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Think thin with 'mindful eating'

December 3, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Mindless eating is something most of us do, especially during the holidays when we're all a little stressed out. But all that mindless munching can really end up as extra pounds. A simple technique can help you think your way thin. Here's how "mindful eating" works. Relaxing at the dinner table is helping some women maintain significant weight loss.

"I probably had lost 30 to 35 pounds," said Kim Book, "mindful eating" participant.

They're practicing a technique called "mindful eating," where you really think before taking a bite.

"You are a little skeptical at first," said Tamara Jones.

Learning the technique requires discipline. Psychotherapist Sasha Loring teaches it at Duke Integrative Medicine.

"It's really recreating a friendliness about food and about eating," said Sasha Loring, M.Ed., LCSW/psychotherapist.

Duke experts are gathering data about who benefits most from mindful eating.

"People who are more uninhibited around food. People who are eating around more of an emotional trigger. Those people would do the best with this kind of approach," said research director Dr. Ruth Wolever, Ph.D.

The first step to mindful eating is to simply take a pause before eating.

"It could be for 90 seconds or two minutes, but a very brief pause within which time you would really learn to center yourself and calm yourself," said Dr. Wolever.

During the pause, you should recognize sensations that indicate if you're hungry.

"We have a seven-point scale that we use to help people rate from extreme hunger to extreme fullness. And you would keep track of that and the sensations that indicate you are getting full," said Dr. Wolever. "The final point of this would be learning to get as much satisfaction from the smallest amount of food."

It's important to recognize when your needs are met. Mindful eating is a process that some women say pays off in the end.

"It is a life-altering event in a very positive way," said Kim Book.

"It is more than about the weight," said Glenda Lee.

"It may not be for everyone, but it certainly has helped me," said Tamara Jones.

In this group, mindful eating helped 75 pounds disappear.

Another mindful tip: Even if you're really hungry, don't plow through dinner. It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to signal your brain that you're full. Eating slower will give your brain time to catch up, and you'll end up eating less.


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