6 Ways Mindfulness Can Help You Lose Weight

Medically Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on November 06, 2013
3 min read

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.

Start using these six tactics today.

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.

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-thru and order the No. 4 combo meal because that’s what we always get,” says Megrette Fletcher, a dietitian and co-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 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.

Ever notice how the first bite or two always seems to taste the best? It's true. After that first forkful, your taste buds (of which you have thousands) stop firing.

“If you check in 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, founder of the Mindfulness-Based Eating Awareness Training (MB-EAT) program.

Americans usually eat fast, spending just 8 to 11 minutes on a meal. Yet your body needs 20 minutes to notice that it’s full.

Instead of gulping, take one bite, put your fork down, then chew slowly. Savor every morsel. Taking your time will make it much easier to tell when you’re full.

It’s been proven time and time again: People who keep a food diary lose more weight. In one study, food loggers lost twice as much weight as people who didn’t write anything down.

Writing down what you eat will make you more aware of how much you eat. It will also help you keep an eye on the quality of food you eat. That awareness can lead to eating less and eventually losing weight.

Ever splurged on a piece of pie and thought, “Why bother working out now? I already blew it for the day.” If so, it’s time to stop!

Once you’re aware of this kind of self-defeating thought, you can replace it with a more positive one: "I’m human. I slipped up and had pie. Now, what can I do now to get back on track?"

"This new thought can put you back on track toward the gym, and at the very least, it’s a way to show more compassion for yourself,” says Sofia Rydin-Gray, PhD, health psychology director at Duke Diet and Fitness Center.