If you mindlessly watch TV, you could easily wind up wasting the entire day. If you mindlessly drive, you could wind up getting lost, or worse. Likewise, mindlessly eating will cause you to gain weight, especially if the food is void of nutrition. The exact opposite is also true, a study found – giving your full attention to the food in front of you can lead to weight loss. 
Carolyn Dunn, a professor and nutrition specialist at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, and a team of colleagues evaluated the effectiveness of increasing mindful eating in an online weight loss program called Eat Smart, Move More, Weigh Less (ESMMWL).
The 15-week program, developed by NC State University and the NC Division of Public Health, uses the concept of “planned behavior” to help participants alter habits that are associated with weight management. Participants are invited to focus on their relationships and interactions with food, including paying attention to how it tastes, tuning into feelings of hunger and fullness, and planning mealtimes and snacks. 
With mindful eating, participants don’t have to give up high-calorie foods. Instead, they are encouraged to take 2 or 3 bites, and “just savor the flavor.” You can eat whatever you want, but there’s one caveat: You must focus on nothing but enjoying your food. 
“For example, if one of us was going to eat a food that has very high calories, we would tell them to eat one or two bites, but to eat those one or two bites with awareness, so they are getting the most pleasure out of those one to two bites.” 
She went on:
“Mindfulness is paying attention to your surroundings, being in the present moment.
Mindful eating is eating with purpose, eating with awareness, eating without distraction, when eating only eating, not watching television or playing computer games or having any other distractions, not eating at our desks.”
Past research shows that the first 2 bites of food provide the most enjoyment, and eating more just leads to more calorie consumption, but not more enjoyment.
Really, mindful eating doesn’t begin at mealtime, it begins before you even start cooking. Mindfulness involves the way you shop for food, and the choices you make in restaurants.
“Are you letting your emotions drive your eating? Are you eating out of fear or depression? Are you letting external cues drive your eating because you are in line in the grocery store and that food is being heavily marketed to us?”
To see what kind of impact mindful eating had on participants’ weight-loss efforts, researchers had them complete a questionnaire, called the Mindful Eating Questionnaire (MEQ), which assesses 5 different areas of mindful eating. 
Those who enrolled in the ESMMWL program were invited to participate in the randomized clinical trial portion of the study. Of the 80 people who agreed to participate, 42 were randomly assigned to the intervention group, and the remaining 38 people were assigned to the control group. 
The researchers found that participants who completed the program lost more weight than those in the control group. On average, the volunteers in the mindfulness group lost 4.2 lbs. compared to 0.7 lbs. in the control group – a result the team called “statistically significant.” 
After 6 months, about 75% of the participants had not regained the weight they lost in the program, and someone even lost additional weight. 
When the control group finally got the opportunity to participate in the program, they saw similar results.
The team concluded:
“Results suggest that there is a beneficial association between mindful eating and weight loss. The current study contributes to the mindfulness literature as there are very few studies that employed rigorous methodology to examine the effectiveness of an intervention on mindful eating.” 
 Pulse Headlines
 The Guardian
||Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.