Mindfulness training helped people participating in an intensive weight management program to lose more pounds, according to a small new study.
People in an intensive weight management program who received training on mindfulness-based eating strategies lost more weight over six months than others who did not get the training, according to the small study published by English researchers in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.
“This research is significant as we have shown that problematic eating behavior can be improved with mindfulness application,” the study’s first author, Petra Hanson, a research fellow and PhD student at Warwickshire Institute for the Study of Diabetes Endocrinology and Metabolism, said in a statement. “We are the first center in the United Kingdom that created a structured multidisciplinary course incorporating mindfulness and assessed its effectiveness in patients attending obesity clinics.”
Researchers looked at 33 obese people who were in a multidisciplinary weight management program who were given four group sessions on mindfulness-based eating behavior strategies. Six months later, the group had lost an average of 6 pounds. Participants also “reported improved self-esteem and confidence in self-management of body-weight,” the study said.
Another control group of 33 that took the same program without the mindfulness training sessions lost less than a pound.
“Surveys of the participants indicate mindfulness training can help this population improve their relationship with food,” Hanson said in the statement. “Individuals who completed the course said they were better able to plan meals in advance and felt more confident in self-management of weight loss moving forward. Similar courses can be held in a primary care setting or even developed into digital tools. We hope this approach can be scaled up to reach a wider population.”
The mindfulness training included discussions of the difference between mindful and mindless eating, the statement said. It also included an introduction to Compassionate Mind Therapy, which, the statement said, highlights the need to be aware of self-criticism as well as the importance of self-confidence in achieving behavior change.
The study noted that a similar positive effect for mindfulness-based techniques on eating-related behavior and weight loss had been found in other studies. “Our own data corroborate the data from these other studies,” the study said.
“A common maladaptive behaviour pattern in obesity is the misuse of unhealthy and automated eating in response to unpleasant or negative emotional cues,” the study said. “Adoption of mindfulness equips the patient with insight and awareness of their own emotional state, and the mental tools to avoid habitual unhealthy eating patterns, and instead adopt a healthier and more appropriate response to negative emotions,” the study said.