Yoga Helps With Weight Loss
Practicing yoga increases body awareness and leads to mindful eating, and this heightened sensitivity can promote weight loss in people who are overweight and prevent weight gain in individuals of normal weight. These findings were reported in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
According to the Center for Mindful Eating, a nonprofit organization, “mindful eating has the powerful potential to transform people’s relationship to food and eating, to improve overall health, body image, relationships and self-esteem.”
People who engage in mindful eating can better achieve weight loss because they can identify mindless eating habits, learn to make choices about their eating based on awareness of hunger and satiety cues, and value quality rather than quantity of food.
The current study, which was conducted by researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, was prompted by results from a previous study in which investigators found that people of healthy weight who practiced yoga regularly were able to prevent middle-age spread while those who were overweight were able to achieve some weight loss. Overall, the middle-age participants in the earlier study gained less weight over a decade than those who did not practice yoga. The investigators wanted to find out why this was so.
To discover whether yoga increases mindful eating and leads to less weight gain and even promotes weight loss, the researchers developed a 28-item Mindful Eating Questionnaire that addressed disinhibition (eating when full), awareness, external cues, emotional response, and distraction. More than 300 people were given the questionnaire: more than 40 percent practiced yoga more than one hour per week, 46 percent walked for at least 90 minutes per week, and more than 50 percent engaged in more than 90 minutes of moderate or strenuous physical exercise per week.
Body weight of the participants was within normal range, and the body mass index (BMI) was lower among people who practiced yoga as compared with those who did not. The researchers observed a relationship between higher scores on the mindfulness questionnaire and a lower BMI, which indicates that mindful eating may have an important role in long-term weight maintenance. People who eat mindlessly - those who eat when they are depressed or anxious or when they are not hungry - are likely to weigh more or to gain weight. The researchers discovered a strong association between practicing yoga and mindful eating, but this relationship did not exist between other types of activities, such as running or walking, and mindful eating.
According to Alan Kristal, DrPH and associate head of the Cancer Prevention Program in the Public Health Sciences Division at the Hutchinson Center, “Mindful eating is a skill that augments the usual approaches to weight loss, such as dieting, counting calories and limiting portion sizes. Adding yoga practice to a standard weight-loss program may make it more effective.”
The investigators believe the Mindful Eating Questionnaire, which is the first tool of its kind ever developed to measure mindful eating, may prove helpful for clinicians to better understand and encourage healthy eating habits and weight loss efforts in their patients.
Center for Mindful Eating
Framson et al. Journal of the American Dietetic Association 2009; Aug; 109(8): DOI:10.1016/j.jada.2009.05.006