Researchers continue to perform studies on people to discover whether mindfulness, which is a way to eat more thoughtfully, can help improve healthy habits and perhaps keep people away from making unhealthy decisions. This approach is known as “mindful eating,” and originates from a Buddist concept. Learning mindfulness techniques can potentially alleviate problems such as anxiety, high blood pressure, and other health issues. Combine mindfulness with other lifestyle changes, such as going on a high fat, low carb diet known as the keto diet, and you can create a favorable combination. Combining mindfulness and a high-fat diet can help you follow through with your weight loss goals and apply positive lifestyle health changes going forward. To learn more about the keto diet and how it can help you combat overeating and improve mindfulness, check out the Body Reboot book. In this article, we discuss how mindful eating can aid you in your weight loss journey.
Harvard Health discusses how many studies have demonstrated that practicing mindfulness can potentially help people who suffer from eating disorders. Mindfulness can also help people learn how to effectively deal with other negative food behaviors.
Several studies have shown mindful eating strategies might help treat eating disorders and possibly help with weight loss. Psychologist Jean Kristeller at Indiana State University and colleagues at Duke University conducted an NIH-funded study of mindful eating techniques for the treatment of binge eating.
The randomized controlled study included 150 binge eaters and compared a mindfulness-based therapy to a standard psychoeducational treatment and a control group. Both active treatments produced declines in binging and depression, but the mindfulness-based therapy seemed to help people enjoy their food more and have less sense of struggle about controlling their eating. Those who meditated more (both at mealtimes and throughout the day) got more out of the program.
The NIH is funding additional research by Kristeller and Ruth Wolever of Duke on the effectiveness of mindfulness-based approaches for weight loss and maintenance. Several other studies on mindful eating are under way around the country.
Wondering how else mindful eating can help you make positive food decisions? Psychology Today perfectly explains how being mindful can help you and more accurately describes how to become more mindful of when you feel angry and how you can respond to that.
Become mindful of the physical sensation of hunger.
In the past, feeling hungry automatically triggered for me a trip to the kitchen to get something to eat. Or, if I was working on losing weight, I’d try to force myself not to eat; this sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t but, when it worked, it made me cranky and irritable.
With this new mindful practice, instead of automatically heading for the kitchen whenever I’m hungry, I stop, take a few conscious breaths—paying attention to the physical sensation of the breath as it comes in and then goes out of my body. This puts me in touch with my body, which enables me to notice what hunger feels like physically. It’s a very definite sensation. Sometimes I’ll even speak silently to myself: “This is what hunger feels like.”
Similarly, Medical News Daily also explains how mindfulness allows you to be present at the moment. By being present, you can decrease stress and enjoy the moment.
The principle behind mindfulness is very simple: One has to be fully present in the moment, focusing attention on external stimuli and their effects on the body and mind, learning to concomitantly acknowledge and dismiss unnecessary thoughts.
Thus, learning mindfulness techniques can help us tone down the effects of stress and regain more enjoyment in present experiences.
Recently, researchers have suggested that mindfulness can also aid a person in their weight loss efforts.
A new study from the University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire National Health Services Trust in the United Kingdom — in collaboration with other clinical and research institutions — confirms these and similar findings.
“This research is significant, as we have shown that problematic eating behavior can be improved with mindfulness application,” says the study's first author, Petra Hanson, a research fellow and doctoral student at the Warwickshire Institute for the Study of Diabetes Endocrinology and Metabolism at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire.
One study, in particular, by The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, recently took place in March of 2019. The study found that when participants participated in a weight loss program combined with mindfulness sessions, they experienced better decision making. The result is they lost more weight.
Mindfulness strategies may facilitate healthier eating behavior but have not previously been studied in a United Kingdom-based tier 3 obesity service.
To demonstrate the clinical effectiveness of mindfulness as part of newly created group sessions within a tier 3 obesity service.
Recruitment of participants (n = 53, including n = 33 completers) from patients attending a tier 3–based obesity service at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire. Each participant attended four group sessions, at which mindfulness-based eating behavior strategies were taught. Self-reported eating behavior and body weight were assessed at baseline and following completion of attendance at the group sessions. Paired-sample t tests were performed. P < 0.05 was considered significant. Data are reported for the 33 completers. Weight difference was assessed in a retrospective control group of 33 patients who did not attend the group sessions but received the standard multidisciplinary input.
There were statistically significant improvements (P = 0.009) in self-reported eating behavior [driven by improvements in “fast-foodism” (P = 0.031)] and reduction in body weight [3.06 kg (SD 5.2 kg), P = 0.002] at 6 months following completion of the group sessions. This was statistically more (P = 0.036) than 6-month weight loss in the control group (0.21 kg). Participants reported improved self-esteem and confidence in self-management of body weight.
Application of mindfulness-based eating behavior strategies, taught at group sessions within a tier 3 obesity service, resulted in significant improvement in eating behavior, and facilitated subsequent weight loss over 6 months. Such a strategy has potential for scalability to the wider obese population.
Consumer Reports offers specific examples of how to mindfully eat. Practice these techniques to master the art of mindfulness and hopefully you’ll see an improvement in your decision making!
Mindful eating basically boils down to just paying more attention—to your hunger, your cravings, your food, and how your body feels before, during, and after you eat. When you sit down to your next meal, try incorporating some of these simple techniques.
Assess (and reassess) your hunger. Tuning in to your physical hunger is one of the keys to mindful eating. Before you begin eating, ask yourself how hungry you are on a scale of 1 to 10. After several bites, ask yourself again. As the meal progresses, switch to assessing how full you are on a scale of 1 to 10. “Aim to stop eating when you are moderately full—around a 7—to help avoid overeating,” says Daubenmier.
Slow down. Eating more slowly allows you to savor each bite as well as to stay alert to satiety levels. It’s no surprise then that a recent six-year study of about 60,000 people found that those who shifted from fast to slow eating had a 42 percent lower rate of obesity during the study period than those who continued to eat quickly.
Stay focused. Anything that distracts you from concentrating on your food—such as the television, checking social media, reading, or even a lively conversation—can lead to mindlessly overeating.
Key in to cravings. Rather than trying to talk yourself out of a craving, allow yourself to explore it. “Cravings are simply body sensations,” says Brewer. “And when we try to resist or ignore cravings, they tend to get stronger.” Instead of trying to ignore it, notice what the craving feels like in your body, ask yourself what’s going on that’s triggering it, even spend some time looking at and smelling the food you’re craving. Take a few deep breaths, then look at it again to see if it still seems as appealing.
Savor the first few bites. If, even in a mindful state, you decide you really do want to eat whatever it is you’re craving, go ahead. “But eat it with a heightened awareness, savoring and appreciating each bite,” says Dunn. “Research has shown that much of the enjoyment of a favorite food is in those first few bites.” If you take the time to focus on the sensory experience of those initial bites, you may find that your craving is satisfied without overindulging.
Mindfulness can help you achieve your weight loss goals, and so can the keto diet! Combine the two, and perhaps you’ll experience more significant weight loss in a shorter period. Check out the Body Reboot book to find out why this diet is helping so many people transform their lives. If you help us cover shipping today, you can get a free book. Hurry — this promotion won’t last long!
Sources: Harvard Health Publishing, Medical News Daily, The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Volume 104, Issue 3, March 2019, Psychology Today, Consumer Reports
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