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Could mindfulness be the key to maintaining your optimal weight?

Studies suggest being more aware of our bodies could help put an end to eating out of habit

By Shannon Wilson, 29 March 2016
Could mindfulness be the key to maintaining your optimal weight?

Mindfulness has had something of a renaissance in the last couple of years. With the increasing popularity of mindful colouring books, step-by-step guides and meditation apps such as The Mindfulness App, there’s no chance of this craze going away any time soon. And now studies are suggesting that it may be the key to another hotly debated issue: successful weight management.

Mindfulness addresses emotions and relationships with food and tackles the fact that so much of what we do is out of habit

Mindfulness refers to the act of focusing on the present moment and all the sensations that go with it, in the hope that this will help to release feelings of stress. A big part of this includes focusing intently on your body’s senses, such as taste, smell, touch and emotion, so it stands to reason that this may help with weight management.

Dutch researchers at Wageningen University carried out a number of studies in order to test this theory – and the results were interesting. Published in the Journal of Consumer Research, they fed the participants milkshakes, some with a very creamy consistency, before offering them chocolates. They found that those with a natural ability to be mindful seemed to be able to stop eating when they were full, whereas those without chose to eat the chocolates even when they had consumed the creamier (and therefore more filling) milkshake. They also found that when they analysed data on more than 400 people who had undergone regular weigh-ins over two and a half years that weight fluctuated less in the more mindful people. 

The studies suggest that by listening to and becoming more in tune with our bodies, we are more capable of noticing our body’s hunger signals and the signs of being full, hence stopping us overeating out of habit or for comfort.

Obesity expert Dr Ian Campbell, a Nottingham GP and weight loss expert, supports this view having experienced success with mindfulness with his clients.  He said: ‘Just telling people to eat less and exercise more doesn't tend to work. We have incorporated mindfulness into our weight loss programme and the results have been fantastic. It addresses emotions and relationships with food and tackles the fact that so much of what we do is out of habit.’

Another good reason to give mindfulness a go! If you're looking for some inspiration, why not take a look at our round-up of the 8 Best Meditation Apps to Calm Your Mind, or our Best Colouring Books for Adults selection?