By Karin Evans, Natural Solutions
A year ago Dixie Evatt would have described herself as a classic lifetime dieter–and not a very good one at that. Speaking in a soft drawl that betrays her Texas roots, Evatt says she tried everything under the sun. “I had gone away to spas, spent two or three weeks in intensive sessions, and done liquid protein, Weight Watchers, and Atkins. You name it, I tried it,” she says. “I was often a successful dieter–but only for a while. Within a year or two the weight always came back.”
Evatt, a recently retired writing teacher at Syracuse University, says she’d usually top out at about 230 pounds on her five-feet-five-inch frame. “Then I’d panic and try another diet. The one thing about me,” Evatt says with a soft chuckle, “is that I never give up.” When she reached her mid-fifties and began having a harder time getting around, her doctors suggested something she’d never heard of before: mindful eating. “It sounded interesting,” says Evatt. “I’d never tried anything that tapped into my mind.”
So off she went to take a series of classes at the State University of New York’s (SUNY) medical center in Syracuse. The experience was unlike any of her other attempts. “I was used to weight-loss programs where you run out and sweat or measure your food on a little scale, and there are all these rules,” she says. But in this class, everyone was simply encouraged to sit quietly and then to eat one thing–a sliver of crunchy celery, for instance–with complete and rapt attention.
“At first I thought, surely there’s more to it than this,” says Evatt with a laugh. “But here was a program where you got really quiet and turned inward–and that turned out to be enough.” She went home with some meditation tapes, instructions to practice eating at least one meal slowly and consciously, and a renewed sense of hope.
She got a chance to test her newfound approach when she visited a local restaurant shortly thereafter, and ordered her favorite dish, blackened snapper with rice. But this time, instead of pulling out her book and burying herself in it while she ate, she concentrated on the meal. “I was smelling, tasting, enjoying that fish, and I ate only half and was fully satisfied,” she says. “It was a powerful moment because I realized that this technique could work for me.”
And so she kept at it, going to class, meditating, and eating mindfully for at least one meal a day. When Evatt stepped onto her scale nine months later, she found she’d lost 21 pounds. “In the other weight management programs I’d experienced, the programs were always controlling me: “This is how you exercise,” “These are the no-no foods,” says Evatt. “This strategy put me in charge.”