Can Mindfulness Reduce Obesity?
Are you the type of person that lives in the moment?
If so, then get ready for some good news. New research from Brown University has linked mindfulness with a lower risk of obesity.
I feel the need to clear up a common misconception. Mindfulness is not meditation. And meditation isn’t necessarily mindfulness.
Yes, the two are related. But you can have one without the other. The problem is that the two words get thrown around interchangeably in the media.
Being mindful means being in the present moment. You focus attention on current experiences and sensations. This is where mindfulness meditation gets its name. Mindfulness meditation is the most popular, but there are many other forms of meditation.
Eric Loucks is an assistant professor who was the lead author on the study. Here’s what he says about the subjects:
“This is everyday mindfulness. The vast majority of these people are not meditating.”
Living Day to Day
The findings from Eric and his research team were published in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine.
Their study looked at over 390 people. However, these people weren’t just pulled off the streets to measure their level of obesity and mindfulness.
The subjects were a part of the New England Family study. They had been tracked since childhood on a number of lifestyle factors. This made them great candidates to track measures of health and well-being over the course of their lives.
Eric and his team tested them on a scale of mindfulness and measured belly and hip fat. They also recorded other lifestyle factors, body mass index, and demographics.
They found that people who were not obese as children – but became obese in adulthood – were much more likely to score low on the mindfulness scale. On average, they had more than a pound of belly fat than people who scored high on mindfulness.
From a numbers point of view, those who scored lower on mindfulness were 34% more likely to be obese than those who scored higher.
The Mindfulness Connection
Like many studies of this kind, the connection between obesity and mindfulness is only an association. The scientists can’t prove that mindfulness causes lower risk of obesity.
But it does make one wonder what is really going on. What is the actual link between the two?
The Eric and his team believe that mindfulness may be the cognitive tool used to overcome our evolutionary instincts. For our ancestors consuming calories was a necessity. But in today’s sedentary world of abundance it can backfire.
“That’s where the mindfulness may come in. Being aware of each and every moment and how that’s related to what we do and how we feel.”
There is also evidence from other research showing how mindfulness has beneficial health outcomes.
It has shown that it can help in reducing cravings, smoking, and eating healthier diets. It has also been linked to resilience which can help reduce stress.
Eric’s next stage of research will focus whether mindfulness can help people stick to medically prescribed fitness and diet plans.
So is it possible to increase your mindfulness?
Yes, mindfulness can be taught and trained.
The most obvious way is through – you guessed it – mindfulness meditation. However, you can even learn to practice mindfulness through simple routines such as washing dishes.
Mindfulness research and its effects on cravings and diet is still in its infancy. But the results look hopeful.