Mindful Eating May Help Lose Weight

Obesity is a major public health concern because it reduces quality of life .
Obesity is a major public health concern because it reduces quality of life .

People looking to lose weight should try to give meals their full attention rather than eat while doing something else, such as watching television or working. So suggests a new study that evaluated the effects of being more mindful about eating in a weight management program.

The study - led by Carolyn Dunn, a professor and nutrition specialist at North Carolina (NC) State University in Raleigh - was presented at this year’s European Congress on Obesity (May17-20), held in Porto, Portugal.

Dunn and colleagues evaluated the effectiveness of increasing mindful eating in an online weight management program called Eat Smart, Move More, Weigh Less (ESMMWL), developed by NC State University and the NC Division of Public Health.

Obesity is a global public health problem that affects more than twice as many people today as it did in 1980. According to 2014 estimates, more than 1.9 billion adults worldwide are thought to be overweight, including 600 million with obesity.

Obesity is a major public health concern because it reduces quality of life and raises the risk of poor mental health and chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some cancers, reported.

Although it is preventable, it is not an easy problem to solve; many causes and contributing factors - including behavior, environment, and genetic predisposition - work together to initiate and maintain the disease.

 Focus on ‘Right Now’

Mindfulness is a type of Buddhist meditation during which a person focuses on their present thoughts, feelings, and sensations, and what is in their environment “right now.”

Mindfulness entered the mainstream as a therapeutic practice in the 1980s through the work of people such as Jon Kabat-Zinn and his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, where there is now a Center for Mindfulness.

ESMMWL, the 15-week online program evaluated in the new study, uses the idea of “planned behavior” to help participants to alter habits that are known to be linked to weight management.

A live instructor delivers training online at the same time each week to a group of participants who link up via their computer, tablet, or smartphone.

The program uses an approach to mindful eating where the participant is invited to focus on many facets of dealing with and interacting with food, such as paying attention to how it tastes and planning mealtimes and snacks; and to have “one or two bites” of foods that are higher in calories and “just savor the flavor.”

Of the 80 participants, 42 were randomly assigned to the intervention group and 38 to the control group (they were effectively placed on a waiting list).

Average weight loss in the group that completed the program was 1.9 kilograms compared with 0.3 kilograms average weight loss in the control group - a result that researchers describe as “statistically significant.”

Authors said on their findings:”Results suggest that there is a beneficial association between mindful eating and weight loss. The current study contributes to the mindfulness literature as there are very few studies that employed rigorous methodology to examine the effectiveness of an intervention on mindful eating.”

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