People who are naturally more ‘mindful’ are less likely to be obese.
The naturally mindful also have less abdominal fat than those of a more distracted nature.
While being naturally mindful is something that’s part of your personality, it can also be taught.
Dr Eric Loucks, who led the study, said:
“This is everyday mindfulness.
The vast majority of these people are not meditating.”
394 people in the study responded to prompts that probed how mindful they were.
For example, strongly agreeing with both of the statements below suggests low levels of natural mindfulness:
- I find it difficult to stay focused on what’s happening in the present.
- I could be experiencing some emotion and not be conscious of it until some time later.
Mindfulness may stop obesity by making people aware when they are overeating.
It may also help people over the initial aversion to exercising.
Dr Loucks said:
“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.”
Other studies have also shown that greater mindfulness can improve diet and help overcome cravings.
As I wrote in a previous article on food and the mind:
“Eating is so routine that we easily zone out from the experience.
While our minds are wandering, though, our hands are shovelling it in faster and faster.
Studies have shown that people eat more when they are distracted, like when watching TV or talking with friends (Bolhuis et al., 2013).
Unfortunately when not focusing on our food, we tend to eat more and get less enjoyment from it.
This is why one approach that’s used to combat eating disorders and obesity is mindful eating.
This is taking smaller bites and paying more attention to what you are eating.
Not only do people eat less this way, but they also enjoy it more.”
The results of the current study were encouraging but natural mindfulness only had a modest link to weight.
Dr Loucks said:
“Awareness seems to be enough to have a small to medium effect.
Then there is the question of what could we do to increase it.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal International Journal of Behavioral Medicine (Loucks et al., 2015).