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Score One for Mindfulness

Google Trends - MindfulnessThe concept of mindfulness has tremendous momentum in popular culture. So naturally, we are skeptical when fans suggest that it’s the answer to all our woes in obesity. But a new study published in the October issue of Obesity makes it pretty clear that incorporating mindfulness principles into behavioral therapy for weight loss and maintenance can yield better outcomes.

In a randomized, controlled study people lost more weight and regained less weight when they received acceptance-based behavioral therapy (ABT). Specifically, people in the ABT group lost 13% of their weight, compared to 10% lost by folks in the standard treatment group. And they were more likely (64%) to maintain at least a 10% weight loss than the people who received standard care (49%).

Lead author Evan Forman explained that ABT helps people focus on personal values and reasons for wanting to make changes in their lives, rather than picking a number on the scale:

We emphasize the point, “Why does this matter?” “We get at the bigger idea of what people want in life, and how is weight related to that?

So many of the decisions we make around eating have no explicit thought process behind them. We emphasize mindful decision-making.

In a commentary, Tom Wadden and Bob Berkowitz hailed these findings. They also noted the need to replicate and translate these results into broader practice:

The weight loss for ABT is among the largest ever reported in the behavioral treatment literature, in the absence of using an aggressive diet or weight loss medication. We applaud these exciting results, which extend findings from the authors’ prior randomized trial.

The present finding of the superiority of ABT must be replicated by other laboratories before ABT can be considered a reliable means of increasing weight loss with SBT.

Mindfulness is already a concept that many dietitians and other healthcare professionals incorporate into obesity care. These results signal the potential for incorporating mindfulness into a higher standard of care for obesity.

The prospects for better outcomes is encouraging.

Click here for the study, here for the commentary, and here for more from HealthDay.

Fade In, photograph © Harry Koopman / flickr

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October 1, 2016

2 Responses to “Score One for Mindfulness”

  1. October 01, 2016 at 4:40 pm, Stephen Phillips said:

    Being mindful, in a world in which “instant gratification is not fast enough”, is a sound behavioral principle. Mindful eating has become the “buzz” in the weight-loss community. Anyone that has successfully been able to lose a substantial amount and never find it again….regardless of how they lost it ….has done so with mindful eternal vigilance. Utilizing ABT treatment or SBT…or any other intervention …the proof is in the pudding …it is not how you lost the weight or how much you lost, but how have you been able to sustain it…forever. This research was based on a 12 month trial. Being mindful in assessing weight-loss interventions requires patience and the test of time.

    Stephen Phillips
    American Association of Bariatric Counselors

  2. October 02, 2016 at 12:18 am, Walter Medlin MD FACS said:

    So glad to see evidence that Mindfulness really does have value beyond the hype! It really changed my life. So many of us have emotional suffering beyond the disease – as speakers at YWM pointed out – the bias is worse than the disease for many. Quality of life is the goal for most, but we measure outcomes in pounds alone… Thanks, Ted – for highlighting and giving perspective.