Can mindfulness help in weight loss and weight management?
Let me lay out the facts for you…
Mindfulness, specifically mindful eating has been used in a few instances as a weight loss practice. However, before I continue, let’s discuss what mindfulness is.
Mindfulness is a mental practice of focusing one’s full awareness to the present moment accepting all the feelings, thoughts and sensations arising in the moment. Mindful eating…you guessed it…is the mental practice of focusing on the food one is eating, noticing the ingredients and how they feel in the mouth. Slow and prolonged chewing (chewing at least 30 times before swallowing) is part of the practice.
A study conducted by Michail Mantzios and Janet Clare Wilson observed the impact of mindfulness on weight loss. The researcher’s decided not only to study the impact of mindfulness but also a combination of mindfulness and self-compassion (through loving kindness meditation and psycho-educational material to develop self-compassion).
We lead a life where our lifestyle choices are affected by stress and anxiety. And, what do we tend to choose as fuel in those states? Exactly! Foods full of sugar and white carbohydrates, as they are a quick source of energy for our body. These are also foods that contribute to weight gain and a number of health issues. The chronic exposure to high levels of stress also results in emotional eating, where we either tend to overeat or eat specific types of foods which are low in nutrients.
Being aware of the present moment tends to reduce the level of anxiety and stress as the majority of the time we are concerned about something that happened in the past or something that may happen in the future and we almost never focus on things that are happening NOW. However, NOW is where we find peace.
In a study called “Mindfulness and Weight Loss: A Systematic Review” the researchers looked into a total of 19 studies which evaluated the effects of mindfulness-based interventions on individuals attempting weight loss. Evidence shows that personality traits which are responsible for the current obesity epidemic are better managed in a state of mindfulness.
Additionally, self-compassion (a combination of self-kindness, common humanity and mindfulness) towards oneself is an understanding that the challenges someone goes through is not unique to them but something that other people go through as well.
Michail Mantzios and Janet Clare Wilson identified that the group that practiced mindfulness and self compassion not only saw loss in weight but also a much greater one compared to the group that practiced only mindfulness.
Mindfulness and self-compassion are not only beneficial for weight loss but also promote healthy behaviours such as accepting things as they are, being less reactive and more aware, thus making healthier choices concerning life objectives, managing stress and anxiety which result in making healthy food choices, understanding and discerning a habit from a craving.