A recent study out of the UCSF medical center found that women randomly assigned to a mindfulness intervention or able to maintain their weight better than women assigned to a control group. All participants in the study were given only one meeting that discussed food choices and dietary moderation.
Women in the study who experienced the greatest reduction in stress tended to have the most loss of deep belly fat, the Journal of Obesity reports. To a greater degree than fat that lies just under the skin, this deep abdominal fat is tied to a higher risk of developing heart disease or diabetes, according to an UCSF statement.
“You’re training the mind to notice, but to not automatically react based on habitual patterns – to not reach for a candy bar in response to feeling anger, for example,” said UCSF researcher Jennifer Daubenmier from its Osher Centre for Integrative Medicine.
“If you can first recognise what you are feeling before you act, you have a greater chance of making a wiser decision,” added Daubenmier.
Daubenmier led the study with psychologist Elissa Epel probing how stress and stress hormone cortisol are linked to eating behaviour, fat and health.
The participants were not on calorie-counting diets. Instead, 24 of the 47 chronically stressed, overweight and obese women were randomly assigned to mindfulness training and practice, and the other 23 did not go through this programme.
Although no diets were prescribed, all participants attended one session about the basics of healthy eating and exercise. (emphasis mine)
This may indicate one focused avenue to address obesity and weight loss. If, instead of applying efforts across the board 24 hours a day, we focus in on eating behaviors under times of emotional stress, we may be able to help people control those behaviors that most undermine their attempts to eat healthily. Even without extensive calorie counting or dietary counselling, these women kept themselves from gaining weight.
More on this study can be found here.