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Focus on Mindful Eating, Not Calorie Counting

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Focus on Mindful Eating, Not Calorie Counting

The temptations of the season are everywhere. But researchers have found that mindful eating and stress reduction techniques can help prevent weight gain.

The temptations of the season are everywhere—shortbreads and rum balls, chocolates and candy canes, cocktails and eggnog. It’s definitely not the time of year to count calories or try to lose weight. But researchers have found that mindful eating and stress reduction techniques can help prevent weight gain—without counting calories.

In a recent study women who were chronically stressed and overweight or obese, were randomly assigned to a mindfulness training group or a control group. Both groups attended a session on healthy eating and exercise.

Mindfulness training

Mindfulness methods developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, were used in this study. The women who learned mindfulness techniques attended nine weekly two and a half hour sessions. They were taught how to

  • reduce stress
  • become aware of their eating habits
  • recognize bodily sensations that influence eating (hunger, fullness, and taste satisfaction)

In the sixth week they attended a seven-hour silent meditation retreat.

Simple technique

Researchers asked the women to

Positive results: reduced stress and fat

After completion of this four-month program, researchers measured the women’s cortisol (stress) levels. They found that the women who reduced their stress the most also lost the most deep belly fat. This type of deep abdominal fat leads to a greater risk of developing diabetes and heart disease.

Researchers found a clear link between changes in body awareness, reduced cortical secretion and stress, and reduced body fat in the meditation group. The control group maintained stable cortisol levels and gained weight.

There’s nothing to stop us from taking a deep breath and tuning into our bodies before we mindlessly consume Christmas goodies. It definitely beats calorie counting!

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