Being mindful has many benefits, and recent research indicates that those benefits include helping obese individuals control their eating habits and maintain or lose weight.
A 2010 study found that those who practiced mindfulness when eating or craving food have fewer symptoms of depression, deceased binge eating, and lost weight. The findings were published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine and showed “preliminary evidence that [an] eating focused mindfulness-based intervention can result in significant changes in weight, eating behavior, and psychological distress in obese individuals.”
In 2011, another study found that the levels of cortisol–a hormone released when the body experiences stress that may lead to weight gain–were significantly lower in obese individuals who practiced mindfulness techniques than in those who did not. This study, published in the Journal of Obesity also indicated that mindfulness may be more helpful to individuals classified as obese than those classified as overweight.
So, how can you be mindful when eating? Dr. Jan Chozen, author of Mindful Eating has these tips.
- Think about the flavor and temperature of the first several sips you take of your morning coffee or tea.
- Don’t eat while doing something else. If you’re reading the paper or checking your e-mail while eating, stop the second activity. Take a few bites and then go back to your activity. Alternate between the two, don’t do them at the same time.
- When you start a meal, think about all the different people who were involved in bringing the food to your table—farmers, truck drivers, factory workers, store clerks. Appreciate the work involved in getting food to people across the country every day.
- Try to eat one meal a week free from any distractions. Focus on your food, how your body feels while eating, and how it feels when you are satisfied. Be present with your meal.
The science of mindfulness can teach us a lot about the mind-body connection. By listening to our bodies and being mindful of our eating habits, we can change our relationship with food. If you would like to learn more about how being mindful can improve your life, contact us.
Find more exercises related to mindfulness based stress reduction here.