Mindfulness and weight loss

September 16, 2009


Still on the weight loss front, it is probably the sight of myself in a bikini in the holiday snaps that has made this so much in the forefront of my mind, but here’s another good reason to take up yoga. A study done at a cancer centre has shown that regular yoga practice is associated with mindful eating, and people who eat mindfully are less likely to be overweight.

If you are concerned about middle-age spread, then it seems that regular yoga practice may help prevent it. An earlier study found that middle-age people who practice yoga gained less weight over a 10-year period than those who did not. This was independent of physical activity and dietary patterns and the researchers suspected that the weight-loss effect had more to do with increased body awareness, specifically a sensitivity to hunger and satiety than the physical activity of yoga practice itself.

Mindfulness is a skill learned either directly or indirectly through yoga and it does seem to affect eating behaviour according to the Head of a Cancer Prevention Program.

What does it mean?

Eating mindfully means being aware of why you eat, and stopping eating when full. Non mindful eating occurs when we eat when we are not hungry or in response to anxiety or depression. The way that eating a chocolate from a box is fine, but looking at the box and not remembering you ate them all definitely fits into the concept of mindless eating.

Yoga cultivates mindfulness in a number of ways, such as being able to hold a challenging physical pose by observing the discomfort in a non-judgmental way, with an accepting, calm mind and focus on the breath. This ability to be calm and observant during physical discomfort teaches you how to maintain calm in other challenging situations, such as not eating more even when the food tastes good and not eating when you’re not hungry.


If you want to practice mindfulness around food, try looking at these points when eating:

** awareness – look at your food and observe how it looks, tastes and smells

** emotional response – are you hungry, or eating in response to sadness or stress

** disinhibition – are you continuing to eat even though you are full?

** external cues – have you chosen the food in response to advertising or peer pressure

** distraction – are you just focusing on your food, or on other things like making or taking a phone call or watching TV


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