issue. New research suggests moment-to-moment awareness does a better job of helping people control their weight than any diet.

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But what was most discouraging to Mietus-Snyder was the paucity of nutrition she found in the kids’ diets, which caused their metabolic systems to become inefficient and dysfunctional. She wonders if this, more than anything, impacted the effectiveness of the mindfulness intervention.

“We’re just climbing uphill with these kids,” she says.

Mietus-Snyder believes the most important thing society can do to eliminate obesity is to improve the food environment for these kids. The government should intercede and more closely regulate food production and distribution, especially in schools, she says.

Epel shares that concern, but still sees the need for a two-pronged approach.

“We need to change food policies, not just focus on how people change their response to it,” she agrees. “But we need to work from both sides of this issue.”

No more food fights

Before Deborah Hill entered Epel’s mindfulness treatment program, her doctor had warned her that her cholesterol and triglyceride levels were high, a risk factor for diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. She’d tried diets and programs like Weight Watchers, but felt that they weren’t helping her with the emotional side of her eating.

“I’m an emotional eater,” says Hill. “I eat because I’m bored, stressed, or just because.”

Through the mindful eating program, she has learned how to slow down, evaluate how she’s feeling, and make better choices.

“Now if I want a piece of cake, I really taste it,” she says. “After four to five bites, I re-evaluate and ask myself: Do I really want it?”

Although doing the daily mindfulness meditation has been hard for her, she finds other ways to de-stress, and has become more “adventurous” around eating, sometimes choosing arugula salad over fried chicken and mashed potatoes, for example. But, she doesn’t deny herself anything, she claims, even eating a burger when she wants to, as long as she stays aware of making the choice and not because “it’s there.”

“I’m not on a diet; I’m on a lifestyle change,” says Hill. “I eat what I want. I don’t fight food anymore.”

Jill Suttie, Psy.D., is Greater Good‘s book review editor and a frequent contributor to the magazine.

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