Eat mindfully for weight loss that lasts, studies suggest

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In our complex, fast-paced world, mindfulness meditation and similar techniques have been recommended to reduce stress, enhance immunity, boost learning, increase productivity and more. New research suggests an important addition to the list: At least three recent studies have suggested that mindful eating can improve weight loss efforts and combat obesity.

Mindfulness may work, the papers propose, because it strengthens the weakest link in most diets: The adherence or compliance problem. Many people can lose roughly 5 per cent of their weight by strictly following a weight loss program for three to six months. But then the tide inevitably turns, and the pounds return. It’s maintaining weight loss that presents the biggest obstacle.

The regain happens in part for metabolic and hormonal reasons, but mainly because few can follow restrictive eating patterns for long. As with New Year’s resolutions that last a month or two, most people return to their former habits. They stop adhering to the plan.

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Counting calories is not the key to weight loss, new study finds

In the journal Current Obesity Reports, nutritionist Carolyn Dunn and colleagues from North Carolina State University performed the first review of research papers on mindful eating and weight loss. “All studies showed weight loss results” with mindful eating, they reported. In addition, four of five studies over a follow-up period found continued weight loss. The expected regain occurred in only one of the five studies.

The review concluded, “Increased mindful eating has been shown to help participants gain awareness of their bodies, be more in tune to hunger and satiety, recognize external cues to eat, gain self compassion, decrease food cravings, decrease problematic eating, and decrease reward-driven eating.”

Dunn has been part of an “Eat Smart, Move More” educational campaign begun in North Carolina in 2002. Its mission is to help residents fight obesity with evidence-backed information and action plans.

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