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What would you say if I told you that there was a way you could reach your ideal body weight and still eat whatever you want? You'd think I was kidding, right?

Researchers have found a system of eating that allows you to consume your favorite foods while still losing weight. It's called the "mindful eating approach" and it calls on those who use it to be fully engaged in the present moment when considering food options. There are five guidelines to the mindful eating approach that help lay the foundation for this unique program. They are as follows:

Pay Attention to Your Hunger
When your body tells you it's hungry, be sure to listen attentively. Forcing your body to conform to the guidelines of someone else's eating schedule may not always be what is best and most effective for your specific needs. It may, in fact, even make you less likely to follow an eating plan because you tend to feel angry or resentful about not being able to feed your body when it is telling you it needs nourishment. In a sense, you are completely defeating the purpose of your body's natural hunger signals when you deny yourself food when your body tells you it needs it.

There are a few key things to keep in mind here. Make sure that you are aware of your body's timing. Eat at the same times each day so your body will come to expect nourishment at these times. This helps to balance the hormones that control hunger. Incorporate carbohydrates, proteins, and fats into your diet so your hunger and hormones are balanced. Once you eat your first meal of the day, try eating every 3-4 hours throughout the day. Again, the point is to be in tune with your body and its wants and needs. This system helps your body learn when to expect nourishment, but use your best judgment. Listen to your body.

Decide What Your Body Really Wants to Eat
Using the tips in the first section helps you to balance out the hormones that regulate hunger. This becomes helpful for those days when life gets in the way and you inadvertently allow yourself to become famished. Maybe you didn't have time for breakfast and lunch consisted of an apple on the way to another meeting. By the time dinner comes around, you're feeling completely ravenous. When your hunger hormones are in balance, you will be able to take a step back and ask yourself, "What is it that I really would like to eat?" rather than just devouring anything and everything in your path. Having this weapon in your arsenal allows you to make better food choices when hunger strikes. You are eating foods that fuel your body and make you feel good as opposed to loading up on unhealthy options.

Focus Inwardly Rather Than Outwardly
When you are asking yourself what it is that you would really like to eat, try not to hold yourself to others' "diet standards". Rather than considering the guidelines of someone else's diet program (lists of foods you are allowed and not allowed to have), consider instead how the foods you choose make you feel. After you have eaten, decide for yourself whether the food you chose makes your body feel good. Does it give you the energy you need? Did you enjoy eating it? These questions help you understand your internal thought process surrounding food; why you ate the foods you chose. In this system, you are not forced to eat foods you don't like or enjoy simply because it was placed by someone else on a list of foods you "should" be eating. If you don't care for kale, you simply choose something else. Being bullied into eating foods you don't enjoy is not a healthy or effective way to eat.

Stand By Your Choices
You've worked really hard to become more aware of your body's needs, and you have also listened to your body and made food choices that help to balance out your personal hunger hormones. You have figured out what foods make you feel good, body and soul. Now it's time to feel confident about all of that hard work and enjoy your new way of eating. This is a system that works for YOU and you alone, bringing your thoughts about food and hunger to a deeper level.

Place More Emphasis on Health Not Just Weight
Many people find it hard to believe that this approach to eating and healthy living can be effective. What they fail to realize is that when you listen to your body and meet its needs, your body is satisfied, content, and balanced. Your body has the fuel it needs for all of your biological processes to work well and when this is achieved, you simply feel better. Feeling better gives you confidence to continue listening to your body as well as continue making healthy choices. Through this process you have become aware of what foods make you feel good and which ones don't. You know which foods give you energy and which ones zap it. You also know which foods help sustain you and balance your hormones and which ones leave you feeling less satisfied and unbalanced. You have the power to use these tools to create a healthier life beyond the number on the scale. Health is about much more than just weight. Overall health is about feeling good inside and out.