How to effortlessly lose weight *for real*, according to Dr David R Hawkins
The mindfulness technique that helped me reduce 19kg (42 pounds) without dieting, stress or guilt, over a few months
Dear reader, I hope the new year has been kind to you and your loved ones. The Examined Life is dedicated to our collective spiritual and emotional well-being using verified consciousness research. If you were forwarded this email, get your own:
Holiday season might be over, but holiday eating…?
When I started this post a couple of days into 2021, I noticed how easily I had slipped back into the habit of ‘rewarding’ myself with all the sweets and nibbles lying around since Christmas.
It’s not even that I was thinking before doing it. It just happened on autopilot. Do you know that feeling?
Done enough times, it becomes a Pavlovian cycle of gratification:
Just found something nice? Eat
Feeling bored, tired, irritated, excited? Eat
Late at night? Thought of something nice? Eat
The process quickly becomes transparent when we examine it
A thought comes up (stimulus)
The mind is triggered (desire / hunger)
Gratification is initiated (response)
All justifications come after the fact.
Thoughts like “I shouldn’t be eating so much before sleeping” or “Next time, I’ll have an apple with a cup of tea instead” might seem compelling afterward, but rarely when I’m standing before the fridge.
In my experience, the problem isn’t in the access to food (although that helps):
The core issue is the attachment to the pleasure of eating, and an aversion to experiencing out uncomfortable sensations that we label hunger, boredom, craving, etc
In other words, the problem arises within consciousness, expressed as a habitual response, reinforced by stimuli, environment, belief systems…
Does that make sense?
This post is for you if you…
Have little control over impulsive eating
Find yourself overeating and then regretting it
Feel irrationally anxious at the thought of not eating
Want to change your relationship with hunger, and are willing to examine certain belief systems that come with it
Like me, are interested in losing weight without the stress, guilt, diets, etc
This post is probably not for you if…
A health condition could get aggravated if you didn’t eat when required
You are likely to ignore your doctor’s advice because a newsletter post
You are happy with your weight
Personally, I’m not one to fret over every kilo lost or gained, but it bothers me when behaviours turn into unwanted habits.
‘I eat therefore I am’
As I write this, it’s just past 10 pm. A faint but growing ‘interest’ in checking out the fridge or kitchen shelves is rising.
Years ago, the thought of food would make me fix something asap. Even at midnight, impromptu walks to grab some nearby ice cream or instant noodles happened often.
Thanks to this technique, I have lost the tiny, nagging fear of not acting on the hungry impulse, of not being sated. No matter how hungry I feel, I am never threatened by that feeling - and that’s a kind of freedom I never knew before.
Yes, sometimes I do slip into the habit, especially holiday-eating, but it takes only a couple of days to get back out of it.
The aim of this post isn’t to sell you anything. I only want to offer you the same feeling of freedom I found when I came across and applied a practical technique that helped me lose weight.
It’s in the book Healing and Recovery by Dr David R Hawkins¹—which was originally a set of lectures on physical, emotional, and spiritual health as explored through consciousness research. It details chapters on alcoholism, stress, anxiety, sexuality, handling major crises, etc. The insights are mind-bending.
The core of every chapter rests on the relationship between body-mind-consciousness. More on that later.
We’ll focus solely on the chapter about losing weight, wherein Dr Hawkins describes the technique he used to lose fifty pounds (~23 kgs).
When I first read it, I was struggling with significant weight gain. While I was very familiar with Doc’s writings, I had never come across something so direct and actionable.
Over the next couple of months, much to my surprise, I gradually lost 19 kilos (~42 pounds). And while my appetite decreased naturally, the enjoyment of eating food did not.
➡️ I cover this weight (loss) journey at the end of this post, if you would like to read it
This post will challenge many conventional beliefs about diet, calories, the body-mind relationship, and more.
The Hawkins technique is free, simple, practical, yet radical. It advocates neither diets nor exercise. If it’s important to you to lose weight for aesthetic reasons or otherwise, please give it a go.
Let’s dive in:
“Is there a way to let go of weight in a way that is practical, easygoing, joyful, and free from any kind of suffering? Can this be done? Yes!
All it takes is about an hour or an hour and a half of our attention over a day or two during the time we are doing the things we normally do. The benefits are long lasting for a lifetime!
The reward for a couple of hours of just paying attention to a few simple principles is a lifetime of freedom from this challenge.
How do I know it works? Because it has worked for everyone who has tried it. It has worked for my patients and for me. I permanently lost fifty pounds by using this very simple technique that emerged out of consciousness research.”
—Hawkins, David R. Healing and Recovery. Hay House. Kindle Edition.
Fundamentals of losing weight, from Healing and Recovery
Summarizing insights from this chapter for brevity:
💭 What it takes
60 - 90 minutes of our attention over a day or two
Paying attention to a few simple principles
Otherwise, going about the day normally
The reward—a life-time of freedom from being run by conditioning
❗ Why diets do not work in the long run
Our fundamental ideas about losing weight rest mainly on dieting (and exercise)
Relying on will-power is overrated. Some of us just don’t have enough
Diets can work temporarily but tend to be unsustainable and costly
Our relationship with the body often remains unchanged
Our Pavlovian overeating reflexes remain unchanged
Denial and indulgence brings guilt and recrimination
✅ Notes on ‘hunger’
It takes one day to get off the cycle of eating, hunger, and appetite if we are willing to be reprogrammed
All that’s needed is:
To allow feeling of hungriness to arise, to be with it, welcome it, and wait till it runs out, which handles it (usually five minutes or even less).
As time goes on, we begin to look forward to meals, and again get into the habit-pattern of getting hungry and satisfying the feeling
It’s simple to back off and let go using this technique a few times
We might have to do it again if we get into holiday indulgence for a number of years (yay 2021!)
🔬 Scientific basis
In the hypothalamus, at the base of the brain, is located a center that influences our appetite - called the appestat
The appestat sets our degree of satiety— i.e. the amount of food that satisfies us
The less we eat, the more we lower that setting: The less we need to satisfy us
Satiety is more important than calories and plays a great role in our hunger and weight problems
Our beliefs (held in mind) about weight, activity, calories have enough power to affect our body (see Consciousness > Mind > Body relationship above)
Belief systems vs radical truth
In my mental chatter around eating, some thoughts repeatedly show up. They are based on notions I probably absorbed (or got programmed by) throughout my life.
They are usually reactions to something I’m doing, and they’re sound this:
I’ll become fat if I eat _____ (sweets, too much butter, etc)
I’ll become fat because of how much I’m eating
Eating at ___ time is going to make me fat
I always end up putting on weight because of my genes/lack of exercise / my thyroid, etc
Do you relate to this? Are you aware of such thoughts?
Hawkins explains why cancelling these thought-patterns is vital:
Consciousness work has to do with the truth of our inner experience. It does not have anything to do with theory, hypotheses, scientific reasoning, or logic. It has to do with the experiencing of the truth within us.
The first thing to do is to begin to cancel some beliefs about diets and food that have contributed to our problem.
It is necessary to reverse the conventional, so-called ‘common sense’ of the left-brain logic that says it is the body that creates the mind.
Instead, we have to look at the opposite, which is that what is held in mind manifests within the body.
Our thoughts and beliefs about weight, activity, calories, and all the phenomena surrounding this have been affecting our weight.
— Hawkins, David R.. Healing and Recovery
If any of my above ‘thoughts’ were true then they would apply to everyone. I personally know people whose diets are anything but ‘healthy,’ and they don’t show any wear for it.
Becoming aware is the first step—most of us may not realize that we replay content like this. The next step is to cancel these beliefs each time they arise.
This needs to be done without exception: every time a blip comes up on our mental radar, we cancel it.
🤯 The relationship between Consciousness > Mind > Body
➡️ Our consciousness is more powerful than the
, which is more powerful than the
, which are more powerful than the
. Therefore, we can bring about a shift in the body by simply addressing
The body cannot experience itself. An arm cannot experience its armness
We experience the body via something greater - the senses.
The senses cannot experience themselves.
They are experienced within something greater - the mind.
The mind cannot experience itself. A thought cannot experience its thought-ness.
The mind is experienced in something greater - consciousness.
All human experience is taking place within consciousness itself.
In other words
‘Left-brained’ logic says that the body creates the mind. The reverse happens
We identify with the body as what we are, but we are consciousness experiencing the mind experiencing the body
The body merely expresses what is held in mind
Consciousness has the power to change the mind and the body
✅ The Hawkins technique in action
We don’t eat when hungry. It reinforces the hunger—>satiety relationship.
We eat when not hungry. Dr Hawkins calls it anticipatory eating.
👉 When the feeling we call hunger arises, we simply do this
Sit or lie down someplace quiet, and fix our attention on the feeling
Stay with it without trying to resist it or do anything about it
Stop giving it labels, we simply focus on the sensations in the body.
E.g. a diffuse sensation of discomfort around the belly instead of calling it ‘hunger’
Next, we let go of trying to change the sensations
We stop visualizing it, we remove all images from the mind
We open the gates to the sensation: “I want more of whatever that is”
When allowed to come up unresisted, the sensation runs itself out
If we resist it or try to change the sensation, it persists and grows
Each time the sensation returns, we use the above steps to ‘disappear’ it. On the first couple of days, this will happen for a total of about an hour or so. Gradually, the feeling and the need to eat will recede.
➡️ Hawkins says, this technique can be utilized for any kind of suffering: pain, illness, stress. All we have to remember is that it is just a physical symptom. The same steps apply
🥪 Key quotes on anticipatory eating, avoiding sugar, and rising above the cycle of indulgence
“The first two days, and probably for the first week or two, we never allow ourself to eat when we are hungry. Instead, we let go of hungriness and anticipate the periods of hunger. E.g. if we’re hungry around six o’clock, at 4:45 pm, when we are not even hungry yet, we have a cheese sandwich.”
“Avoid sugar and sweets when starting this program. Eating sugar on an empty stomach is best avoided. The body takes sugar in so fast that it is absorbed very rapidly and cannot be metabolized quickly, so it just has to be stored as fat within the body.”
“We get used to an eating cycle of overeating, feeling guilty about the overeating, and then trying to control it. The only way to beat it is to rise above it, and go beyond it. By disappearing it, one will find that appetite and hunger actually disappear, and there is the experience of never being hungry.”
“I can sit down with no hunger or appetite at all, but the minute I begin to eat, it creates appetite, and the pleasure of eating is greater than it ever was. I enjoy food now more than I ever did. Eating is no longer accompanied by guilt or self-blame.”
— Healing and Recovery, Dr Hawkins
📙 Eating seen via the lens of the inner Parent, Adult, Child (Transactional Analysis)
“When a person sits down to eat, it is only the adult within who wants to take off the weight, and it is really the ‘inner child’ who is always hungry.”
“The consciousness of the child is, “I want, I satisfy, and I get,” so we go to the refrigerator without realizing we are in a different state of consciousness, one in which the child is dominant. So who is poking around in the refrigerator, or ordering a second hot fudge sundae? The Child is.”
“After we indulge, the child leaves, and who takes the place? The angry Parent, of course: ‘How could you have been so stupid? I mean, think of the calories. You are really stupid and weak.’”
“We can break out of this self-defeating pattern just by being aware. Make a little sign for the refrigerator door that says, “Adults Only.” When eating, we can consciously call forth our Adult, and tell the Child, “This is a place for the adult now.” We will find that the adult enjoys the eating very much, too, but just does not go crazy so easily.”
— Healing and Recovery, Dr Hawkins
Here’s another post that briefly touches on our inner parent, child, adult roles
🌠 Vizualizing our future self
The stomach wants to eat, and the mind wants to punish. So, we must learn to approach this from the heart.
We imagine and hold in mind the image of the kind of body we want to have, and the feeling we want to have about having this kind of body
Then, remember a time in our life when we were feeling joyful and happy with ourself. Next, we picture the body the way we want it to be and begin to love that image with the emotion of joy.
Then we let it go, knowing that we have set up a program for our future self. The mind automatically begins to move in that direction. We just energize that picture of ourself with love and gratitude - as if we already have it.
If you find this exciting and hopeful, please pick up a copy of the Healing and Recovery and take your time going through it. The feeling of freedom, of no longer being run by appetite is truly priceless 🙏
“You’ve put on some weight, man!”
A bit of context about my weight (loss) journey
In the summer of 2015, I was overweight to the point of embarrassment.
Up to the age of 31 or so, I was fairly skinny. Then in a short couple of years, I went up to 91 kilos (200 pounds). It was a significant change, not just in waistline and wardrobe, but also in self image.
Social interactions with friends often brought exclamations like: You’ve put on some weight, man! As well-meaning as they might have been, I deeply resented such comments, and started to avoid meeting people. You could say I was in denial.
“Every crisis is spiritual, emotional and physical” - Dr Hawkins
Here’s how it turned out to be true in my case. Fitness had declined significantly. Nearly 8 years of smoking had helped.
And while I was finally free of it, there was an underlying fear and unconscious guilt about its lasting effects. E.g. a fear of collapse due to sudden or strenuous physical activity like running up a few flights of stairs.
“I can resist anything but temptation”
—Oscar Wilde. Sad, funny and true.
Eating had become a way of ‘self-medicating' against a recurring feeling of unease. Irregular food habits were among many symptoms of being run by uncontrolled impulses and wants.
But there was a growing need to shake off this dependence. The idea of going on a diet seemed beyond me. Attempts to incorporate running and cycling into a routine were tried, but none prevailed.
Ultimately I did develop a habit of exercising for 5-10 minutes, once every few days. These sessions were usually rewarded with food :)
But, the routine did create a positive feeling of agency over life. It just didn’t influence any weight loss… Until I read Healing and Recovery and started to apply its principles into practice.
Did you find this helpful?
Your feedback will help me improve :)
If this post resonates with you, I would love to hear why. You can also hit the heart button at the bottom of this email, which helps other users discover this work 💛
Tell a friend?
The Examined Life doesn’t have paid subscriptions yet. If you find it helpful, the nicest way to show your appreciation is to spread the word. 🙏🏼
Amogh (see you on Twitter)
Dr Hawkins was a psychiatrist for many decades before he devoted his life to researching human consciousness. His discoveries and investigations of spiritual experiences led to authoring many books that are unequalled in their explanations of the phenomenon of consciousness itself, and how it impacts subjective reality. He wrote books like Power Vs Force, Letting Go, and more, that are considered life-changing by many including this writer. They’re also the reason why this newsletter exists :)