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Want to lose weight?
Here’s a quick brain hack to help you fit back into those skinny jeans from high school.
When researchers study people who manage to lose weight and keep it, they find that these dieters tend to have one thing in common: mindfulness.1
So what is mindfulness? It’s exactly what it sounds like: it’s being mindful (or aware) of the present moment, what you’re doing, and how you’re feeling. Eating mindfully means that you’re aware of what you’re eating, how much you’re eating, and how it’s making you feel. (This includes being aware when you are no longer hungry.)
Of course, this is the opposite of mindless eating, which is what most of us do when we sit down in front of the TV with a bag of chips. Needless to say, mindless eating leads to overeating and weight gain.
In the past few years, researchers have really started to take notice of mindfulness and studied its effect on weight loss. The result of all this research?
Eating mindfully is one of the best ways to lose weight and keep it off.2,3,4,5,6,7,8
The problem is, it’s hard to be mindful all the time. We can force ourselves to pay attention to the present moment for a couple of seconds, but we tend to slip back into our old habits and actions after just a few moments.
Fortunately, there’s a trick that makes it much, much easier to be mindful of everything you put in your mouth.
The trick is simple: take a picture of everything you eat.
Anytime you sit down to eat, just get in the habit of taking out your phone and snapping a quick photo of your plate. Make sure to get it all, including drinks, second helpings, and desserts. If it has calories, it needs to be in the picture.
So why is this so effective?
While it’s an easy habit to adopt, the effects of this trick can be powerful. Taking a second to snap a picture of what you’re about to eat will force you to become momentarily aware (mindful) of what you’re eating.
And the more mindful you are of what you’re eating, the more likely you are to make smart food choices. (Which explains why keeping a food diary can double your weight loss, and why calorie counting is one of the most effective ways to lose weight.9)
So there you have it: just snap a photo of everything you eat and watch your waistline start to shrink!
1: Mindful eating may help with weight loss. http://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/mindful-eating-may-help-with-weight-loss
2 Daubenmmier J, Kristeller J, Hecht FM, et al. (2011). Mindfulness Intervention for Stress Eating to Reduce Cortisol and Abdominal Fat among Overwieght and Obese Women: An Exploratory Randomized Controlled Study. Journal of Obesity, 2011.
3 Tapper, K., Shaw, C., Ilsley, J., et al. (2008). Exploratory randomised controlled trial of a mindfulness based weight loss intervention for women, Appetite, doi:10.1016/j.appet.2008.11.012.
4 Papies EK, Barsalou LW, Custers R. (2011). Mindful attention prevents mindless impulses. Research submitted to Social Psychology and Personality Science.
5 Smith, BW, Shelley BM, Leahigh L, et. al. (2006). A preliminary Study of the Effects of a Modified Mindfulness Intervention on Binge Eating. Journal of Evidence-Based Complimentary & Alternative Medicine, 11(3), p. 133-143.
6 Bacon L, Stern JS, Van Loan MD, & et. al. (2005). Size acceptance and intuitive eating improve health for obese, female chronic
dieters. Journal of American Dietetic Association, 105, 929-36.
7 Kristeller JL, Hallett CB. (1999). An exploratory study of a meditation-based intervention [mindful eating] for binge eating disorder. Journal of Health Psychology, 4, 357-63.
8 Smitham LA. (2008).Evaluating an intuitive eating program for binge eating disorder: A benchmarking study [dissertation]. South Bend, IN: University of Notre Dame