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Mindful eating can help kids too

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Mindfulness based eating training for adolescents

Mindful eating is one important way to lose weight. Eating food for the sake of satisfying our appetite versus eating when we are hungry can lead to weight gain and thwart weight loss attempts. A new pilot study shows mindfulness based eating can also help overweight and obese children.


Based on the small study, it seems children and adolescents exercise more and gain less weight when they become more aware of what they are eating. Mindfulness eating has been encouraged as a way to combat obesity and help adults lose weight also.

Dr. Vernon A. Barnes, physiologist at the Georgia Prevention Institute at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, corresponding author of the study, points out mindfulness based eating would benefit children throughout life.

Simple, safe way to combat childhood obesity

The intervention is safe and inexpensive Barnes added in a media release. It's also simple to learn mindfulness.

The researchers found approximately 20 percent of overweight children in the pilot study were unaware that they were eating too fast and that they felt uncomfortable as a result.

Sixty-percent of the 40 adolescents enrolled in the study reported binge-eating, which was not affected by mindfulness-based eating awareness.

The training that included two groups of ninth graders from six schools in Richmond County, Georgia showed how such a simple training program can help adolescents eat healthier foods, avoid weight gain and exercise more.

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One group attended health classes and other group were taught breathing awareness meditation that focuses on the diaphragm and teaches bodily awareness, in addition to walking meditation and mindful movement.

The mindfulness based eating group were also shown triggers that can lead to overeating. The researchers used chocolate to teach awareness of food satisfaction and taste.

Mindful eating outcome

Teaching kids to be mindful with eating had positive outcomes. The study participants were assessed at 12-weeks and again 3 months later.

The results of the study that is published in the International Journal of Complementary & Alternative Medicine showed:

  • The control group had decreased physical activity
  • The mindfulness based eating training group exercised moderately 1.4 more days per week.
  • Vigorous physical activity increased over time, ending up at 4.3 days per week.
  • Overweight adolescents slowly trended toward weight loss but their peers gained weight.

Barnes points out that it is difficult for adolescents to avoid weight gain because they typically experience multiple growth spurts. The study is good news given the current news that obesity rates have continued to rise worldwide.


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