A new study suggests using a mindfulness approach helps weight loss.
With obesity reaching epidemic proportions, mindful eating — focusing just on what we are eating, not watching television, surfing the Internet, or reading — has become a possible strategy for weight management.
The new study, presented at the 2017 European Congress on Obesity (ECO), investigated the relationship between mindful eating and weight loss.
It also examined the effectiveness of a program called Eat Smart, Move More, Weigh Less (ESMMWL) in increasing mindful eating. The program involves a weekly class with a live instructor that is streamed online, so participants can watch on their computers or mobile devices.
ESMMWL was developed by researchers at North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Division of Public Health. It employs the theory of planned behavior to help participants change behaviors that have been associated with weight management.
One of these behaviors is to increase mindful eating as measured by the Mindful Eating Questionnaire (MEQ), a 28-item questionnaire that assesses five domains of mindful eating, said the researchers, who were led by Dr. Carolyn Dunn.
Mindful eating includes paying attention to hunger and fullness cues, planning meals and snacks, eating as a singular activity as opposed to eating while doing other activities, and paying special attention to how food tastes.
Mindful eating may also include having just one or two bites of special higher calorie foods and savoring the flavor, researchers noted.
For the study, 80 participants were part of a randomized controlled trial evaluating the effectiveness of ESMMWL, an online, 15-week weight management program. Participants enrolled in ESMMWL were asked if they would be willing to participate in the study. Willing participants were then randomly placed in the intervention group (42 people) or the wait list control group (38 people).
According to the study’s findings, the 28 participants who completed the program lost more weight than participants in the wait list control group.
Mean weight loss for ESMMWL participants was 1.9 kg (about four pounds) compared to 0.3 kg (about .66 pounds) for participants in the wait list control group; a statistically significant result, according to the researchers.
Participants who completed ESMMWL also had a significantly larger increase in their mindfulness scores than those in the wait list control group, the researchers noted.
“Results suggest that there is a beneficial association between mindful eating and weight loss,” the researchers said. “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.”