Saturday, October 10th, 2009

Regular Yoga and Mindful Eating

August 8, 2009 by Wil Reagan  
Filed under Fitness

We all hear to eat mindfully rather than emotionally. And though sometimes it can be difficult, mindful eating is essential to staying fit. In a new research follow-up study at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (prompted by initial reports by Alan Kristal, Dr.P.H. four years ago), they found that regular yoga practice is associated with mindful eating.

Image: istockphoto

Image: istockphoto

“In our earlier study, we found that middle-age people who practice yoga gained less weight over a 10-year period than those who did not. This was independent of physical activity and dietary patterns. We hypothesized that mindfulness – a skill learned either directly or indirectly through yoga -could affect eating behavior,” said Kristal, associate head of the Cancer Prevention Program in the Public Health Sciences Division at the Hutchinson Center.

To test whether yoga in fact increases mindfulness and mindful eating, Kristal and colleagues developed a Mindful Eating Questionnaire, a 28-item survey that measured a variety of factors:

  • disinhibition – eating even when full
  • awareness – being aware of how food looks, tastes and smells
  • external cues – eating in response to environmental cues, such as advertising
  • emotional response – eating in response to sadness or stress
  • distraction – focusing on other things while eating.

Though logic might assume that people maintain/lose weight with yoga because of the physical activity involved, it was found it was more so related to body awareness and the sensitivity to hunger, rather than the physical activity itself. Interestingly, though their was a strong association between yoga practice and mindful eating, there was no association found between other activities (running, walking, etc.) and mindful eating.

“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,” said Kristal, who himself scored high on the mindful-eating survey and has a BMI within the normal range.

This follow-up study was published in the August issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

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