I came across the concept of Mindful v. Mindless about three years ago. The concept was related to exercise. I'm afraid to admit a lot of the exercise I was prescribing at that time was verging towards mindless. In fact, even I was exercising like that to some extent. When I sat and thought about this, my mind turned to nutrition. Was I mindful over what I was doing with my health? Probably not. So I started to read more about the subject (Mindless Eating: Wansick , B and The End of Overeating: Kessler, D spring to mind) and indeed found it to be quite riveting.

How does the concept of mindless relate to day to day life? Let's start with nutrition....

Mindless Nutrition

Despite the huge volume of books out there, by now most people should have realized that diets just don’t work. In North America, the success rate for obtaining and maintaining weight loss is only 5%!! That's a lot of people selling you a lot of books and gimmicky fad diets that are in fact useless.

A diet usually starts out with people going on some path of deprivation. They get some quick results, then stop the diet, get discouraged and start putting the weight back on...more often than not, more weight than what they start with! What happens? They end up completely demoralized. Our bodies don’t like diets, they fight back.

If you eat too little, the body goes into conservation mode and burning off pounds becomes harder. I want to say that this type of weight loss is MINDLESS. At most, you should be losing around half to 1lb a week and stay in burn, not conserve mode. ( If you start burning to much the body will try to conserve ).However, our minds tell us that this is too little a loss and we must try harder...unfortunately, that impatience may lead to weight gain not weight loss.

In most diets, people often deprive themselves of their favourite comfort foods. This denial almost always leads to rebounds because people think, hey, this is just temporary. The foods you love but "give up" during diet, you will simply pick up eating again, often trying to make up for lost time....causing additional weight gain!

Sometimes, we set some mindless traps for ourselves…not taking a snack to work, making that extra amount of pasta (after all its embarrassing to run out at a dinner party!), using big plates, etc. We leave mindless food choices on display instead of in a cupboard or out of the house all together. We go to the supermarket or find ourselves in a foodcourt when we're hungry and then we make choices that are less than great!

Mindful Nutrition

So let's look at things in another way. As we said, diets don’t work...its been proven over and over again. If they did, well, you know that answer..no books, no blogs, no obesity…everyone is happy.

So the solution is slower pace, lets call this...MINDFUL weight loss! If we don’t even realize we are eating a little less they we won’t feel that we are missing out on something.Nobody would miss 100 calories a day, its less than a large handful of almonds.So your body is not being depraved, doesn't feel like its missing out , it can handle a non deliberate small calorie reduction daily without the risk of backsliding. The  small  change could even be mindless, you don't even  have to think too hard about it..

Most people don’t put weight on suddenly...it's not something that happens overnight! It's common that you don’t even know how it happened. Most don’t even know how many calories per day they have to eat for their needs. The margin of calories over or below our needs could be hundreds of calories. Let's call that the “Mindless Margin”( Wansink, B). You won’t even know it, but over the year this could easily be 10lbs !

If you just cut 100 calories out per day, you could prevent weight gain in most of the population. Could you find 100 less calories a day? Or maybe walk for 20 minutes a day? The key is feeling like you're not deprived, that's all. Cutting out your favourite foods is mindless but also cutting down on them can be done mindlessly (or mindfully whichever way you look at it). A small bit here and there... serving up a lesser portion on a smaller plate, increasing the veggies by 10 %, can all help you in your weight loss.

Some of the mindless stuff is engrained in us. Most North Americans stop eating "when I am full." However, the Okiniwans ( Southern Japanese Island Folk) follow the principal of "I am no longer hungry," having eaten until 80% full. They have, by the way, the longest life expectancy levels in the world.