Ohio State University researchers reviewed 19 studies on the effectiveness of mindfulness-based programmes for weight loss. They found that people who practised mindfulness lost weight in 13 of the studies.
While the studies sounded promising, the researchers found that the studies lacked a measure of the change in mindfulness or the relationship between being mindful and dropping kilograms.
“There are many reasons to think mindfulness would be relevant for weight loss because people may have a range of behavioural and psychological responses to eating that mindfulness can address, including helping them slow down and focus on enjoying a meal,” said Charles Emery, professor of psychology at Ohio State and senior author of the study. “But our review of the research shows we still have a long way to go to provide convincing evidence of the benefits of mindfulness for weight loss and, especially, how it may work.”
Emery and KayLoni Olson, a graduate student in clinical health psychology at Ohio State, analysed previous studies of weight-loss interventions that included a mindfulness component in which weight was measured at the beginning and end of the study.
“We were pretty loose in our definition of mindfulness intervention,” Emery said. “In two good studies that documented decreased weight in the mindfulness group and not in the others, the mindfulness intervention was only one session. That’s nice, but it further makes you ask: Is a change in mindfulness the mechanism by which that kind of intervention works?”
“Because the data provide some support for the utility of mindfulness for weight loss, we think it’s important to find out why,” Emery said. “Depending on the mechanism involved, there may be ways of modifying interventions to make them even more effective. If behavioural changes are triggered by mindfulness, there may be additional direct ways to bring about change.”
Mindfulness originated in East Asian tradition and reflects the Buddhist concept of mindfulness meditation. For overall health, mindfulness is thought to help with self-control and regulation of sleep and emotions. In terms of weight loss, mindfulness could help with management of behavioural changes, like monitoring food intake, increasing physical activity and avoiding stress eating.
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