The subject of weight loss is hotly debated among advocates of mindful eating or intuitive eating. The core issue revolves around the fact that a focus on weight loss tends to take us away from listening to our internal cues. We worry about what and how much we eat, rather than letting our bodies guide us in what we need. If we’re worrying about our weight, can we really eat mindfully?
Still, the question of whether mindful eating can have a positive impact on body weight continues. The research definitely shows that weight gain may be prevented by mindful eating (unless weight gain is a part of getting healthier for some people) but the jury’s still out on whether it produces weight loss. At Green Mountain, we frequently see our participants achieve weight loss success as a result of our non-diet healthy living program for women that has mindful eating at its core. But we haven’t done any studies in a long time, and it’s hard to chime in on a scientific debate using anecdotal evidence.
Last month, however, a study was published that supports our anecdotal evidence. Researchers in Italy found that using hunger as the signal to eat did lead to significant weight loss over a five-month period among “overweight” people. The “normal weight” people in the study stayed at their same weight.
I don’t have the original study so can’t elaborate more. But suffice it to say that for those who have a hard time letting go of weight loss as a goal, this study appears to provide support for the idea that using internal cues for eating, e.g., mindful eating, may help them achieve that goal. It would be much, much better if the study showed results from five years instead of five months, but my guess is that weight loss achieved in this manner is likely to be weight loss that lasts if a person continues to eat in response to her body’s cues. That’s the real definition of healthy weight loss.
I still encourage giving up the focus on weight, though. There’s benefit that can be derived from mindful eating that has nothing to do with body size — improved health, less stress, improved productivity, greater happiness.
Not too shabby an outcome any way you look at it.
Has mindful eating made a difference in your life?
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