How Mindfulness Can Impact Weight Loss

By: Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, CSO, LDN; Reboot Nutritionist

Weight loss is top of many people’s minds, especially with the holiday season full of parties, calorie-laden comfort food and abundant alcoholic beverages fast approaching.  Typical weight gain this time of year is at least 5 pounds. Sure, we all know that eating a healthy, plant-based diet and exercise can help us maintain a healthy weight.  But how you eat and your current state of mind can also have a huge impact on your waistline.  Here’s how being mindful may help you lose weight.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a practice of being present in the moment, being aware of thoughts, emotions, or experiences while maintaining a nonjudgmental state. It’s attention without judgment.  Mindfulness is one form of integrative therapies and practices that can offer health and wellness benefits.

Benefits of Mindfulness: Reduced stress, anxiety, depression, promotes happiness, immunity, chronic illness risk reduction, alleviate symptoms like fatigue and pain.  These are just a few of mindfulness’ many benefits.

What about applying mindfulness to healthy eating and weight management?  The research suggests this could be an extremely helpful component to traditional diet and exercise-based weight loss programs.

Pass on Those Sweets, Please!

One study showed that obese participants randomized to receive mindfulness training during a weight loss intervention, had decreased sweet eating and maintenance of fasting blood sugars.

Get Weight Back on Track

Women who undergo treatment for breast cancer may be at risk for unwanted weight gain which can increase risk for recurrence as well as heart disease, diabetes and other cancers. In a weight loss study for women post-breast cancer treatment, African American women in the mindful eating group lost more weight than their counterparts.

More Mindfulness = Less Weight

Women who score higher on mindfulness scales tend to be less likely to be overweight in the first place. In fact, one study showed these more mindful women were 16% less likely to be overweight and 29% less likely to be obese.

Mindfulness and Eating Disorders

Mindfulness, along with cognitive behavioral therapy vs. therapy alone for weight loss, helped to reduce stress-eating and maintain weight loss six months after the study’s intervention ended.  Mindfulness meditation may also help to reduce binge eating and emotional eating.

How exactly does mindfulness help weight loss?

While many studies show positive effects on weight from mindfulness-based practices, a clear mechanism of action remains elusive.  In part because research studies do not necessarily use consistent study methods and design may be weak.  Nonetheless, benefits in a recent systematic review were found in 13 out of 19 studies.

Here’s more ways to help develop mindful eating practices:

  1. Pay attention to your food/juice color, texture, taste, smell and how it makes you feel
  2. Notice what foods you crave when you are experiencing negative emotions
  3. Turn off electronics while eating
  4. Sit down while eating and drinking
  5. CHEW your food and juice
  6. Build a healthy eating map for dining out in your local area

Here are some starter tips for experiencing and integrating mindfulness in your everyday life:

  1. Pick an exercise to improve mindfulness like yoga, breathing exercises, etc.
  2. Set time aside to turn off your phone and other electronic devices and tune into yourself
  3. Arrive to events about 15 minutes early to reduce operational and last-minute stress
  4. Self-soothe by walking, taking a bath, and participating in activities you find relaxing
  5. Try meditation; listen to these audio files to guide you through
  6. Build a healthy community by surrounding yourself with like-minded people
  7. Seek ways to experience balance
  8. Find and create time for a work/life balance
  9. Move away from “all or nothing” mentality
  10. Accept “gray” areas instead of only black and white
  11. It’s okay if you don’t stick to your plan 100% – in fact, being flexible can be healthy
  12. Get right back on track; practice promotes progress
  13. Prepare food ahead of time to make room for fun later in the week
  14. Schedule exercise or movement into your week
  15. Demonstrate self-compassion
  16. Practice being present and living in the moment

Working on balance can promote:

  1. Weight loss and maintenance
  2. Mindfulness and self-awareness
  3. Happiness and healthy living
  4. Improved work/life balance
  5. Ability to reach goals

What are the ways you include mindfulness in your life?

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Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, CSO, LDN; Reboot Nutritionist

Stacy is a Board Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition and an Integrative Nutritionist. She consults for various companies, focusing on health, wellness and innovative strategies to help increase individual’s fruit and vegetable intake. Stacy is an American College of Sports Medicine Certified Health Fitness Specialist; she holds a BS degree in Dietetics from Indiana University, completed her dietetic internship at Massachusetts General Hospital, and earned a Masters in Public Health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a Senior Clinical Nutritionist at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute/Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School teaching affiliates, in Boston, MA, with more than 20 years of experience. Stacy created and now serves as project manager and lead writer for nutrition services content on the Dana Farber website and the affiliated, nationally recognized nutrition app. Stacy is regularly featured on TV, radio, print and social media on behalf of Dana Farber and other organizations. Together with her husband, Dr. Russell Kennedy PsyD, they have a private practice, Wellness Guides, LLC. Stacy is an adjunct professor in Wellness and Health Coaching at William James College, currently teaching a graduate course in Health Coaching. Stacy is featured in the award winning documentary films, “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead” and “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead 2,” and serves on the Reboot with Joe Medical Advisory Board. Stacy lives in Wellesley with her husband, two sons and three dogs. She enjoys cooking, yoga, hiking and spending time with friends and family. Stacy is also one of the nutritionists who runs our Guided Reboot programs.

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