Losing Weight the Mindful Way

Posted on January 9th, 2014 by in Healthy Living, Nutrition

weight_lossI thought I’d won the battle once and for all. After consuming no more than 1,300 calories a day and working out six days a week (three of them at a very intense boot camp) the summer before last, I’d lost just over 20 pounds. Once I’d lost all the weight I wanted to lose, I planned to increase my caloric intake by a few hundred calories (for maintenance), adhere to my fitness regimen, and enjoy my slender physique for years to come.

Not quite. By the following summer, I’d gained back most of the weight I’d worked so hard to lose. Tired of the drudgery, I’d stopped going to boot camp—which meant I wasn’t getting weighed every other day anymore. And without having to be accountable to a trainer and a scale, I stopped being vigilant about counting calories. Over time, I began eating sweets here and there, and, well, you know the rest.

It frustrates me that I find myself in this position again, but it’s not surprising. The truth is that I cannot spend my life counting the calories in every morsel of food I put in my mouth. It makes socializing far too complicated. What’s more, I hated boot camp. I liked how I looked and felt as a result of it, but I’m not going to spend my life working out in such an intense and militaristic fashion. I’ve yet to find a form of exercise I really enjoy.

If I’m ever going to lose 10 or 15 or 20 pounds and keep them off, I have to find a lifelong way of eating and working out. My problem is that—as with every other time I’ve lost weight—the lifestyle changes I’ve made just aren’t sustainable.

And yet sustainable lifestyle change is exactly what this study is touting when it comes to weight loss. Two groups of adults at risk for diabetes participated in a trial on lifestyle interventions. The control group received advice on healthy eating and exercising from a dietician four times over a period of three years, while the intervention group consulted with a dietician about healthy eating and exercise 15 times over three years. That group was also given pedometers and invited to group meetings that included exercise.

At the end of three years, the intervention group had not only lost more weight than the control group, but had sustained its weight loss through the end of the trial, which suggests that people lose more weight and keep it off when they create sustainable lifestyle change through an intervention plan as opposed to receiving general advice on healthy living.

The findings are of no surprise to Aruni Nan Futuronsky, director of Kripalu Healthy Living program, The Kripalu Approach to Diet: An Integrative Weight-Loss Program. “Lifestyle is the problem and lifestyle is the solution,” Aruni says. “Without addressing it, change isn’t sustainable.”

Aruni says diets focus on behavior modification, but they don’t address what causes someone to overeat, for example. “It’s essential to look at the deeper imbalance in your lifestyle,” she explains. “What are you really hungry for? This is the question that’s life-changing for many of our guests. Addressing this while looking at issues of nutrition, movement, and stress reduction is a powerful avenue for transformation.”

Eating less and exercising more is part of the solution, and it helps to have the support of an expert, and a community that can help you stay on track. But Aruni says there’s more to it than that.

“Just slipping into action mode is not enough,” Aruni notes. “Mindfulness working alongside right action creates sustainable change. You have to be where you are for change to happen. It’s essential on this journey.”


About Portland Helmich

Portland is the creator, host, and producer of the Kripalu Perspectives podcast series. She's also is the creator, host, and executive producer of What’s the Alternative?, a series of 52 half-hour talk shows about natural and alternative forms of healing the body-mind that aired on Veria Living TV, a natural health channel on DISH, FiOS, and Frontier. For more than 15 years, Portland’s been investigating natural health and healing as a host, reporter, writer, and producer. She's been an alternative medicine correspondent for Oxygen, a health reporter for The American Consumer on PBS, and was the creator, host, and executive producer of Journeys Into Healing on Wisdom Television. She produced for HealthWeek and Healing Quest on PBS, has done natural-health reporting for WGBH-TV, and was a medical producer for WCVB-TV (Boston’s ABC News affiliate). She’s also covered the subject as a freelance writer for Body + Soul, Alternative Medicine, and Spa magazines. Portland currently lives in Boston, where she produces documentaries and also works as an actor and voice-over talent.

5 Responses to “Losing Weight the Mindful Way”

  1. MaryKC January 9, 2014 8:32 am #

    I love this one! I have a long history of compulsive eating, and dieting has failed for me time and time again. After two years working with a therapist, I am just starting to get to the point that I can consider eating only to nourish my body and not to numb myself from intense emotion or to try to fill a void that sometimes seems bottomless. I am working toward mindfulness with my eating, but I still have a long way to go. It’s such a lengthy journey, but for the first time, I do believe that peace in my relationship with food is possible.

    • Portland Helmich
      Portland January 9, 2014 9:17 am #

      Thank you for your thoughts, Mary. Mindful eating — that seems to be the way to go. I have a long way to go, too. Wishing you peace on the journey.

  2. Paulette January 9, 2014 9:41 am #

    I agree with this. Two years ago I decided to make some changes to my diet but I knew it had to be something I could maintain and not just for the short run. I started by cutting back on sugar in my coffee, then cutting back to 1 slice of bread at dinner, adding more greens on the plate etc… Slowly but surely the weight started coming off and I have maintained a 25 lb loss for 2 years now. I DO log my food every day and try to get in 30 minutes of some sort of exercise be it walking, yoga or my Biggest Loser Bootcamp DVD.

    • Portland Helmich
      Portland January 9, 2014 9:44 am #

      I like the idea of making small changes that add up over time, that are sustainable. I give you credit for logging your food. I find it especially tough when socializing. And 30 minutes of exercise is great — I’m off to do that now!

  3. Dr. Deborah Simmons January 9, 2014 5:31 pm #

    Thank you! I will be sharing this with my clients who seek bariatric surgery, who want to lose weight, or who want to lose weight to prepare for pregnancy or during fertility treatment. For myself, it is mindfulness and LoseIt on my phone that have helped me to maintain my weight after significant weight loss. Diets don’t work. Living intentionally does.

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