You know how they say when something sounds too good to be true it usually is? Well that means that sometimes it isn’t, too. And it turns out that’s the case in what has to be the easiest way to lose weight ever… thinking it away.
According to research conducted at North Carolina State University simply paying closer attention to eating—a process researchers call “mindfulness”—can help us beat the battle of the bulge.
The study, presented at this year’s European Congress on Obesity in Portugal found that making an effort to focus on eating, without distractions, helped dieters shed significantly more weight.1
Mindful eaters lost 583% more weight!
For the randomized controlled trial 80 volunteers were divided into an intervention group—those who received the mindfulness training—and a wait list control group.
Those in the intervention group received training on mindful eating from a live instructor at the same time every week by computer or smart phone.
The volunteers were taught…
- To pay close attention to their feelings of hunger and fullness
- To plan out meals and snacks
- To make eating a singular activity without distractions such as reading or TV
- To pay special attention to how food tastes (including indulging in one or two bites of higher calorie foods and savoring the flavors)
At the end of the 15 week weight-management program the volunteers who had learned how to mindfully eat had lost significantly more weight. In fact, the mindful eating folks lost 4.2 pounds compared to just 0.7 in the control group, a difference of well over 500% more.
Why mindful eating can help us lose weight
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a connection between mindful eating and weight control either. While we still have a lot to learn on the topic earlier studies have found that learning to focus on eating can help with eating disorders and weight loss.
In another randomized controlled study 150 volunteers who were binge eaters (an eating disorder where folks eat large amounts of food in short periods of time) were divided into three groups. One group learned mindfulness eating techniques, one was given standard psychological treatment and the third group served as a control.
Both the mindful eating techniques and the standard treatment helped reduce binging and episodes of depression. But the mindful eating folks reported enjoying their food more, and they appeared to have less of a struggle with controlling their binging behaviors.2
Another study, published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, revealed how mindful eating can be used to manage our weight, including when eating out in restaurants.3 Volunteers were randomly assigned to an intervention group who received mindfulness training or a control group.
The folks who received the training lost significantly more weight, ate fewer calories and were able to manage their weight easier when dining out, than the control group.
Why mindful eating may lead to weight loss
When you eat digesting your food involves a series of hormonal signals. It typically takes your brain around 20 minutes to process all of these messages and decide you’re full. Which means if you’re eating quickly because you’re distracted and not paying attention to your food, it’s easy to overeat long before you realize you’ve had enough.
Then, to make matters worse, experts believe that distracting activities such as watching TV or surfing the internet while you eat can literally slow down the digestion process. Which means it could take longer for the “I’m full” message to be triggered. Plus poor digestion may lead to you not reaping all the nutritional benefits of the foods you eat, kicking off cravings and overeating too.
Making mindful eating work for you
The best way to put mindful eating to work for you is to start small. Perhaps choose one meal a day to use the technique. When eating that meal take your time, eating slowly and savoring each bite. Make sure to pay close attention to whether or not you still feeling hungry, or if you’re satisfied and can stop eating.
A few tricks that experts recommend that can slow you down while eating, and help you concentrate more on the meal, include…
- Taking small bites and chewing them completely
- Using chopsticks
- As you eat visualizing all the steps it took for the meal to reach your table from growing to harvesting, from shipping to packaging, to cooking
- Eating with your non-dominant hand (righties eat with left, lefties with right)
- Noticing the smell, color and taste of each bite of food
Put this simple, but effective, “think away the weight” technique to work for you and lose more weight starting today.
1. “European Congress on Obesity (ECO2017) – 24th Congress, Porto, May 2017: Abstracts,” Obesity Facts, Vol. 10, Suppl. 1, 2017, DOI:10.1159/isbn.978-3-318-06070-6
2. “Mindfulness-Based Eating Awareness Training (MB-EAT) for Binge Eating: A Randomized Clinical Trial,” Mindfulness, June 2014, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 282–297
3. “The Effect of a Mindful Restaurant Eating Intervention on Weight Management in Women,” J Nutr Educ Behav. 2012 Jan; 44(1): 22–28
She is an advocate of self-education and is passionate about the power of group knowledge sharing, like the kind found right here on HealthierTalk.com. Alice loves to share her views on holistic and natural healing as well as her, sometimes contentious, thoughts on the profit-driven inner workings of traditional medicine.
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