“More and more research points to mindfulness—not certain foods—for weight loss,” ran the Washington Post headline in March.
“Mindful eating means that you tune in to hunger signals so you only eat when you’re hungry and stop eating when you’re satisfied,” says Evan Forman, professor of psychology at Drexel University. “It also teaches people to slow down and to not eat out of boredom or in an automatic, mindless way. And research shows that it seems to be helpful for those people who struggle with binge eating.”
That’s good, but what can people who want to lose weight expect from mindful eating?
What the best research shows about weight loss
In one study, Forman randomly assigned 55 adults with overweight or obesity to one of three groups: a control group that got usual healthy eating advice, a mindful eating group, or a mindful decision-making group.
“Mindful decision-making is about paying close attention to the cues and urges that drive people to eat, and how to make healthier choices in response,” Forman says.
After six weeks, there was no difference in weight loss.
In the largest and longest trial so far, researchers assigned 194 adults with obesity to attend, over 5½ months, 16 training sessions on either diet and exercise alone or combined with mindful eating and stress management. After a year, there was no difference in weight loss. Why not?
“We evolved in a world where food was scarce, so we were wise to eat when food was available,” Forman speculates.
The Bottom Line: If mindful eating helps you, use it. But so far, studies don’t find that it leads to more weight loss.
The information in this post first appeared in the July/August 2018 issue of Nutrition Action Healthletter.
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