Considering that diet books, programs, and products are a several billion dollar industry, it’s impressive to see a spa shirking all that for a program called Never Diet Again.
The program is the brainchild of Nina Smilely, who has a Phd in psychology and is the author of The Three Minute Meditator.
Its premise? Replace the food-deprivation mindset with a mindfulness one.
By using self-awareness—instead of self-criticism—when it comes to hunger, and teaching “skillful action” in place of mindless scarfing, the two-night program deals with what goes in your mouth by looking at what’s going on in your head.
The program’s offered at Mohonk Mountain House, the historic spa resort in New Paltz, New York (where Smiley’s also the marketing director).
And it draws weight-watching aficionados, recovering obsessives, super-self-critical types (know any of those?), and editors galore, including Jennifer Barnett, Shape magazine’s former weight-loss diarist.
We sat down with Barnett to understand why this diet program is different.
“If there’s a diet, I’ve tried it,” admits the life-long dieter. “The Dolly Parton cabbage diet, the hot dog diet. So I was really intrigued by the program’s promise.” And its method.
Why? “Like a lot of women, I know a lot about nutrition and fitness, and I’ve had a trainer off and on. But I’d never looked into the internal, self-talk part of diet and weight loss,” says Barnett.
Turns out, these principles may be the missing link in keeping weight off.
“Weight loss is most often approached by seeking to find an expert who will solve the problem with his/her pre-packaged game plan,” says Mohonk’s Smiley. “In this program, You are the expert on yourself!”
Some of the key things you’ll learn?
Self-checking tools: “We paid attention to hunger level before or after we ate, and jotted it down in journals. I learned to ask, ‘Am I really hungry?’” says Barnett. When you become aware of what’s happening in the present moment,” explains Smiley, “you can create the opportunity for real change.”
No food is forbidden: Instead, participants deal with super-size temptations, like the legendary Mohonk buffet, and learn to make skillful choices like they’ll need to do at home. “I circled the buffet without my plate, then I returned with it for a few things I really wanted,” says Barnett. “It was such a better strategy. And I was super satisfied, and way less anxious.”
How to soothe a critical inner voice: “I didn’t really know how to meditate, but by the end of the weekend I was able to make some progress. And I found a mantra, a positive phrase to focus on instead of the not-very-helpful ones going through my head,” says Barnett.
The Takeaway: If a successful weight loss program is a measure of whether someone’s still practicing what they’ve learned, Barnett is still journaling up a storm, practicing skillful choices at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and the scale is rewarding her a year later. —Melisse Gelula
Never Diet Again program dates for 2012: January 20–22, April 27–29, and November 2 –4.
Rates at Mohonk Mountain House start at $390 per person, per night (two night program), and include accommodations, three meals daily, all program sessions, materials, and most resort activities. For more information, 800-772-6646, www.mohonk.com