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Eating to Lose

Note: Learn more about the Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating program here or at

Last week I wrote about how I decided that I wanted to lose a few winter pounds. That’s all well and good, but as we all know, the intention alone is not enough. While it would be nice if the pounds miraculously fell off simply because I wanted them to, it doesn’t work that way. So how to make that goal a reality?

Lots of people offer suggestions on this, and I find some basic things helpful. Having a positive mindset, allowing myself not to be perfect, setting short-term goals that are small but attainable, staying motivated by reminding myself of the reasons I want to lose weight.

But in my experience, the real key is eating with the intention to lose weight.

What I mean is that instead of stopping eating when I’m full, I stop when I’m no longer hungry, or maybe even still a little hungry (depending on my later activities).

It’s a fine distinction but an important one. In the Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating program, we talk about how regularly eating to a feeling of comfortably full is maintenance eating. Eating to just satisfied is a better approach for losing.

I faced two main challenges in this process. One, remembering that being a little hungry isn’t something to be afraid of. I don’t want to get ravenous, but feeling a little twinge, or hearing a few rumbles, is not a reason to rush out and eat. I can wait until I am more truly hungry, or depending on the situation, I can have just a little to tide me over.

Which brings me to my second challenge: letting go of what my head tells me and listen to my body. The problem comes when I look at just how little I truly need to not feel hungry. My head clamored away at me at first, saying things like, “You should be able to eat more than that” and “You’re not going to last if you eat so little.” It conjured up the FDA guidelines, even though I don’t follow them anyway, and tried to point out that I’m not eating a full serving size in some cases and surely I want to?

The first week was the hardest. I started serving myself less by default, using smaller dishes to help remind me. I focused on building flexible, small snacks into my day as I needed them. I did my best to ignore the panicked noise in my head, or remind it that I could always eat a little more if I got hungry later, that it’s okay not to feel full on a regular basis. (Of course, I may decide to on some occasions anyway.)

Once I got through that, it became much easier. My head realized that I hadn’t died or suffered terribly. In fact, I felt better much of the time, clearer and lighter, and my food budget thanks me. And I’m happy to say that it’s working.

I share this only in the hopes of helping others think about how it’s possible to lose weight without going on a diet, without weighing and measuring and counting. And if that is your goal, perhaps eating with the intention of losing will also help you.

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