Mindfulness may help those struggling with weight loss
Mindfulness and meditation have been linked to stress reduction, which can lower the risk of depression, improve sleep and lower the incidence of migraines. Now, a new study suggests they may have benefits for those trying to lose weight, as well.
Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco conducted a weight loss study with almost 200 adults. Participants were split into two groups. Both groups were given diet and exercise support, but one group was also given additional instruction in mindfulness and meditation.
At the end of the 18-month study, the group that used the mindfulness techniques lost slightly more weight than those in the control group, and also saw significant improvements in several other measures, such as triglyceride levels and HDL cholesterol.
“Losing weight can be difficult and isn’t always as simple as ‘calories in, calories out,’” says Dr. Rekha Sharma, an internal medicine physician on staff at Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, Ill. “Successful weight management needs to take a holistic approach.”
The researchers emphasized that, while study participants did not lose a statistically significant amount of weight, those placed in the mindfulness group did see improvements in ten of the eleven measured outcomes related to weight, metabolic syndrome or cardiovascular risk. Maintaining stable fasting glucose levels, for instance, could decrease their risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Previous research has suggested that dropping just five percent of your body weight can significantly lower the risk of some chronic diseases.
The study’s mindfulness intervention included training for stress management as well as mindful eating practices designed to enhance awareness and self-regulation of physical hunger. Participants also took part in sitting meditation and yoga.
Mindfulness is of growing public interest, as evidenced by efforts like Oprah’s Beyond the Scale initiative, designed to tap into the emotional side of eating and focus on overall wellness.
“It’s important to remember that while our favorite comfort foods may make us feel better in the short term, we need to be mindful not only of what we eat, but also when and how we eat, and to take a big picture approach to our overall health,” says Dr. Sharma. “If someone is having trouble losing weight, they should consider consulting their physician to formulate a plan for success.”
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