Can mindfulness really help with that extra weight?
Recent research has concerned itself with the potential benefits of meditation and mindfulness practices, as more and more people become interested in exploring this avenue that claims to help free your mind of intrusive thoughts, make you calmer, and improve your willpower.
Over the past few months, Medical News Today have covered a number of studies showing that meditation has various benefits for both mental and physical health. Mindfulness practices can enhance resilience and focus, help to reduce stress, increase energy, and protect against heart disease, to name but a few reported benefits.
Now, researchers at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, have published a systematic review of studies that have looked into how mindfulness can help people to lose excess weight and avoid a rebound.
Kimberly Carrière, Prof. Bärbel Knäuper, and Bassam Khoury's analysis revealed that mindfulness training is a useful approach when it comes to improving long-term dietary practices.
Carrière, a doctoral student in Prof. Knäuper's Health Psychology Lab at McGill University, says that the team's findings "highlight the potential of using mindfulness training to support weight loss."
Mindfulness 'largely effective' for diet
The team analyzed 19 studies (totaling 1,160 participants between them) focused on mindfulness and its relevance to weight loss. These studies were all conducted in the past 10 years.
In the research that they looked at, "mindfulness" referred to one of three approaches: formal meditation practice, casual mindfulness training targeting eating habits, and a combination of meditation and mindfulness strategies.
It was found that, across the board, mindfulness was "moderately to largely effective in reducing weight loss and improving obesity-related eating behaviours."
Although mindfulness interventions were not as effective in the short-term as regimes based only on dietary changes and exercise — which yielded better immediate outcomes — the researchers noted that participants who practiced some form of mindfulness beneftted from more stable long-term results.
In the first instance, mindfulness practitioners lost 3.3 percent of body weight, compared to the 4.7 percent weight loss experienced by the participants who only dieted and exercised.
However, at follow-up evaluations after several weeks from the interventions, participants who used mindfulness techniques continued to shed excess pounds steadily, bringing their mean weight loss to 3.5 percent.
Conversely, participants who did not engage in mindfulness did not lose further weight, and many even regained some of the pounds that they had successfully shed.
Still, the research team acknowledge that they faced a number of limitations, including the heterogeneity of methods employed across the studies they analyzed, the lack of "a validated measure of mindfulness" in some of these projects, and the problematic amalgamation of "clinical (e.g. binge eaters) and non-clinical populations."
Despite the shortcomings, the scientists declare the findings "encouraging" and are now interested in seeing how mindfulness-based interventions could be effectively added to dedicated weight loss programs to enhance the benefits afforded by these initiatives.
"We recommend that further research investigate how integrating mindfulness training into lifestyle-change programs improves weight loss maintenance," says Carrière.