If you are mindful you dont eat for taste - so chances are you over eat are smaller

There are a few monks i know and i truley belive are advanced practitioners (meaning i wont be surprised if they are arahants) who are overweight

and this really clashes with the concept of eating mindfully - can someone help reconcile the fact they are overweight and being advanced practitioners ?

Edit : just to be clear there are overweight people who eat little and healthy and have bad metabolism and skinny people who are gluttons and eat a lot of fat foods and are still skinny .... im just giving the most extreme example which are of monks who are extremely mindful and dont need to give 0 consideration to enjoyment from the food and are aware of their bodies

  • 2
    What about thyroid disorders? – user698 Dec 29 '17 at 16:03
  • If you have access to actual enlightened monks then why not ask them? – Lowbrow Dec 29 '17 at 16:10
  • well if i ever have the chance to ask anything the monk im thinking of it would need to be a much more important and useful question - i would feel bad wasting his time on a question like this – breath Dec 29 '17 at 16:21
  • You shouldn't equate being overweight or obese, to being a glutton and a sloth. You are implying that the overweight monk is a glutton and gluttony is contradictory to Buddhist teachings. Obesity could be a result of metabolic problems caused by disease e.g. hypothyroidism and/or genetics. – ruben2020 Dec 31 '17 at 5:33
  • i added an - edit part - to make it clearer ---- but you are right – breath Jan 2 '18 at 12:31

A well-known monk with a bodily disorder was the deceased Bhikkhu Buddhadasa, who was given all kinds of diets when he was alive. Buddhadasa was fat most of his life.

However, for example, some current Western monks (based in Western Australia) have put on lots of weight, which looks like eating too much rich food & doing too little exercise; devoting their lives to teaching, scholarship & administrative duties.

You reach an age when you start to put on lots of weight. You must reduce your food intake because your body obviously does not need so much food anymore.

Two years ago, I cut my life-long food in-take by 50% & stopped eating certain foods (cheese, ice-cream, bread; I never ate much sugar). I lost 12kg but notice if I eat certain prohibited foods (such as when visiting my mother), I add weight quickly.

These monks are often given lots of Asian sweets & cakes and drink lots of sugar drinks.

Years ago, I spent lots of time in a certain monastery in Asia. The last time I visited, after five years of absence, I noticed how the core monks had all lost lots of weight. Obviously, the abbot thought the monks were too fat and instructed to reduce food, for the sake of public image. Having known these monks for 17 years, I could not believe how thin they were.

Dhp 395. The person who wears a robe made of rags, who is lean, with veins showing all over the body, and who meditates alone in the forest — him do I call a holy man.


I think it’s possible to eat in moderation and be overweight. I’m not saying it’s possible to become overweight, but rather, to maintain your excess weight.

Two factors come to mind:

1) monks don’t really have a physically active lifestyle. That makes it harder to lose weight.

2) different foods have different impact on your body weight. I would guess this monk is not eating a sugar-free, whole plant based diet. Is he?

Buy finally, and most importantly: ask them yourself. From what you described, I gather they are pretty wise people, so they won’t get offended by the question.

  • well if i ever have the chance to ask anything the monk im thinking of it would need to be a much more important and useful question - i would feel bad wasting his time on a question like this ....... he has good food btw not too fattening but lets say a monk has only donuts to eat and he notices he is overweight which harms his functioning and health than he will eat half the amount of doughnuts cause hes not attached to the taste of them so he wont mind eating less doughnuts – breath Dec 29 '17 at 15:06

It might be better to ask this question on Biology.SE or Fitness.SE or somewhere like that.

My theory on the subject is as follows:

  • People need e.g. 1800 calories/day
  • That's 150 calories/hour
  • But monks can't eat 150 calories every hour (e.g. because they may not eat after noon)
  • Therefore they must eat "more than they need to" before noon

Whenever you eat (i.e. when you eat more than you need right now), your blood sugar goes up, insulin is released, and the sugar is pushed out of the bood in cells -- muscle cells or fat cells.

Now assume that some of it is stored in fat cells, to be released into the blood and used later in the day.

When you get older (and/or develop diseases like insulin resistance and diabetes) then the fat cells no longer respond to the chemical/hormonal signal/trigger that should normally tell them to release energy ... so it becomes a one-way street, i.e. calories go into fat cells but don't come out again.

  • hmm that is a pretty good answer actually - when i asked one of my teachers about it he just said that people have a certain body type - but that isnt really a good enough explanation (Excuse) for them to be overweight ...... though im not sure if what you wrote is true but if it is than thats a good reason for them to be overweight – breath Dec 29 '17 at 15:56
  • Given the tremendous hype around intermittent fasting, I think your theory is only plausible on the surface. You don't need to eat 150 calories per hour, you just need to meet your weekly needs on a reasonable basis, but eating three times per day is actually a very bad to go about it because our bodies are in a constant state of: is-there-food-is-there-food-is-there-food-is-there-food-is-there-food? The 5:2 diet, intermittent fasting in the form of 18-6 hours of fasting/eating, and The Warrior Diet are all tremendously popular because that eating pattern is more biologically sound for humans. – Beyer Jan 3 '18 at 9:36

I wouldn't judge a monk by body weight unless he is obese up to the point that he can't even move. There are lot of skinny people who eat a lot but never get fat because of their genes and there are others who get fat very easily even if they eat moderately.


The biology behind gaining or losing weight is simple. Simplified, the body is like a house which needs to be kept at a certain temparature all day long, so you have to constantly add fuel to the fire (which is measured in kilo-calories, kcal). The bigger the house is, the more fuel you need to keep it warm (which is why overweight people can eat more than normal people without gaining additional weight), and if you move or work out, you also burn more.

However, your body can only tell you how it responds to food: How filling it is, how it tastes and so on. It has no built-in sense or mechanism to determine how many kcal you already ate. There is often, but not always, a correllation between these: The more bread you eat, the more filled you feel, the more kcal you have is a positive example. But if you eat cake, then you also feel filled (eventually), but a short time later, you are hungry again, even though cake gives you a lot of energy in form of kcal. It is a common misconception to think that just because I feel filled, I had just enough and not too much (or too little).

Furthermore, "healthy" food can still contain surprisingly many kcal. In other words: You can get fat on healthy food as well. That is especially true for fruit or juice, but also for e.g. nuts. If you decide to start your day with a fresh fruit smoothie spiced with Chia seeds, your daily kcal intake will go up dramatically (unless you substitute one meal for the smoothie)

Additionally, our body tends to prefer food which was hard to come by not a long time ago: Sugar and sweets, salt, that kind of thing. The reason is that the body stocks up on things while it can, to depend on it when nourishment is harder to come by.

The combination of all this can make it challenging to keep a normal weight, even when eating mindful. Many people can get it right intuitively, but many others don't.

One more thing: If someone is overweight and then starts paying attention to what they eat - even with the above in mind - he or she would still not lose weight, because you actively have to ingest less kcal per day than needed by the body, which is something your body normally wants to avoid.

With all this in mind, your observation of people eating mindful, yet being overweight, is not a contradiction in itself, but can have many explanations. The fat could be a relict from the past, before starting to eat mindful, it can be a side effect of a energy-rich diet and so on.

As it is in many cases, in order to change something you have to fully identify the problem - which in this case would mean acknowledging the facts stated above, analyzing the own diet and then changing it.


Budai is traditionally depicted as a fat, bald man...He was considered a man of good and loving character...According to Chinese history, Budai was an eccentric Chan monk.


enter image description here

He managed it somehow.

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