Mindfulness and obesity: Pakistan study highlights benefits of ‘intuitive eating’

By Richard Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Researchers suggest mindfulness should be incorporated into weight loss and weight maintenance intervention programmes ©Getty Images
Researchers suggest mindfulness should be incorporated into weight loss and weight maintenance intervention programmes ©Getty Images

Related tags: Obesity, Malaysia, mindfulness

The body of evidence to suggest the benefits of so-called intuitive eating has grown with the recent publication of a study by Pakistani researchers that found mindful eating practices have a positive influence on modifying food consumption and reducing obesity.

The cross-sectional study of university students in Malaysia showed that those who were more aware of what they were eating and how much they consumed had fewer issues with body weight.

The findings suggested that mindfulness should be incorporated into weight loss and weight maintenance intervention programmes.

This approach to dieting is said to be the latest of over 100 health studies that back up the intuitive eating approach to health and weight loss, according to the dietitian who developed the method.

Calorie counting, avoiding carbs and fretting about a growing waistline are not only making people emotionally miserable, but they contribute to many of the health problems previously attributed to overeating, according to an expert on the subject, Evelyn Tribole.

We are born with the ability to do this. It’s a very empowered way to go about taking care of your body. But most importantly, it’s enjoyable. We should take pleasure in our eating and take the morality out of it​,” she told Nutraingredients-Asia.

Tribole published her first book on intuitive eating in 1995 with her partner, Elyse Resch, after watching her clients often regain the weight they had lost after dieting. Backed up by research evidence, she decided to shift the focus from weight-loss to other indicators of wellbeing that can have a profoundly beneficial effect on an individual’s health.

Tribole and Resch developed intuitive eating under the premise that by eating what you want, without applying the universally accepted rules about what to eat, when to eat and how much you eat.

They came up with a list of principles to regulate the process, the first being “reject the diet mentality​”. These fundamentals are part of the training programmes they offer at the Original Intuitive Eating Pros training programmes they operate.

Throw out the diet books and magazine articles that offer you false hope of losing weight quickly, easily, and permanently,” they wrote. “Get angry at the lies that have led you to feel as if you were a failure every time a new diet stopped working and you gained back all of the weight​.”

They also urge intuitive eaters to “honour their hunger​” by recognising when it is time to eat and “make peace with food” by eating the things you like at the right time.

The thing that’s so exciting about this is there so many studies now that show the benefits of intuitive eating​,” she said. “It’s just starting to catch on. It may not be as exciting as the other diets that are out there, but it’s a more empowered way of getting to know your body​.”

She says over 800 health professionals have been trained in the process and practice it in 22 countries. Research has recently been coming out of France, Germany and New Zealand to back up intuitive eating’s principles,  though the largest body of research continues to be from United States.

It is based on the psychological principle of interoceptive awareness, which is key to identifying internal physiological processes related to affective feeling, and by so-doing is a means of integrating bodily sensations, cognitive processes, and emotional feeling.

If you can have pizza whenever you want, the need to eat it becomes less essential over time. Telling yourself you can’t have something, meanwhile, gives it undue power and allure, she believes.

What is happening is it’s been shown to make a difference with what is happening in our bodies and the health benefits are profound​,” she said.

When we listen to the sensations of our body, we have this ability to get in touch with getting all our needs met both physically, like when you’re sleepy, or psychologically because every emotional feeling has a physical sensation​.”

But someone who is “at war with their body​” is not paying attention to these physical and emotional feelings, let alone “honouring what your body’s needs are​,” she added.

 

Source: Pakistan Journal of Nutrition

DOI: 10.3923/pjn.2019.977.982

Mindful eating practice predicts lower body mass index among university students​”

Authors: Salwani Ahmad et al

Related topics: South East Asia, Whole foods, Research

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