The People's Perspective on Medicine

Can Mindfulness Help You Lose Weight?

Researchers found that mindfulness training helped volunteers resist fast food and lose weight. Might this approach help you?

Mindfulness, the practice of paying attention to your own thoughts and feelings in the moment, has been praised as a way for people to manage stress. It has also been studied as a way to manage major depression, mild depression and sleep difficulties. Now scientists in England say that mindfulness can also help people lose weight.

Using Mindfulness to Lose Weight:

The researchers created a structured program to teach people to be mindful about their eating behavior and recruited 53 volunteers for a weight loss study (Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, online Dec. 18, 2018). These people were already participating in a weight loss program and getting coaching on changing what they ate. But as anyone who has ever tried to lose weight knows, it is difficult to keep up the effort long enough to make a difference.

Did Mindfulness Help?

The 33 participants who completed most of the mindfulness sessions lost approximately 6.6 pounds (roughly 3 kilograms) over the six month study, while those who did not attend mindfulness sessions lost about two pounds (just under 1 kilogram). Volunteers practicing mindfulness reported that they were less likely to indulge in fast food,

The authors conclude:

“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.”

They believe that mindfulness training and the subsequent changes in eating behavior could benefit many individuals who are struggling to lose weight.

Other Evidence on the Benefit of Mindful Eating When You Want to Lose Weight:

This is not the first time we have heard that mindfulness can help people lose weight. When we interviewed Dr. Christopher Gardner about the results of his DIETFITS study, he mentioned that the volunteers who were more mindful about their eating were more successful with their weight loss. That was true regardless of the specific diet they followed. Although Dr. Gardner did not say, it is possible that a mindful approach helped the DIETFITS participants stick to a wholesome whole-foods diet, whether low in carbs or in fat.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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