Mindful eating has gained some attention in recent years (O’Reilly et al. 2014) and it is not hard to see why when considering the global epidemic of overweight and obesity that the World Health Organization (WHO) refers to as ‘globesity‘ (2017).
The WHO conveys that despite obesity being visible, it is an issue that is neglected. There are concerns that serious health detriments will arise if the issue of obesity is not actioned stat, as obesity is going hand-in-hand with undernutrition (WHO 2017).
Alarmingly, in 1995 there were 200 million obese people worldwide and by the year 2000 there were 300 million (WHO 2017)!
Whilst men are more prone to being overweight, women are more likely to be obese (WHO 2017).
‘Obesity poses a major risk for serious diet-related noncommunicable diseases, including diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and stroke, and certain forms of cancer. Its health consequences range from increased risk of premature death to serious chronic conditions that reduce the overall quality of life.’
Obesity is primarily a social and environmental disease (WHO 2017), and therefore the University of Auckland (New Zealand) aims to uncover socioeconomic, political, cultural and physical contributors to obesity. WHO is also working with Australia’s University of Sydney to establish the economic impact of globesity and global weight-gain.
In Australia alone, 63% of adults and one quarter of children are obese or overweight (AIHW, 2017). People living in remote or ‘outer regional’ Australia are 15% more likely to be overweight or obese than those from Australia’s main cities (AIHW, 2017).
WHO (2016) raises the interesting and unfortunate point that obesity is preventable and ‘most of the world’s population live in countries where overweight and obesity kills more people than underweight.’
O’Reilly et al.’s (2014) review of 21 papers found that 18 of them (86%) indicated that mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) effectively improved eating behaviours such as binge-eating, emotional eating and external eating.
Similarly, Robinson et al.’s (2013) systematic review found that attentive eating can help to influence dietary intake which may assist with weight loss without needing to calorie-count.
Daubenmier et al. found that:
‘Improvements in mindfulness, chronic stress, and CAR (cortisol awakening response) were associated with reductions in abdominal fat. This proof of concept study suggests that mindfulness training shows promise for improving eating patterns and the CAR, which may reduce abdominal fat over time.’
What is Mindful Eating?
Evidently, there is an emerging movement towards mindful eating practices in weight management. But by now, you may be wondering what ‘mindful eating’ actually involves. Lofgren (2015) explains that mindful eating is:
- Accepting of feelings whilst eating or within eating locations
- Self-awareness of cues of hunger and becoming satisfied
- Deciding which foods to eat and amount to eat
- Opting for nutritious and enjoyable foods
- Not performing other activities whilst eating (e.g. sitting down to have a meal instead of eating whilst working)
- Comprehending the repercussions of not adhering to mindful-eating practices (e.g. over-indulgence in unhealthy foods creating potential for weight gain, ill health, or undernutrition)
O’Reilly et al. (2014) express that weight gain and weight regain, post- successfully losing weight, can result from eating behaviours such as binge-eating, emotional eating, external eating, and craving-related eating. ‘A recent study of binge eating in a community sample found that nearly 70% of individuals who engaged in binge eating were obese’ (Grucza, Pryzbeck & Cloninger, 2007 cited in O’Reilly et al., 2014).
Unfortunately, O’Reilly et al.’s (2014) paper suggests that most people lose weight, regain it and end up back at their initial weight or even exceeding it within about five years.
Olson and Emery’s (2014) systematic review also raises the concern that despite 13 of the 19 studies showing weight loss amongst mindfulness intervention participants, it is unclear to what extent these weight loss changes resulted directly from mindfulness.
These researchers (Olson & Emery 2014) put forward that future research is necessary regarding the contributing factors (e.g. biology, psychology) to the relationship between weight loss and mindfulness.
Another field to investigate with further research is why certain people have poorer inhibitory control than others (Hogenkamp et al. 2015).
The study (Hogenkamp et al. 2015) of long-term weight loss in individuals post Roux-en-Y Bypass bariatric surgery, showed a significant number of people struggled with sustainable weight loss. These individuals were found to have less inhibitory control than those participants that managed to sustain weight management following surgery, thus suggesting that cognitive behaviour therapies post- bariatric surgery may aid in sustaining weight management (Hogenkamp et al, 2015). Once more, leading back to the original suggestions that mindful eating may assist in the prevention and/or management of ‘globesity’.
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2017, Overweight and obesity, AIHW, Canberra, ACT, viewed 6 March 2017, http://www.aihw.gov.au/overweight-and-obesity/
- Daubenmier, J, Kristeller, J, Hecht, FM, Maninger, N, Kuwata, M, Jhaveri, K, Lustig, RH, Kemeny, M, Karan, L & E Epel 2011, ‘Mindfulness Intervention for Stress Eating to Reduce Cortisol and Abdominal Fat among Overweight and Obese Women: An Exploratory Randomized Controlled Study’, Journal of Obesity, vol. 2011, no. 651936, viewed 6 March 2017, https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jobe/2011/651936/
- Hogenkamp, PS, Sundbom, M, Nilsson, VC, Benedict, C & Schiöth, HB 2015, ‘Patients Lacking Sustainable Long-Term Weight Loss after Gastric Bypass Surgery Show Signs of Decreased Inhibitory Control of Prepotent Responses’, PLoS ONE, vol. 10, no. 3, pp 1-8, viewed 6 March 2017, http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article/file?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0119896&type=printable
- Lofgren, IE 2015, ‘Mindful Eating: An Emerging Approach for Healthy Weight Management’, American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, vol. 9, no. 3, pp. 212-216, viewed 6 March 2017, http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1559827615569684
- Olson, KL & Emery, CF 2014, ‘Mindfulness and weight loss: a systematic review’, Psychosomatic Medicine, vol. 77, no. 1, pp. 59-67, viewed 6 March 2017, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25490697
- O’Reilly, GA, Cook, L, Spruijt-Metz, D & Black DS 2014, ‘Mindfulness-based interventions for obesity-related eating behaviours: a literature review’, Obesity Reviews, vol. 15, no. 6, 453-61, viewed 6 March 2017, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24636206
- Robinson, E, Aveyard, P, Daley, A, Jolly, K, Lewis, A, Lycett, D & Higgs, S 2013, ‘Eating attentively: a systematic review and meta-analysis of the effect
of food intake memory and awareness on eating’, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 112, viewed 6 March 2017, http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2013/02/25/ajcn.112.045245.full.pdf
- World Health Organisation 2016, Overweight and obesity, WHO, Geneva, viewed 6 March 2017, http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs311/en/
- World Health Organisation 2017, Nutrition: Controlling the global obesity epidemic, WHO, Geneva, viewed 6 March 2017, http://www.who.int/nutrition/topics/obesity/en/