Mindfulness training may improve the effectiveness of intensive weight management programmes, suggesting it could be a successful strategy preventing and managing obesity, say researchers.
Individuals who participated in mindfulness training as part of an intensive weight management programme lost more weight in six months than other participants who did not attend courses.
“Similar courses can be held in a primary care setting or even developed into digital tools”
The research involved the University of Warwick and the Warwickshire Institute for the Study of Diabetes Endocrinology and Metabolism at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust.
The trust is first in UK to create a structured multi-disciplinary course incorporating mindfulness and to assess its effectiveness
Mindfulness is a mind-body practice where individuals learn to achieve heightened awareness of their current state of mind and immediate environment in the present moment.
The study, published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, looked at how this practice could be used to help individuals with obesity.
The study examined weight loss among 53 people who were attending the multi-disciplinary tier 3 weight management program at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust.
Among those recruited into the study, 33 participants completed at least three of four mindfulness sessions.
The course included discussions of the difference between mindful and mindless eating as well as an introduction to Compassionate Mind Therapy, which highlights the need to be aware of self-criticism as well as the importance of self confidence in achieving behaviour change.
Mindfulness course participants lost, on average, 3kg, or about 6.6 pounds, in the six-month period following the classes.
Individuals who only attended one or two of the four courses lost, on average, 0.9kg, or nearly 2 pounds, during the same period.
The non-completers tended to weigh more at the outset of the study than those who finished the group mindfulness course, noted the researchers.
Those who completed the mindfulness course lost 2.85kg (nearly 6.3 pounds) more, on average, than a control group of 20 individuals in the tier 3 obesity management program who did not participate in the course.
Lead author Dr Petra Hanson, a research fellow and PhD student, said: “This research is significant as we have shown that problematic eating behaviour can be improved with mindfulness application.
Dr Hanson added: “Surveys of the participants indicate mindfulness training can help this population improve their relationship with food.
“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,” she said.
“Similar courses can be held in a primary care setting or even developed into digital tools,” she said. “We hope this approach can be scaled up to reach a wider population.”
“Mindfulness has huge potential as a strategy for achieving and maintaining good health and wellbeing”
Senior study author Dr Thomas Barber, associate professor at the University of Warwick, said: “Mindfulness has huge potential as a strategy for achieving and maintaining good health and wellbeing.
“With the burgeoning impact of 21st century chronic disease, much of which relates to lifestyle behaviour choices, it is logical that focus should be on enabling the populace to make appropriate lifestyle decisions, and empowering subsequent salutary behaviour change,” he said.
“In the context of obesity and eating-related behaviours, we have demonstrated that mindfulness techniques can do just that,” said Dr Barber.
“Adoption of mindfulness techniques is scalable to the wider population, and as such this strategy could represent a useful expedient to facilitating healthy eating-related and potentially other lifestyle behaviours, as part of population-wide obesity prevention and management,” he added.