Almost three weeks since the last post. NO! – meditation and mindfulness research did not come to a sudden standstill. I was abroad, presenting our work at the Research Seminar in Experimental and Neuro-Cognitive Psychology at the Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich. Then I travelled on to Belgium for talks in buddhist groups/centres in Liège and Brussels. While the European leaders were trying to come up with a plan to stabilise Europe’s finances we were meditating in the European Parliament, making wishes that the work done there may yield real benefits for the well-being of the population represented there – and beyond.
But what happened meanwhile at the empirical front?
Mindfulness and obesity
The Journal of Obesity published an exploratory study carried out at the University of California, San Francisco. The study investigated a mindfulness-based eating and stress reduction intervention for overweight/obese women.
After a mindful eating programme that consisted of nine 2.5 hour sessions and one 7 hour retreat day the participants had increased self-reported mindfulness, became more responsive to bodily sensations, reduced their anxiety and ate less in response to external food cues. To be sure that these changes were related to the mindfulness programme, these changes were compared to a control group, who did not show the same improvements. For the paricipants in the mindfulness group who were classed as obese (Body Mass Index between 30 and 40) a signiﬁcant reduction of the cortisol awakening response, an easy, non-invasive measure of chronic stress, was observed. The improvement in self-reported mindfulness and chronic stress and the cortical awakening response was furthermore positvely related to a reduction in abdominal fat. With other words, participants who improved most on these measures, had the largest reduction in abdominal fat.
This study is of high interest as it suggests that mindfulness-based eating interventions may be a useful approach for helping individuals who would like to reduce their weight. We read this study with large interest as we are currently preparing an evaluation study of the mindful eating programme, that was developed in our group. There is, however, a large difference. Our programme targets the general – non-obese – population, as also there a large interest in improving ones relationship to food and eating exists. If you would like to know more about our study or are even living in the Liverpool area and would like to take part, visit www.ljmu.ac.uk/mindfulness to find out more.