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6 Ways Mindfulness Can Help You Lose Weight

By Michelle Burford
WebMD Feature

Magic pills, liquid diets, compulsive exercising ... sound familiar? Many people who want to lose weight are often tempted by the latest fad. Problem is, the weight lost with these “quick fixes” can be expensive and often doesn’t last. Instead, get results by using something you already have  – your mind!

OK, that may sound a little new-agey. But the truth is mindfulness could be the key to your weight loss success. Being mindful simply means to give your full attention to your environment, thoughts, behaviors, and experiences.

“When you bring awareness to your internal and external environments -- and you do so without judgment -- you also have the opportunity to become more deliberate about your choices,” says Jan Chozen Bays, MD, author of Mindful Eating.

Here are six tactics you can start today.

Use Your Mind's Eye

Before every meal, pause and ask yourself: How hungry am I? Then, rate your hunger using a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is ravenously hungry and 10 is totally full. Be really honest. When you take a moment to listen to your body, you may discover that you’re only at a 6.

“Even when we’re not very hungry, our tendency is to go on automatic: We pull into a drive-through and order the #4 combo meal because that’s what we always get,” says Megrette Fletcher, a dietitian and author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat with Diabetes.

Truth is, you may only need a snack to feel satisfied. Experts say you don’t want to eat until you’re stuffed. Aim for about three-quarters full, which is between a 7 and an 8.

Urge Surf

Urge surfing is a technique that keeps you from giving in to spontaneous and unhealthy urges or cravings. Like all thoughts, urges don't last forever. They come and go, like a wave. Usually they last less than 30 minutes.

When you urge surf, you learn to "surf your cravings." That means you observe the urge. You accept it for what it is. But you don't respond to it.

Instead, notice how your body feels when the craving strikes. Then, pay attention to how its intensity changes with each breath you take.

Acknowledging the urge makes it weaker. And if you stay in this aware state, you can ride it out until your cravings are gone.

There’s No Accounting for Taste

Ever notice how the first bite or two always seems to taste the best? That’s because after that initial forkful your taste buds (of which you have thousands) stop firing.  

“If you check in and and really notice how the pleasure level is changing, you may realize that you’ve had enough far sooner than you would if you were shoveling down your food,” says Jean L. Kristeller, PhD, developer of the Mindfulness-Based Eating Awareness Training (MB-EAT) program.

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