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There are many reasons why losing weight, the number one health goal, is the most elusive goal of all. Not the least of these reasons is the psychology of eating…because in the land of plenty, we eat mindlessly! Consider the facts; First, we thought the food was bad…but when we chemically modify the food such as removing or altering the fat or sugar and removing the calories, it failed to reduce our weight. In fact, it has been discovered that “fake sugar,” even thought it does not have calories, can still increase blood glucose levels. Next, we decided fat cells were the enemy but we failed to control our weight when we removed fat cells from our body through liposuction. Then, we decided the problem was our digestive system so we placed bands or staples in the stomach or by-passed the small intestine. While these efforts helped many in the short run, long term, without a change in behavior, it failed as a long-term solution. Many medical professionals have concluded that the problems people have with weight are not exclusively due to the food, fat cells, stomach or intestines, but rather, THE MIND! 


Mindful eating, also referred to as intuitive eating, is based on Buddhist teachings in which focus is placed on the experience of eating, AND ENJOYING, our food. The concept was presented in a feature column in The New York Times written by Jeff Gordinier based on his time spent in a Buddhist monastery. He discovered that mindful eating practitioners ate in silence and chew small pieces of food very slowly and deliberately to experience its taste, texture and smell. It requires full attention to the experience of eating and drinking on the body and mind. It is often referred to as “the opposite of diets” because with mindful eating there is not right or wrong way to eat but rather varying degrees of awareness about WHAT WE EAT AND WHY. Furthermore, the goal of this exercise is to teach our mind and body to connect and communicate while eating so one can learn important cues such as: what are my hunger signals? What does my stomach feel like when it is half, three-fourths and completely full?


One study of 1,400 mindful eaters found that they enjoyed lower body weights, greater sense of well-being and suffered from fewer eating disorders. However, many feel the concept, while valuable, is very difficult to put in practice in the busy American family. Research shows that, even when not perfectly relaxed, the simple act of the family meal can have a powerful impact on mindfulness, health and wellness.   

In a country that thrives on a fast pace with over-book schedules, families struggle to balance work and school and after school sports and activities. Consequently, fast food, eat-and-go habits have become the norm. According to some studies, most find it difficult find time to sit and relax for a family meal even once a week. Additionally, when families do pull off a family meal, it is often overwrought with school drama, sibling rivalry, and parental discipline about school, homework or social activities, making the situation stressful. Despite the family conflict, studies strongly support the health values of the family meal.

A recent study from Columbia University that received national attention found that children who participated in a family meal regularly were less likely to have problems with drugs or alcohol and more likely to excel in school. Moreover, those children eating with their families at least 5 times per week benefited most. Other studies have found that the there is a significantly lower incidence of teens who smoke, use alcohol, have sex at a young age, fight, get suspended from school or commit suicide among those who have meals with their family on a regular basis. 

Mindful eating expert, Christopher Willard, PsyD offers the following tips for healthy eating habits:

  1. Let your body catch up to your brain: Eating rapidly past full and ignoring your body’s signals vs. slowing down and eating and stopping when your body says it’s full.
  2. Know your body’s personal hunger signals: Are you responding to an emotional want or responding to your body’s needs?
  3. Develop healthy eating environments: Eating alone and randomly vs. eating with others at set times and places
  4. Eat food not stories: Eating foods that are emotionally comforting vs. eating foods that are nutritionally healthy
  5. Consider the life cycle of your food: Considering where food comes from vs. thinking of food as an end product
  6. Attend to you plate: Distraction eating vs. just eating


6 Ways to Practice Mindful Eating

Mindless Eating Mindful Eating
1. Eating past full and ignoring body signals1. Listening to your body and stopping when full
2. Eating when emotions tell us to eat2. Eating when our bodies tell us eat
3. Eating alone, at random times and places3. Eating with others, set times and places
4. Eating emotionally comfort foods4. Eating nutritious and healthy foods
5. Eating and multitasking5. When eating, just eat
6. Considering a meal an end product6. Considering where food comes from
– by Christopher Willard PsyD

EVERY MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!”

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email:

Read all of Dr. Mackarey's Articles at:

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine.

According to The Council for Responsible Nutrition, 77 percent of adults in the United States take dietary supplements. These supplements are available in many forms of pills, capsules, powders, gel tabs, extracts, or liquids. Vitamins and minerals are common supplements and, of these, multivitamins are the most widely consumed. The scientific literature does not support the value or need for supplements, especially for healthy individuals consuming a well-balanced diet. For those with medical problems affecting nutritional absorption, supplements may have merit.  However, these over-the-counter products are not regulated by the FDA and for some, may be harmful. Some supplements can interact with your medications. Therefore, before taking any supplements be sure to talk with your medical doctor to be sure it is safe for you. Keep in mind, just because you use herbs for cooking, not all herbs are the same and some can be harmful.    

St. John’s Wort:

St. John’s Wort is a popular supplement in the USA. It is often used for depression, anxiety and sleep disorders. However, it is not without its side-effects and dangers. Some side effects include: headaches, nausea, dizziness, dry mouth and vulnerability to sunburn. Also, this supplement can be very harmful when taken with some drugs and treatments. Some include; heart medications, antidepressants, birth control pills and chemotherapy treatments


Kava is purported to help with anxiety and insomnia. However, it also may cause liver damage such as hepatitis and should not be taken by those with liver or kidney problems. Kava should not be mixed with alcohol or other drugs that cause drowsiness.


Some believe that Ginkgo can improve memory, circulation, prevent altitude sickness and other scientifically unsupported claims. However, this supplement can thin your blood and cause bleeding. This is especially dangerous if you take blood-thinning medications.


Users claim that oil from this plant can be rubbed into the skin to provide healing from bruising, swelling, and pain. Others take the supplement to help with constipation. However, side effects from Arnica include; high blood pressure, shortness of breath, fast heartbeat and liver damage. In rare cases it has been associated with coma or death.


Ginger is often used to ease nausea associated with motion sickness and chemotherapy. It is also used for joint pain from arthritis. But, as with other supplements, it is not without its problems and can impact; blood clotting, heart rhythms, blood pressure, and blood sugar. Those on blood thinners or have diabetes should be aware.


Goldenseal has a long history as a favorite among Native Americans. Presently, it is used for constipation, colds, eye infections, and cancer. But Goldenseal can affect heart rhythm, blood clotting and lower blood pressure; therefore, if you take blood pressure medication or have clotting issues ask your doctor before taking this supplement.


Aloe, often in the form of a lotion from the plant, has been used on burns or wounds to promote healing and lessen pain. However, when taken by mouth it has been associated with abnormal heart rhythm, kidney problems.


Ephedra has been used for thousands of years in China and India to treat coughs, headaches, and cold symptoms. In contemporary society it has been used for weight loss and to boost energy. But, studies have shown it may increase blood pressure and heart rate and increase the risk of heart problems and stroke. While the FDA has banned ephedra as a supplement, it is still found in some herbal teas.


This supplement is often associated with slowing down the aging process, managing diabetes and improving sexual performance. But, it is also associated with lowering blood sugar (a potential problem for those with diabetes), and thinning blood (a potential problem for those taking blood thinners).

Black Cohosh:

Black cohosh is used to ease menopause symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats. However, it should not be used by women with liver problems or breast cancer.


This popular supplement is used for high blood pressure and cold symptoms. Some studies support its use to lower cholesterol. While safe for most, garlic can thin your blood and those taking blood thinners must be cautious and seek medical advice.

Licorice Root:

This supplement has been used for coughs, sore throat, bronchitis, infection, and stomach ulcers. However, licorice root can raise blood pressure and affect heart rhythms so be sure to consult with your physician.

Stinging Nettle:

Users believe this supplement has value for allergies, dandruff, bladder stones, and urinary tract infections. But it can also cause fluid retention and should be avoided by those with heart or kidney problems or if taking diuretics.


Feverfew is most commonly used for migraine prevention. It is also used for arthritis joint pain and allergies. But, it is associated with blood clotting and can be problematic for those with heart disease or blood disorders.

In conclusion, while supplements may not be valuable or necessary for healthy individuals, others may find merit. However, these products are NOT regulated by the FDA and may be harmful.  Some supplements can interact with your medications. Therefore, before taking any supplements be sure to talk with your medical doctor to be sure it is safe for you.     

SOURCES: National Institutes of Health; WebMD

NEXT MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!”  

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment.

Read all of Dr. Mackarey's articles at:

If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email:

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM.