Freeing Yourself From Emotional Hunger: The Zen of Eating Review

Robin M.'s picture

If you are interested in knowing why you are the way you are when it comes to eating behavior, then The Zen of Eating is for you.

Many people are just tired of the weight loss hype. They’ve tried all of the highly-marketed diets and failed, or they’ve succeeded in losing weight because they spend half their lives at the gym, yet they are still miserable.

Many people are searching for a more rational, reasonable way to lose weight. Enough with the glitz and glam, the promises of miracle diets, and the exceptionally tan trainers screaming at people at the gym.

The Zen of Eating is not about new fads or even new science. It does not mention calories or recipies. It applies philosophies that are thousands of years old to the relatively new crisis of overeating. From the Buddism point of view, overeating is an abnormal expression of desire.

Using the basic principles of Zen Buddhism, The Zen of Eating tries to help readers free themselves from the emotional pseudo-need for food and escape from the oppressive power of desire that creates it.

It is written by Ronna Kabatznick Ph.D., a psychologist who specializes in weight management. She worked for Weight Watchers for nine years, serving as their psychological consultant.

How Does The Zen of Eating Work?

The Zen of Eating is a fusion of psychology and the ancient wisdom of Buddhism. It delicately applies spiritual aspects to behavioral problems.

Kabatznick asks you to stop thinking about what you are and are not eating. Instead, she challenges you to shift your state of mind— in life, not just at the dinner table.

The book suggests that people who overeat do so to try to satisfy an emotional hunger, and that kind of satisfaction is only temporary. In fact, Kabatznick writes that the more we struggle against emotional hunger, the hungrier we get.

Kabatznick suggests that instead of turning to food, people can find a way to nourish themselves in a way that gives them real satisfaction. She suggests, as the Buddha himself did, that food for the heart is the type of food that lasts forever.

The “diet,” if we can even call it that, works by employing the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism:

  • There is suffering.
  • The cause of suffering is attachment to desire.
  • Suffering ends by letting go of attachments to desire
  • The Noble Eightfold Path tells us how to let go of attachments and therefore end suffering.

Kabatznick walks us through each of these noble truths, and then through the Eightfold Path, specifically applying the doctrines to the issues involved with overeating.

Losing weight is not a secret: you reduce your calorie intake and engage in more physical activity. However, until you comprehend the nature and the root of the compulsion to overeat, you may never be able to keep your weight off. The Zen of Eating gets to the root of the problem, your inner self and your underlying desires.

The Zen of Eating is about slowing down. About thinking, meditating, and allowing yourself to feel your own emotions. It’s about talking to yourself (in a good way) and really listening to what you have to say.

One Amazon user said:

“This book is a must have for those who are serious about losing weight. You will gain an understanding of why you feel out of control and eat when you are not hungry. This is a book that will help you live a healthier life. It gives you the tools to understand and deal with emotional eating.”

What Others Are Saying - Does The Zen of Eating Work?

Apparently. An Amazon reviewer who has read more than 10 books on the topic of eating disorders, found The Zen of Eating the most inspiring and life-changing. It helped her treat herself with loving kindness because the book made it clear that overeating is not a disorder of will, but a disorder of wish. She wrote:

The Zen of Eating is the absolute best book I've ever read about eating disorders. I've read it twice. After each reading,I feel myself glowing, inspired, and in love with the world.”

How Much Weight Will I Lose?

The Zen of Eating is not about rapid weight loss or miracle diets. Do not expect to lose 10 pounds the first week. (Though I suppose it’s possible.) This book is about changing beliefs and attitudes, about examining who we are. With that said, if you apply the principles of this book to your life, you might very well lose all the weight that you need to.

Pros and Cons


  • This book is a pleasant deviation from the normal dieting books which often say the same thing over and over (and over) again.
  • The Zen of Eating is a practical and sensible approach.

  • The Zen of Eating is a free diet. (You can even get the book at the public library.)

  •  You can read this book all at once or in small parts and still have positive results.

  • You do not have to be a Buddhist to use this book.


  • If you have a basic knowledge of Zen and a fundamental understanding of weight loss, then this book might be too basic for you.

  • While this is not truly a religious book, per se, it is a book based on Zen Buddhism, so if you find that studying another religion is in violation of your own, then this book probably isn’t for you.

The key to losing weight is getting to know yourself, underneath the extra pounds, underneath the complicated emotions. The key to losing weight is finding an inner peace. The key to weight loss is changing your state of mind.

The Zen of Eating is a gentle invitation to transform our emotional hungers into spiritual nourishment. Buy it from Amazon at a discount either new or used.

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