Mindfulness training may improve the effectiveness of intensive weight management programmes, helping people shed the extras kilos more effectively, scientists say. The research, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, suggests that it could be an excellent strategy for healthcare providers in preventing and managing obesity.
Individuals who participated in mindfulness training as part of an intensive weight management programme lost more weight in six months than other programme participants who did not attend mindfulness courses.
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 looked at how this practice could be used to help individuals with obesity.
Obesity worldwide has nearly tripled since 1975, according to the World Health Organisation. As of 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults worldwide met the criteria for overweight or obesity.
"This research is significant as we have shown that problematic eating behaviour can be improved with mindfulness application. We are the first centre in the United Kingdom that created a structured multidisciplinary course incorporating mindfulness and assessed its effectiveness in patients attending obesity clinics," said Petra Hanson, PhD student at the University of Warwick in the UK.
The study examined weight loss among 53 people who were attending the multidisciplinary 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, three kilograms in the six-month period following the classes. Individuals who only attended one or two of the four courses lost, on average, 0.9 kilograms 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. Those who completed the mindfulness course lost 2.85 kilograms more, on average than a control group of 20 individuals in the tier 3 obesity management program who did not participate in the course.
"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," said Hanson.
"Similar courses can be held in a primary care setting or even developed into digital tools. We hope this approach can be scaled up to reach a wider population," he said.
"Mindfulness has huge potential as a strategy for achieving and maintaining good health and wellbeing," he added.
(With inputs from agencies.)