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Mindfulness-based eating strategies may increase 6-month weight loss

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December 18, 2018

Adults with obesity who attended group sessions teaching mindfulness-based eating techniques lost an average of 2.85 kg more than similar adults who attended group classes without mindful eating strategies, according to findings published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Petra Hanson

“Our study has shown that mindfulness techniques can improve eating behavior and facilitate weight loss in patients with obesity attending specialist weight management service,” Petra Hanson, MBChB, MRCP, AFHEA, a clinical research fellow at Clinical Sciences Research Laboratories, University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire, U.K., told Endocrine Today. “Mindfulness taught in such a setting can also improve patients’ confidence and ability to manage weight in the long term. It is a very scalable intervention that can be applied to everyone.”

In an observational study, Hanson and colleagues analyzed data from 33 adults with obesity (BMI > 35 kg/m²) newly referred to a weight management service at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire, recruited between October 2016 and August 2017 (26 women; mean age, 44 years). Participants attended four 90-minute group sessions delivered over 8 weeks in which mindfulness-based eating strategies were taught. Group sessions were designed and delivered jointly by dietitians and a psychologist, with behavior change as the primary focus. Themes of sessions included biological drivers of weight loss, differences between “mindful” and “mindless” eating behaviors, self-critical thought patterns and coping strategies, and compassionate planning and management of relapse.

Participants were encouraged to practice new mindfulness-based strategies between group sessions. Researchers assessed self-reported eating behavior and body weight at baseline and at completion of attendance at the group sessions and compared progress with 33 control patients who had undergone similar group sessions without mindfulness techniques.

Researchers found that participants in the mindfulness-based eating strategies group experienced greater mean weight loss vs. controls at 8 weeks (3.1 kg vs. 0.21 kg), with a between-group difference of 2.85 kg (P = .036).

Among participants in the mindfulness-based group, researchers also observed a 4% improvement in overall self-reported eating style (P = .009) between assessments at baseline and follow-up.

“Patients who attended [a] mindfulness course lost significantly more weight (2.85 kg) than patients who didn’t,” Hanson said. “Such intervention can be applied not only to improve the effectiveness of specialist weight management programs, but also more widely to tackle the problem of unhealthy lifestyle.”

Hanson said the findings suggest possible use for the intervention as a way to increase physical activity.

“Physical activity is extremely important in healthy weight management, but most people struggle to achieve the recommended amount,” Hanson said. “Mindfulness training could be used to increase physical activity and thus further facilitate weight loss. This has never been evaluated.”

The results follow findings from similar studies that also focused on mindful eating strategies. In findings from a randomized controlled trial published in Obesity in March 2016 and reported by Endocrine Today, researchers found that adults with obesity randomly assigned to a mindfulness intervention program — including sitting meditation, yoga and mindful eating practices — saw greater improvements in both fasting glucose and triglyceride levels than adults in a standard weight-loss intervention program. – by Regina Schaffer

For more information:

Petra Hanson, MBChB, MRCP, AFHEA, can be reached at Clinical Sciences Research Laboratories, University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire, Clifford Bridge Road, Coventry, CV2 2DX, United Kingdom; email: drpetrahanson@gmail.com.

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.