Illstration of weight loss
Illustration: Kagan McLeod
Why It Works
It's hard to believe that anything could quell a late-night Rocky Road craving besides the cold, creamy stuff. But with enough practice, meditative techniques can kill that mindless urge to eat. Whenever you eye the breadbasket or pop open a bag of pretzels, a brief breathing exercise will help clear your head: Try counting your breaths up to four (innn, one, innn, two...), and then ask yourself, "Am I hungry, or am I eating for some other reason?" You build this habit the way you build a muscle, says Nina Smiley, PhD, who runs a four-day mindful eating retreat at the Mohonk Mountain House in upstate New York. Eventually, eating becomes a choice rather than a thoughtless habit.

How It Works
Breathing exercises can be combined with other techniques that help you reconnect to your physical self. "Most of us inhabit our bodies without really feeling them," Smiley says. She asks guests at her retreat to rate their hunger level from one to ten every time they eat, to practice tuning in to their natural cues. She also asks them to keep a food journal, in which they write down what they eat, when they eat it, and (most important) how they're feeling at that moment. Soon they should start to see patterns and change their behavior. For example, if you eat cookies simply to reward yourself, you might consider an alternative prize, like taking a candlelit bath. To book a retreat, visit

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As a reminder, always consult your doctor for medical advice and treatment before starting any program.


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