My First Mindful Eating Anniversary - How Well Did I Do?

Hamburger with tape measure wrapped around it
This is my first mindful-eating anniversary.
Find out how well I did.

Last July I decided to stop dieting and start living. But I didn't do it mindlessly. I focused on good nutrition, common sense, healing the gut, and yeah, portion control.

I made it a rule to never eat if I wasn't hungry and purposely ate less gluten-free food.

It's been an interesting journey.

I've learned a lot about myself and how the body strives to protect its fat stores. I also experienced a lot of success. Here's how well I did.

It's been a full year since I stopped chasing low-carb diets and switched to a moderate-carb, mindful eating style instead.

Although, I'd substituted diet soda for the regular sodas a few months prior to making this decision, and had been eating a low-carb breakfast every day, I didn't lose any weight because the mind simply made up for those missing calories in other ways.

It wasn't until after we came home from Texas last July that I got serious about my food intake.

Having to buy new tee-shirts and jean shorts in a larger size for the trip was more than a little depressing. I'd also been having trouble walking on the weekends, due to the inflammation in my right knee.

I wanted to be able to sit down on the floor again, which I could no longer do, and I wanted to be able to get down on my knees and clean out the bathtub without it causing pain.

However, going back to a very low-carb diet wasn't an option. While very low carb is compatible with celiac disease, it's not compatible with the Graves' disease. Especially, since my body was rejecting all of the fat in the low-carb breakfast I was already eating.

Italian Sausages
Low carb contains too much fat and not enough carbs,
so I went with a mindful eating plan instead.

I took another glance at the old Weight Watchers Exchange Plan and threw out that idea, too, because like counting calories, it would require me to weigh out and measure all of my food and I was sick and tired of dieting.

Plus, hubby wouldn't be thrilled to know I was undertaking a new dietary intervention -- yet again. I had to do something more like living, so I decided to just work with what we were already eating.

This way I wouldn't have to tell him, "No. I can't eat that," when he wanted to try something new.

I had read a couple of weight-loss articles that talked about switching brands to cut calories, rather than food intake volume, which piqued my interest.

Since I do all of the cooking, it dawned on me that using a bit of mindful eating coupled with what I already knew about good nutrition from my Weight Watchers days, and just eating a little bit less, might be enough.

I wasn't trying to get down to what the Insurance companies think I should weigh. That goal is long gone. I just want to get back to a comfortable size 14. Back where I was before I started pushing my body to get to a size 7.

Well, it's been a year now since I accepted that challenge, and here's how well I did:

Pinterest Image: 2 Hard-Shell Tacos

My Starting Weight

Last July, after getting home from vacation, I weighed in at 238 pounds. It was a little less than the 256-1/2 pounds I weighed when I returned to the Atkins Diet in January of 2007. After having lost over 100 pounds tweaking the Atkins Diet in various ways, I had almost regained all of that weight due to the Graves' Disease.

I wore a size 3X in men's tee-shirts and a size 22 in women's stretch jeans when I decided to switch from dieting to mindful eating last July.

Before this, I had made a few dietary changes. I wasn't drinking regular sodas anymore. I was cooking mostly eggs with low-carb meats for breakfast, and I was eating salads or baked chicken with vegetables or rice for lunch.

On vacation, we ate the same low-carb breakfast at the motel we were staying at, but we ate lunch and dinner with the kids. This caused my carb intake to soar, since most of the meals were eaten out, and so did my calories.

But we were fairly active that week, so I didn't gain any weight on vacation at all.

After we got home, I moved to a mindful way of eating, without lowering my carbs. I was already eating more carbs than I was eating before we went on vacation and didn't see the point in lowering them since it wasn't affecting my weight.

A Brief Explanation About Graves' Disease and Carbs

Graves' disease is the autoimmune version of hyperthyroidism. The body mistakes the thyroid to be gluten or some other threat and during the attack, the thyroid begins putting out too much thyroid hormone.

Ninety percent of those with Graves' disease lose weight. Tons of weight because high thyroid hormones cause your metabolism to race.

Pinterest Image: Obese and Skinny Figures Neck to Calf

Every single body cell and body system are working at warp speed, and this includes your heart and brain, so you need more calories than the average person to maintain your weight.

For the other 10 percent, despite the higher metabolic rate, you gain weight instead. There are two theories as to why this is:

1) One theory is that the higher metabolic rate makes you more hungry, so you overeat.

2) The other theory is malnutrition. The excess hormones cause your digestion to push undigested food out of the body faster than the body can absorb it. Instead of burning through your fat stores, as it does for those who lose tons of weight, the body burns muscle tissue and slows down many processes, so it can store as much fat as it can.

Guess which group I belong to?

Graves' disease symptoms get worse when I drop my carbohydrates too low, because very low-carb diets use the starvation pathway. Up to this point in my weight-loss journey, I had been trying to reintroduce carb restriction slowly, so I could discover the lowest amount of carbs I could eat that wouldn't trigger the symptoms.

When I switched to mindful eating this past year, I stopped worrying about carbs and just ate for health. Prior self testing had taught me that calories matter more than carbs do.

I did eat a lot of low-carb foods and meals simply because we enjoy them. However, I noticed that if I ate too many low-carb meals in a row, the weight loss would stop. I had to make sure that I ate at least 60 carbs a day to keep the body fat coming off.

This isn't something the average person implementing mindful eating would have to worry about, unless you have hyperthyroidism too, but keeping the carbs up in the moderate range of 60 to 120 a day was definitely a huge have-to factor for me.

What Do People Think Mindful Eating Is?

Soda with a Slice of Lemon
When I switched from regular Coke to Diet Dr. Pepper,
I didn't lose any weight.

There are a lot of different definitions for mindful eating. I didn't realize that until I read a few articles on the topic this past week.

Some people equate it with intuitive eating, which is asking your body what it wants, and then eating what it tells you to eat, as well as how much. What you feel while you eat and after you eat would also fall into this intuitive category. You only eat what you want and you shy away from foods that don't make you feel good.

This eating style is helpful for pinpointing food sensitivities, but if you're like most overweight folks, you've already been following your urges to eat, and blindly listening to how much, so I don't think it would be very helpful if you actually wanted to lose weight.

The body doesn't understand dieting. It doesn't see empty fat cells as a good thing.

This intuitive style is what I was doing when I first switched to diet soda and was eating low carb earlier in the day. This was about 6 months prior to going on vacation, so I gave it a good, lengthy trial.

While I didn't gain weight eating and drinking this way, I didn't lose a single pound either. The body simply created blind urges for high-fat or high-calorie dinners to make up for what I wasn't eating or drinking any more.

Other people equate mindful eating with tracking their food intake. This one was a bit mindblowing for me. They saw mindfulness as weighing and measuring their food, tracking their calories, and making sure they were eating at a deficit.

One article even admitted that if you don't weigh, measure, and track your food, you will probably overeat.

This wasn't mindful eating.

It was just a simple low-calorie diet disguised as mindful eating. The inner critic is funny that way. Since the critic is the one who wants to diet, and our emotional self does not, the critic will often call dieting something else.

So What is Mindful Eating?

My background in diets told me that the key to weight management is to make long-term, permanent changes in the way you eat. So diets set you up to fail. Most diets tell you to eat things that you ordinarily wouldn't eat, so they are not natural for you.

You stay mindful while dieting, and then after you stop your weight-loss plan, you go blind to what you're doing again. You don't think about what you're doing before you do it. You just obey your urges to eat or not eat, and then beat yourself up afterward when you gain the weight back.

The only way to avoid this vicious cycle is to stay on your diet for the rest of your life, and make only minimal changes once you reach maintenance. You also need to figure out how to work your favorite foods into your weight-loss program.

Returning to how and what you ate before, simply causes you to return to what you were before, which is exactly what happened to me.

When I got mad at low-carb diets and went rogue, I went back to mindless, habitual eating -- how I ate before -- and almost returned to the exact same weight. In fact, I would have gotten that fat again if I hadn't changed what I was doing.

And CHANGING "what I was doing" is the KEY here.

Whatever you're doing right now is either maintenance or overkill. But that doesn't mean you have to go head-first into a severely restricted weight-loss plan. You can continue to do the things you're doing, if you're willing to compromise a little bit.

Mindful eating is paying attention to:
  • what you eat
  • how much you eat
  • when you eat
  • and why you eat
It requires you to be completely HONEST with yourself about how much and how often you have been eating, so you know what "less" even is. You don't need some book author, marketing company, or corporation telling you what to eat.

All you have to do is eat less than what you're eating right now.

How I Did It

Eating less may, or may not, require you to watch yourself for a little bit to SEE what you're doing. If you already know you typically eat 2 eggs and 4 slices of bacon for breakfast, with maybe a slice or two of toast, then you already have a good idea about what you can do to cut that down.

I switched from 2 eggs, 4 to 6 slices of bacon (hubby LOVES bacon) and 1/2 of a huge gluten-free hamburger bun (for toast) to 2 eggs and 3 slices of bacon. I started skipping the bread at breakfast because that toast was 145 calories, plus the butter.

Two eggs and three slices of bacon is only 350 calories. It was just enough food to get me through the morning without having to snack. On mornings when we had sausages, the calories were a bit higher, so I just ate less for lunch.

Lunch was a bit more difficult to maneuver because it wasn't habitual. I typically ate leftovers or baked up some chicken legs to go with leftover rice or salad. What I did here was to start putting my lunch on a lunch-sized paper plate to control the portion size.

Since I ate lunch at my desk, while writing online, I often didn't realize just how much I was eating. That paper plate helped me control that. Even if I went mindless, due to work, I made it a rule not to go back for seconds.

On the weekend, I started serving the same thing for lunch every single weekend.
  1. A 380-calorie tamale, steamed, and topped with fresh salsa and sour cream; or
  2. Two 180 calorie corn dogs with a bit of honey mustard
This helped to keep my calories in check over the weekend. Hubby never noticed the calorie deficit because we always have plenty of snack foods in the house, like cashews or grapes, for him to munch on during the afternoon.

I also stopped watching the clock.

If I was busy writing and forgot to eat lunch, and then discovered it was two o'clock already, I'd make myself about two ounces of homemade cheese sticks (just guessed) and have a Carbmaster Yogurt instead of making a complete lunch.

(Carbmaster Yogurt is available at Kroger stores and contains less lactose than regular yogurt does.)

By keeping lunch between 300 and 400 calories, I could make myself a smaller dinner (two tacos now instead of three) and still have room for ice cream, a small piece of cake, or some sliced strawberries for dessert. Portion sizes for dessert was two-thirds to half of what they used to be.

For example, instead of cutting a 9-inch square pan of gluten-free chocolate cake into 6 servings, hubby began cutting it into 9 squares. This drastically lowered the calories to somewhere in the 400 calories range. Instead of using a cereal bowl to dish up ice cream, I started putting mine in an oriental rice sized bowl instead.

Pinterest Image: Large Ice Cream Sundae versus Two Small Ice Cream Sundaes

If hubby got home late for dinner, I'd have a small afternoon snack and just skip the dessert completely.

Basically, I took what I knew was a normal serving for me and cut that down smaller. If I was honestly hungry, I allowed myself to go back for seconds, but taking seconds was very rare.

Usually, this happened when I made something new and it was too good not to have a bit more. I knew I was sacrificing my calorie deficit for the day when I did it, so I didn't go blind on myself. I simply chose to make it a calorie maintenance day.

Most of the time, I was content with a slightly smaller dinner because the mind knew that dessert was coming at 7:00 o'clock.

The key to making mindful eating work is to pay attention to what you're putting in your mouth, make sure you're good and hungry when you eat, and dish yourself up less than what you were eating before.

If you eat slower, you'll finish at the same time as everyone else, and they won't even notice that you're eating less.

And neither will you.

How Much Weight Did I Lose This Year Eating Mindfully?

I don't get on the scale as much as I used to. I'm lucky if I remember to weigh myself once or twice a month.

On the average, I was losing about 2 pounds a month, but just before we moved to Texas, I started to lose a bit faster than that. I'm guessing this is because I was more active and spending less time writing.

I knew my clothes were getting baggy, as the months went on, but since we were uncertain about how difficult things were going to be after moving to Texas, I decided to wait until we got settled before buying new clothes.

I didn't want to spend a lot of money and then have to spend some more 3 or 4 months down the road.

Things haven't fallen into place as quickly as we would have liked, but hubby has a job now, with a steady income, so I told him it was time for me to take a trip to Walmart and the Burlington Clothes Factory that are across the street from our motel room.

Since I had no idea how big I still was, I wandered around the clothing section of Walmart for a bit before gathering up the courage to try on a pair of Size 18 Petite Junior Skinny Jeans. I told myself it was okay if they didn't fit. Trying them on was the only way I was going to know what size I am now.

I was shocked at just how well they fit!

A junior size 18!

I also picked up a couple of extra-soft men's 2X tee-shirts (Hanes runs smaller than 100-percent cotten) and a couple of extra-large roomy blouses to wear with my new jeans.

I came home and climbed onto the scale. I was now down to 202 pounds. This means I lost 36 pounds over the past year, and dropped from a size 22 to a size 18 -- all without dieting!

This only comes to an average of 3 pounds per month, I know, but I did it without having to radically change what I eat. All I did was eat a little less food than I was habitually eating before.

What's Next?

More of the same.

With the understanding that I might have to cut back a little bit more if the scale stops moving downward for more than a month. 

This is normal, and the main flaw in the old Weight Watchers Exchange Plan. That older plan set your calories at 1,500 per day, and never lowered them, even if your body reached energy balance.

At energy balance, you have to disrupt the balance, or you'll stall for life, so be prepared to make additional changes to your lifestyle if that happens.

I'm about halfway to my goal weight, right now, so hopefully I'll be back to a size 14 by next July!


  1. Glad to hear about your weight loss, success and what sounds like, finding peace with food. I wish you the best.

    1. Thank you. Finding peace with food is a very good way to put it.


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