Mindfulness and Weight Management
10th March 2021
Studies have shown that the practice of Mindfulness can be a useful tool in weight management and maintenance. Defined as the awareness and non-judgemental acceptance of one's moment-to-moment experience (Keng, Smoski and Robins 2013), developing a mindful practice - particularly around food - can help us to cultivate a positive relationship with food, of which weight management is a positive side effect.
Developing a 'mindful eating' practice benefits both psychologically and physically. First, it can help us to address emotional eating. If we have a poor relationship with food, the act of eating can often result in negative emotions such as guilt and shame - for example if we feel we are 'overeating' or currently using emotionally charged language around what we eat, such as 'good' or 'bad' foods.
By practicing mindful eating, and engaging fully with the experience of eating, paying attention to what we are eating and why, we can untangle these unhelpful thoughts that surround the act of eating and begin the journey of repairing our relationship with food. This, in turn, can result in more effectively managing weight not as a direct result but as a by-product of being more mindful around food.
Mindfulness can also help by influencing physical processes within our bodies. Increased levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol, are associated with increased body fat around the stomach (Pascoe et al 2017) - often a risk factor for conditions such as type 2 diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease. The practice of mindfulness has been shown to reduce levels of stress hormones produced in the body (O'Leary, O'Neill and Dockrey 2015) which can, in turn, result in lower amounts of abdominal fat.
Here is a mindful practice for you to try at home today. Remember - a successful mindfulness practice takes practice and patience - there is no right or wrong way, and there is no judgement within the self:
Choose one meal per day to practice by doing the following:
- Eat more slowly
- Chew food thoroughly
- Focus on how good it makes you feel
- Eat in silence
- Eat without distraction.
You are now a mindfulness practitioner.
Placement Health Psychologist Student