Study reveals strategy for healthy eating you might not have considered.
Much has been written about the positive benefits of mindfulness — the idea that you bring an awareness to the present moment and identify emotions as you feel. them. But could the habit also benefit physical well-being by reduc-ing obesity and, by extension, the risk for heart disease?
That’s what Eric Loucks, an assistant professor of epi-derniology at Brown Univer-sity, hopes to prove. In a recent study, Loucks found that people who live in the moment’tend to have less body fat.
In a related study, he developed a framework for studying whether mindful-ness intervention could help mitigate cardiovascular risks such as smoking, high blood pressure, sedentary lifestyle and poor diet.
Loucks believes that because early humans had to hunt and gather their food, our brains are designed to eat as much as we can out of a subliminal concern that we don’t know when we’ll get more. Also, because the hunt-ing and gathering required so much physical exertion, we’re also programmed to rest when we can, hence the aversion we sometimes feel toward exercise.
“However, the human brain and sense organs have not had evolutionary time to change responses to these types of sense cues,” Loucks wrote in his study. So, he concluded, eating healthier and exercising more require thought and self-regulation.
Loucks studied nearly 400 people, and measured their body composition as well as their mindfulness disposi-fion using a I5-question sur-vey that explored such issues as “I find it difficult to stay focused on what’s happening in the present” and “I could be experiencing some er110- -don and not be conscious of it until some time later.”
ith low levels of mindfulness on the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS) were 34 percent more likely to be obese. Those people also held a pound more of fat in their bellies.
“My hypothesis is that for those who are more aware of their thoughts around eating they might start to notice neg-ative emotions around diet if there are excess amounts consumed. They might also notice hovv they feel better when they are more physi-cally active,” Loucks said.
Many of us have positive, celebratory associations with high-fat, sugary foods from childhood. But what if before ‘inclulgir. ig in the office birthday cake, you stopped and asked yourself why you want to eat it. Is it a craving, is it emotional? Then you can ask yourself if you want to eneage that.
Sometimes you’ll decide that, -yes, I just really want that cake right now. Oth.er times, reali.ze no, I don’t really need it. Either way, you’ll be making the decision xnind-fully and with intention.
In the subsequent study on heart disease .b:iggers, Loucks suggests that teaching people three central tenets of mind-fulness — attention control, emotion regulation and self-awareness — could change behaviors and, thus, improve cardiovascular health.
By COLBY ITKOWITZ Washington Post Nov 2, 2015