Raised awareness levels in studies found to improve eating behaviour.
Intensive weight management programs for people with problematic eating behaviour could be improved by introducing mindfulness training.
Researchers from the University of Warwick and the Warwickshire Institute for the Study of Diabetes Endocrinology and Metabolism at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust believe that mindfulness training could provide an effective method for healthcare providers in preventing and managing obesity, and related health complications including type 2 diabetes.
A report of their study looking at how this practice could be used to help individuals with obesity was recently published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
The report found that people who participated in mindfulness training as part of an intensive weight management program lost more weight in six months than other program participants who did not attend mindfulness courses.
The mind-body practice of mindfulness helps people learn how to achieve heightened awareness of their current state of mind and immediate environment in the present moment.
According to the World Health Organization the amount of people who are obese has nearly tripled since 1975. As of 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults worldwide met the criteria for overweight or obesity.
Lead author Dr Petra Hanson, a research fellow and PhD student at University of Warwick and University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire in Coventry NHS Trust, said: “This research is significant as we have shown that problematic eating behaviour can be improved with mindfulness application. We are the first centre in the United Kingdom that created a structured multidisciplinary course incorporating mindfulness and assessed its effectiveness in patients attending obesity clinics.”
The study examined weight loss among 53 people attending a weight management program at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust. Of those, 33 participants took part in mindfulness sessions that included discussions on the difference between mindful and mindless eating and an introduction to Compassionate Mind Therapy, which highlights the need to be aware of self-criticism as well as the importance of self confidence in achieving behaviour change.
Mindfulness course participants lost, on average, 3 kilograms, or about 6.6 pounds, in the six-month period following the classes. Individuals who only attended one or two of the four courses lost, on average, 0.9 kilograms, or nearly 2 pounds, during the same period.
Those who did not complete the course tended to weigh more than those who finished the group mindfulness course.
Those who completed the mindfulness course lost 2.85 kilograms (nearly 6.3 pounds) more, on average, than a control group of 20 individuals who did not participate in the course.
Dr Hanson added: “Surveys of the participants indicate mindfulness training can help this population improve their relationship with food. Individuals who completed the course said they were better able to plan meals in advance and felt more confident in self-management of weight loss moving forward. Similar courses can be held in a primary care setting or even developed into digital tools. We hope this approach can be scaled up to reach a wider population.”
Dr Thomas Barber, Associate Professor at the University of Warwick and Honorary Consultant Endocrinologist at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust, said: “Mindfulness has huge potential as a strategy for achieving and maintaining good health and wellbeing. With the burgeoning impact of 21st century chronic disease, much of which relates to lifestyle behaviour choices, it is logical that focus should be on enabling the populace to make appropriate lifestyle decisions, and empowering subsequent salutary behaviour change.
“In the context of obesity and eating-related behaviours, we have demonstrated that mindfulness techniques can do just that. Adoption of mindfulness techniques is scalable to the wider population, and as such this strategy could represent a useful expedient to facilitating healthy eating-related and potentially other lifestyle behaviours, as part of population-wide obesity prevention and management.”