Meditation & Health #24 Contents


Weight Loss Through Mindful Eating


By Guan Cheng Ming & Dan Shan


Obesity is one of the most significant threats to health. It is one of the leading causes of chronic illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Public health experts predict that one in five adults worldwide will be obese by 2025 if current trends continue. In the United States, 35 percent of the population is projected to be obese in 2030. Given this alarming rate of increase, methods of weight loss are front and center.

Results of Research

Recently, a team of researchers comprised of Kimberly Carrière, Bärbel Knäuper, Mia Maria Gunak and Bassam Khoury, from McGill University, Harvard University and Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, published a comprehensive study on mindful eating and its effectiveness in managing weight. Through a rigorous selection process, they examined 19 studies out of 2,000 published in journals over the past decade.

• Dieting & Exercising •

The study group which adopted dieting and exercising for weight loss shed an average of 9.6 pounds (which is equivalent to 4.7 percent of their weight prior to the experiment). However, after the study, the average weight regained was 0.8 pounds, an equivalent of 0.4 percent of their original weight. One year after the study ended the group’s weight regained was 30 percent, with half of those returning to their weight prior to the study.

The primary cause of obesity is overeating. According to the researchers, the majority of people find it difficult to control the amount of food they consume as they are unable to differentiate between feeling hungry and full. The negative emotions and stresses we experience in our lives tend to prompt us to overeat as we seek comfort in food. Because dieting and exercising do not address the emotional root cause of overeating,they are often less effective methods of combating obesity.

• Mindful Eating •

Professor Carolyn Dunn from North Carolina State University, together with her colleagues, recently published a study in support of using mindfulness to achieve weight-loss goals.

The participants in the study were told to pay attention to hunger and fullness, plan meals and snacks, focus solely on eating as opposed to eating while doing other tasks, and be aware of the smells and tastes of food. The participants were also taught to have just one or two bites of high-calorie foods only to savor the flavor.

The results showed that the mindful eaters in the study lost more weight than those in the control group. Some of them continued to experience weight loss even after the experiment had ended, an occurrence which is hardly seen with other weight-loss methods.

Effective at encouraging control over eating habits, this mindful approach has been shown to cause weight loss and reduce binge eating. Termed “informal meditation,” mindful eating means we stay aware and focused when we are having our meals throughout the day.

A Winning Combination

Formal meditation refers to taking time off in our daily lives to meditate. It can bring about a deeper change in our eating habits as it heightens self-awareness by getting us to focus on being present. We will be able to differentiate between hunger and fullness and thus refrain from eating when not hungry.

Formal meditation also trains us to be more aware and accepting of the various sensations we experience emotionally and physiologically, while remaining rational and calm. This minimizes our tendency to seek comfort in food when negative emotions arise.

The primary reason that dieting and exercising are often less than effective in helping us to lose weight is that most people are unable to consistently stick to their regime.

For a weight-loss plan that can be sustained, practice formal meditation and supplement it with informal meditation. A combination of both yields the best weight-loss result.

Mindful eating involves regular self-reflection. Before reaching for a snack, consider whether you are hungry or simply seeking emotional comfort. If you really are hungry, make sure to eat slowly and savor each bite. Eating mindfully not only promotes good health, but provides a deeper and more fulfilling sensory experience.

Meditation & Health #24 Contents