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Globesity Prevention: Eating Mindfully


Published: 06 March 2017

Cover image for article: Globesity Prevention: Eating Mindfully

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.’

(WHO 2017)

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.

mindful eating

Some considerations for mindful 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:

  • Non-judgmental
  • 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’.

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Portrait of Madeline Gilkes
Madeline Gilkes

Madeline Gilkes, CNS, RN, is a Fellow of the Australasian Society of Lifestyle Medicine. She focused her master of healthcare leadership research project on health coaching for long-term weight loss in obese adults. In recent years, Madeline has found a passion for preventative nursing, transitioning from leadership roles (CNS Gerontology & Education, Clinical Facilitator) in hospital settings to primary healthcare nursing. Madeline’s vision is to implement lifestyle medicine to prevent and treat chronic conditions. Her brief research proposal for her PhD application involves Lifestyle Medicine for Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. Madeline is working towards Credentialled Diabetes Educator (CDE) status and primarily works in the role of Head of Nursing. Madeline’s philosophy focuses on using humanistic management, adult learning theories/evidence and self-efficacy theories and interventions to promote positive learning environments. In addition to her Master of Healthcare Leadership, Madeline has a Graduate Certificate in Diabetes Education & Management, Graduate Certificate in Adult & Vocational Education, Graduate Certificate of Aged Care Nursing, and a Bachelor of Nursing. See Educator Profile

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