The question, “Does mindful eating assist weight loss?” came from a client of mine.
The first part of her actual question was,
Through mindful eating will I lose weight if I am overweight?
Does mindful eating assist weight loss?
The short answer to this question is “yes”.
There are numerous research studies showing that mindfulness-based practices do support weight loss.
BUT, research is not a straightforward process, because different researchers focus on
Different groups of people and health conditions,
And they use different types of mindfulness-based practices.
If you are interested in knowing more about how mindful eating can assist you, click here.
Mindfulness and weight loss research
Research has been conducted with people with eating disorders, overweight, post cancer, Type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes, and heart disease, and people of different ages.
The types of mindfulness practices have included mindful eating, mindfulness-based meditation, and psychological interventions such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
Some research has combined a number of different types of practices, whereas others have just focussed on the practice of mindful eating.
So it not possible to just pool the results and summarise!
So, it is like the saying, “You can’t compare apples with pears.”
Weight loss results
Like diet and exercise interventions, mindfulness-based approaches have been conducted for different lengths of time, and have included varying lengths of follow up after the intervention or study has finished.
The research suggests that mindfulness-based weight loss approaches may have lower initial weight loss when compared with diet and exercise, but over time weight loss continues, whereas people who just had diet and exercise programs tend to regain the weight that was lost.
One of the other findings is that a combination of mindful eating with mindfulness meditation is more effective than mindful eating alone.
The Eating for You approach is based on mindful eating practices and encourages a daily meditation practice.
Due to health practitioner regulations in Australia, we are not able to share the health and body weight outcomes of clients who have completed Eating for You programs.
Further research is required to assess the long-term benefit of mindfulness practices in regard to body weight and health.
Also a greater understanding of how the different types of mindfulness practices and psychological therapies work together to support long term weight loss.
But here is what we know so far.
How mindfulness assists weight loss
#1 Doesn’t focus on weight loss
The practice of mindful eating can lead to weight loss, but this should not be the motivation for eating mindfully.
As soon as the focus of eating becomes “weight loss” you are no longer eating mindfully.
Mindful eating is about being totally aware of the current eating experience, from before choosing to eat, and after finishing your food or drink.
This means you are not distracted by people, things, or activities, such as reading, TV, or your smartphone, while you eat.
If your choice of food is based on what you think will lead to weight loss, this is not a mindful choice.
#2 Reduces stress hormones
Mindfulness meditation lowers the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, and another inflammatory compound called C-reactive protein.
High levels of these are associated with long-term obesity.
Fewer stress hormones in your blood also mean you will feel calmer, and this may potentially lead to less stress-related eating.
#3 Tunes you into hunger and satiety
Mindful eating supports you in tuning into your hunger and satiety levels, encouraging you to better match the quantity of food with your hunger level, so you eat less.
#4 Raises awareness of motivations for eating
Mindful eating connects you with your motivations, or drivers, for eating.
You become more aware of other reasons for eating e.g. boredom, convenience, or stress-related eating.
It provides a gap or pause between thinking you might eat, and choosing to eat or not eat.
#5 Enjoyment from the experience of eating
Mindful eating increases your appreciation of food as you notice the colours, aromas, flavours, and textures of food.
This practice helps to reduce distraction while you are eating.
If you would like to change your relationship with food, learn more here.
#6 Greater compassion
Mindfulness meditation lights up a region of the brain, called the right anterior dorsal insula, that is known to activate compassion.
It leads to the creation of kind thoughts towards all things and all beings, including us!
Self-compassion means we have more understanding and kindness towards ourselves.
This supports taking care of ourselves in a mindful way.
#7 Removes judgement
Mindfulness is about observation, not judgement.
Whereas, dieting is all about “good” and ‘bad” foods, which can make you feel guilty or like a failure when you eat bad foods.
Mindful eating helps you to choose which foods nourish you, with curiosity not shame.
#8 Raises your self-regulation threshold
Daily meditation practice over time raises our ability to manage or self-regulate emotions.
This means you are less likely to react to your emotional changes.
You become more aware that emotional currents come and go of their own accord.
#9 Boosts dopamine
Mindfulness meditation provides a natural high.
The neurotransmitter, dopamine, provides a feeling of wellbeing and joy.
A chocolate bar might boost your dopamine levels, but then a couple of hours later you come crashing down, and the cravings for more start again.
Meditation helps sustain feelings of contentment for longer, without the highs and lows.
If you would like to know more about how mindful eating could assist you
I offer these calls for free, as I know you have probably tried multiple diets and programs already.
The Eating for You approach is not a quick fix.
It is a lifelong solution.