Richard G. Petty, MD

Mindless Eating

One of the keys to any successful weight management strategy is awareness:

  1. Awareness of our bodies
  2. Awareness of our bodies’ needs
  3. Awareness of what we are doing physically
  4. Awareness of what we are eating
  5. Awareness of the impact of food on our bodies and our minds
  6. Awareness of the content and consequences of our diets
  7. Awareness of our eating on other people
  8. Awareness of our food choices on animals and our physical and emotional environment
  9. Awareness of the things that drive us to eat even if we are not hungry
  10. Awareness of the spiritual consequences of eating

I have looked at hundreds of books on diet, health and nutrition and it constantly astonishes me that hardly any of them address this central component, not just of weight management, but of life management. There is some fine exceptions: one is a new book by Brian Wansink called Mindless Eating, that does a good job of discussing some of these problems of awareness about eating.

The author is a practicing researcher and Professor at Cornell, and he has an interesting paper in the current issue of the Journal of Marketing Research. Part of his thesis is that “low fat” nutrition labels may lead to the over-consumption of nutrient-poor and calorie-rich snack foods. 

I was pleased to see the experimental data, which exactly confirms my observations. After nearly thirty years of working with people with weight challenges, one of the more common problems is that some people have been brain washed into thinking that if it says “low fat” on the label, you can eat as much as you want. The trouble is that if you know how to read labels, some of the low fat foods are also low health foods. The authors of the paper make some good suggestions for changing policy to help rectify the situation.

When it comes to what we eat, part of the problem is that most of us are so comfortable with the status quo that we rarely notice much that is going on inside or around us.

A fish only becomes aware that it lives in water once it’s dragged up on shore!

And we only realize our own potential for growth and change when we become aware of the dynamic, interconnected beauty and complexity of a world that lies just beyond the reach of our senses.

Growing our awareness of food, nutrition and eating can be a transformative experience. I have known some spiritual teachers who would not accept heavy people as students, saying that if they could not even control their weight, then how could they control their minds or any energies that might be released from meditation, qigong, yoga and the like?

Although I understand what they are saying, I respectfully disagree. As I have discussed many times, there are physical as well as psychological, social, subtle and spiritual reasons for having trouble with weight, and I don’t think that these are grounds for excluding people from learning these practices.

For today I urge you to spend a few minutes working on your own “Ten Awarenesses” about food and nutrition.

It could be the best thing that you do for yourself all year.

“Neither the body with its senses nor the mind with its thoughts is the ultimate being that I am. The body acts and the mind moves, but behind them is the thought-free Awareness, the Knowing Principle.”

–Paul Brunton (English Spiritual Teacher and Author, 1898-1981)

“The voyage of discovery lies not in finding new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

–Marcel Proust (French Novelist, 1871-1922)

About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.

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