Mind What You Eat: It Works!

Obese individuals often struggle to lose weight, and once they do, sustaining the weight loss is very difficult.

Obese individuals often struggle to lose weight, and once they do, sustaining the weight loss is very difficult.

Two factors work against them: psychological stress and reward-driven eating, which manifests as food preoccupation, no control over eating, and never feeling satisfied.

Mindfulness can address these two roadblocks by focusing on reducing stress, improving self-regulatory control, and promoting awareness of hunger and satiety cues.

The journal Appetite examined these two roadblocks in a study called Supporting Health by Integrating Nutrition and Exercise (SHINE).

The authors conducted a 5.5 month randomized controlled trial in which participants received exercise and diet intervention, some with mindfulness training and some without.

Mindfulness training promotes awareness of hunger and satiety. It addresses emotions, physical hunger, stomach fullness, taste satisfaction, food cravings, and other eating triggers. This helps patients address how to cope with lifestyle changes that promote weight loss by eating smaller portions of food they love, savoring foods, and dealing with stress.

The researchers used intention-to-treat multiple mediation models. They enrolled 194 adults considered obese, with BMIs between 30 and 45.

After 5.5 months of diet, exercise, and mindfulness or stress reduction interventions, the researchers looked at reward-driven eating. At six months, mindfulness participants were significantly less likely to engage in reward-driven eating than controls. At 12 months, they were significantly more likely to have lost weight.

The researchers indicated that decreases in reward-driven eating were responsible for a significant proportion of participants' weight loss.

The effect tapered over time, and at 18 months, the researchers calculated that mindfulness accounted for 23% of the total intervention effect, despite similar weight loss at 12 months.

Researchers continued to look for potent targets that may be responsive to interventions and will help patients lose weight and keep it off.

The authors concluded that an exercise and diet intervention with mindfulness training might decrease reward-driven eating and promote weight loss.