Mind­ful­ness ‘has huge po­ten­tial’ as a weight loss strat­egy

Business Day (Nigeria) - - HEALTH BUSINESS & LIFE - Culled­frommed­i­cal­news To­day

As the hol­i­day sea­son draws to a close, many of us may be strug­gling with the ex­tra weight we put on dur­ing ex­ten­sive, food-filled cel­e­bra­tions with fam­ily and friends. Can mind­ful­ness tech­niques come to our aid in get­ting rid of those ex­tra pounds?

Ac­cord­ing to anec­do­tal ev­i­dence and some ex­ist­ing re­search, mind­ful­ness tech­niques can help a per­son main­tain or im­prove their phys­i­cal and men­tal well­be­ing.

For ex­am­ple, mind­ful­ness can re­duce symp­toms of anx­i­ety and en­hance cog­ni­tive func­tion­ing, and it may even im­prove a per­son’s im­mune re­sponse.

The prin­ci­ple be­hind mind­ful­ness is very sim­ple: One has to be fully present in the mo­ment, fo­cus­ing at­ten­tion on ex­ter­nal stim­uli and their ef­fects on the body and mind, learn­ing to con­comi­tantly ac­knowl­edge and dis­miss un­nec­es­sary thoughts.

Thus, learn­ing mind­ful­ness tech­niques can help us tone down the ef­fects of stress and re­gain more en­joy­ment in present ex­pe­ri­ences.

Re­cently, re­searchers have sug­gested that mind­ful­ness can also aid a per­son in their weight loss ef­forts.

A new study from the Univer­sity Hos­pi­tals Coven­try and War­wick­shire Na­tional Health Ser­vices Trust in the United King­dom — in col­lab­o­ra­tion with other clin­i­cal and re­search in­sti­tu­tions — con­firms these and sim­i­lar find­ings.

“This re­search is sig­nif­i­cant, as we have shown that prob­lem­atic eat­ing be­hav­iour can be im­proved with mind­ful­ness ap­pli­ca­tion,” says the study’s first au­thor, Petra Han­son, a re­search fel­low and doc­toral stu­dent at the War­wick­shire In­sti­tute for the Study of Di­a­betes En­docrinol­ogy and Me­tab­o­lism at Univer­sity Hos­pi­tals Coven­try and War­wick­shire.

Han­son and the team re­port their find­ings in The Jour­nal of Clin­i­cal En­docrinol­ogy and Me­tab­o­lism, which is an En­docrine So­ci­ety pub­li­ca­tion.

‘ En­abling ap­pro­pri­ate lifestyle de­ci­sions’

The re­search team worked with 53 in­di­vid­u­als par­tic­i­pat­ing in a ded­i­cated weight man­age­ment pro­gram at Univer­sity Hos­pi­tals Coven­try and War­wick­shire Na­tional Health Ser­vices Trust.

Of the par­tic­i­pants, 33 took part in at least three of four mind­ful­ness train­ing ses­sions, which taught them to prac­tice mind­ful­ness while eat­ing.

Over the next 6 months, the par­tic­i­pants who had at­tended three or four mind­ful­ness ses­sions lost, on av­er­age, 3 kilo­grams (about 6.6 pounds), while those who had only at­tended one or two mind­ful­ness ses­sions lost an av­er­age of 0.9 kilo­grams (around 2 pounds).

More­over, when com­pared with a con­trol group of 20 par­tic­i­pants who at­tended the same weight man­age­ment pro­gram but no mind­ful­ness ses­sions, the in­di­vid­u­als who had re­ceived com­plete mind­ful­ness train­ing shed an av­er­age of 2.85 kilo­grams (al­most 6.3 pounds) more.

“Sur­veys of the par­tic­i­pants in­di­cate [that] mind­ful­ness train­ing can help this pop­u­la­tion im­prove their re­la­tion­ship with food,” ex­plains Han­son. Mind­ful­ness, she ex­plains, can help peo­ple change and man­age their eat­ing be­hav­iours with more ease.

“In­di­vid­u­als who com­pleted the course said they were bet­ter able to plan meals in ad­vance and felt more con­fi­dent in self-man­age­ment of weight loss mov­ing for­ward,” says Han­son, ad­ding, “Sim­i­lar cour­ses can be held in a pri­mary care set­ting or even de­vel­oped into dig­i­tal tools.”

She ex­presses hope that “[ t] his ap­proach can be scaled up to reach a wider pop­u­la­tion.”

“Mind­ful­ness has huge po­ten­tial as a strat­egy for achiev­ing and main­tain­ing good health and well-be­ing,” com­ments se­nior au­thor Thomas Bar­ber, from the War­wick­shire In­sti­tute for the Study of Di­a­betes En­docrinol­ogy and Me­tab­o­lism.

The re­searcher notes that many press­ing chronic dis­eases are linked, to some ex­tent, with lifestyle be­hav­iours and con­cludes:

“[ The] fo­cus should be on en­abling the pop­u­lace to make ap­pro­pri­ate lifestyle de­ci­sions and em­pow­er­ing sub­se­quent salu­tary be­hav­iour change. In the con­text of obe­sity and eat­ing-re­lated be­hav­iours, we have demon­strated that mind­ful­ness tech­niques can do just that.”

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