Tag Archives: weight loss

Phase 2, Step 4: Taste (Exploration)

Experential phase

The Buddha told this story:

A man travelling across a field encountered a tiger. He fled, the tiger after him. Coming to the precipice, he caught hold of the root of a wild vine and swung himself down over the edge. The tiger sniffed at him from above. Trembling, the man looked down to where, far below, another tiger was waiting to eat him. Only the vine sustained him.


Two mice, one white and one black, little by little started to gnaw away the vine. The man saw a luscious strawberry near him. Grasping the vine with one hand, he plucked the strawberry with the other. How sweet it tasted !


from 101 Zen Stories

Heightened sense of taste can promote weight loss

In a 2008 scientific experiment, lead by Alan Hirsch, MD. , director of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, a group of people of an average weight of 208 pounds ate bland tasting food sprinkled with flavored crystals. The flavors used were cheddar cheese, onion, horseradish, ranch dressing, taco, or parmesan, cocoa, spearmint, banana, strawberry, raspberry, and malt. People in this study were not submitted to a diet and lost an average of 30 pounds in 6 months, compared to 2 pounds for the control group.

Hirsch theorized that subjects lost weight because the added flavors made them feel full faster and they therefore eat less. He said he believes this approach works because, unlike most diets, it is not based on food restriction.

Some of the subjects even stopped the study before 6 months because they already had reached their ideal body weight–an unexpected result, Hirsh said.

Weight loss Using taste and smell sensations

 In another 2009 a study published in the Journal of Women’s Health, a study by John M. Poothullil, M.D., showed that participants lost weight by becoming aware of taste and smell sensations. Seven women learned to stop eating when they became aware that the food was no longer pleasant to eat. By the end of 1 month, significant weight loss took place in the study group, and was maintained throughout the study period of 1 year.


Better tasting food requires a lesser quantity

Ayurvedic medicine –an ancient Hindu system of medicine- recognizes six types of taste.

  1. sweet
  2. sour
  3. salty
  4. hot
  5. bitter
  6. astringent

The six tastes should be balanced in the diet for optimum health and nutrition. (from http://www.mapi.com/ayurveda_health_care/newsletters/newsfood-bitter.html)

Without necessarily choosing to follow an ayurvedic diet –it would be another topic – it is great to keep these six tastes in mind. Then, you can see what kind of taste you are missing in your diet..

Examples  of sweet, salty, hot and sour taste are easy to find. The following are examples of foods and spices for the bitter and astringent tastes:

Bitter Taste:

  • bitter melon and gourd
  • Japanese eggplant
  • turmeric
  • fenugreek seeds
  • leafy greens
  • barley
  • basil
  • nettle
  • jicama
  • lettuce
  • aloe vera

Astringent Taste:

  • apple
  • pomegranate (tastes sour on the tongue but is both astringent and bitter)
  • pear
  • quinoa
  • legumes
  • tofu
  • sprouts
  • beans
  • lentils

Bitter food for health and pleasure

Dr. Adam Drewnowski, Director of the University of Washington Nutritional Sciences Program, is one of the main advocates of bitter foods: spinach, brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, mustard greens, radicchio, and dark chocolate prevent many diseases including cancer, because they contain phytonutrients. Unfortunately the food industry has removed and masked the bitter taste that has become undesirable. We are treated like spoiled children who only want to eat sweets, and very salty food.

Chocolate is one of these foods that is pleasantly bitter. If you eat a very sweet chocolate -35% cocoa- you cannot appreciate fully the taste of cocoa. You need a bar to taste the flavor. If you eat the best bitter chocolate -85% cocoa- you only need a square to fill your mouth with flavor for a long time. Don’t take my word for it, try it.

A very tasty nutrient-rich shopping list

Dr. Adam Drewnowski, is at the origin of the Nutrient Rich Foods coalition. Among other useful information the website has a ready-made grocery shopping list with examples of nutrient-rich foods. It helps remind you to enjoy a wide variety of nutrient-rich foods and beverages  (http://www.nutrientrichfoods.org/wp-content/uploads/nutrient-rich-shopping-list.pdf)

Try discovering new flavors this week and enjoy a week filled with many tastes…



Phase 2, step 4 cheking in: hunger (Exploration)

The past weeks, we explored

  Phase I. The Preparation Phase. 

  • 1. Getting your kitchen and your life ready for change.
  • 2. The cook and the helpers
  • 3. Food and life

We are starting

Experential phase

  Phase II. The Experiential Phase

  • 4. Checking in: hunger, satiety, taste, pleasure, habits
  • 5. Cooking and moving: Long and short meals. Exercising versus moving.
  • 6. Eating with others. The gym and other places of fun or torture

 Checking in: Experiencing hunger (Exploration)

Some of you may remember when you were a child and you went to play with your friends; all of a sudden it was dark, and you came running home, announcing; “I am so hungry, I can eat a horse!”  

From experience, one big difference between thin and overweight people is that thin people can bear being hungry and can wait until they are home, or have finished preparing a meal before they eat. They don’t have to eat in the car even if they have to wait one or two before they can eat. Eating when hungry is a pleasure. Everything tastes better, the satisfaction is greater.

I had a client, Christina, so afraid of being hungry that she was eating as soon as she felt the first hint of hunger. As soon as she became aware of this fear, and recognized it as a feeling, not a precursor of a famine, she was able to eat less junk food between meals. She could wait until she took the time to prepare a decent meal.

Hunger is a natural mechanism, not to be avoided but to become aware of, so satiety can be recognized too.


Recovering  hunger  

Christina was not aware of her fear of going hungry until I suggested that she fast for a day. All spiritual traditions recognize the value of fasting as a practice with many benefits. It is a great way to break habits and to see how unaware we are of both our body sensations and our cravings. If we are usually eating at noon, let’s see what happens when we wait one o’clock or two. Is eating at noon a question of life or death? Probably not. If you are still eating a lot of sugar, you will probably go in hypoglycemia which is an indication that your body is not functioning right because of a high intake of sugar. If it is the case, it is even more necessary to cut off all sugars and carbohydrates for five days, to reset your body balance mechanisms and get rid of your cravings.

If fasting for a day seems too challenging, even during the week end, fast for half a day. Take a regular breakfast and abstain from eating until dinner.

There’s hidden sweetness in the stomach’s emptiness.
We are lutes, no more, no less. If the sound box
is stuffed full of anything, no music.
If the brain and belly are burning clean
with fasting, every moment a new song comes out of the fire.
The fog clears, and new energy makes you
run up the steps in front of you.  Rumi

 Rumi for flyer

The inner war to lose weight

This mini fast is just a way to gain more awareness. It is not a suggestion to skip meals and starve yourself, if you want to lose weight. It would start a useless war against yourself.  If your desire to be slim cannot be achieved –in your imagination- unless you refuse to satisfy your hunger and your taste for certain foods, you will lose the battle sooner or later. Your desire to satisfy your appetite will increase as you become hungrier, as well as your desire for the kind of foods you refuse yourself. What you call your “will power” which is in fact a denial of the natural tendency to eat when hungry and eat tasteful food does not increase. The forces on each side of this imaginary war become more and more unequal. Finally the “you” which identifies to this “will power” loses.  

For this reason a great majority of people who lose weight through any kind of restrictive diet that denies them the satisfaction of their taste buds and hunger regain weight, as soon as they stop their diet.

With rare exceptions, thin people eat only when and if they are hungry…

 Next week will be about taste and emotions related to food



A “no shame, no blame” approach: Why you don’t need another list of tricks

If it was just a question of information on food, exercise and weight lost, everybody would be thin in America. There is an abundance of tips, lists, recipes, advice, advertising and promises on the net. Some of the tips are quite correct, most of them are obvious, and all of them start with the promise that “You just have to do this or that, and you will succeed.” Well, most people are not stupid and can think by themselves that eating less and exercising more for example, will result in weight loss. Being exposed to a plethora of information, just information, only results in more guilt and shame in people who are overweight. Guilt is bad enough, it tells you did something wrong but shame is even more painful. It tells you that you are bad.  In a recent Ted Talk Brein talks about the devastating effects of shame when it runs unconscious. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psN1DORYYV0. It can be recognized and transcended. Don’t you want to take another path?

The mystic Hafiz says:
You carry all the ingredients to turn your life into a nightmare
Don’t mix them!
You carry all the ingredients to turn your life into joy
Mix them. Mix Them *

Information is useful sometimes and I will share some with you but it is not the focus of this blog. The focus is to show what can lead you from belonging to the group of overweight people in America for whom eating is tainted with shame and guilt to the group of people who eat what they want, enjoy it and stay thin. It takes intention, understanding of what is at stake, and experiencing the thin way of eating and moving around.  This blog is focused on the process, not just the information.

I am not saying that you should be thin, but if you want to be, there is a path with different challenges at each step. This is not a difficult path, since many people are thin without effort. However taking it requires intention and being open to seeing differently.

For people who are overweight, something went wrong at some point: Each person has his or her own way to gain weight and maintain this surplus. It is much more difficult because it is a blind spot. It really works like the blind spot you have when you are driving. Everyone can see the big truck except you. It takes a different point of view to see it.

As we go through the journey of becoming thin, we can see how each person who wants to lose weight get stuck in one or several points. That the time where the dieters give up and the membership card to the gym stay in the drawer. If you choose to overcome this obstacle not by brute force, but by wisely walking around, you will lose weight and stay thin. Losing weight is not a question of will, but a question of seeing what needs to be done.

*in The Gift, poems by Hafiz,  translations by Daniel Ladinsky