How Can Mindfulness Help Treat Obesity?

With the steady rise in obesity rates there is a greater need for more effective approaches to treatment than ever before. The breadth of current research on embodied cognition and the mind-body connection presents an opportunity for the psychological community. We have come to understand that not only does our behavior (such as eating habits and exercise) and thinking (goal-directed or self-defeating) influence our bodies, but our bodies are an active participant in determining the way in which we think and act. So how do we make this applicable to our daily lives? By engaging in activity that incorporates each interrelated domain (body, mind, and behavior) we can allow for simultaneous improvement to our physical, mental, and behavioral health. As complicated as it may sound, the solution is surprisingly simple. We need to be more mindful! Mindful of the way we think about food. Mindful of our eating behaviors. Mindful of our food related urges. And we need be more mindful in our daily lives. By increasing awareness of ourselves and the world around us in each moment, we can take hold of our minds and give ourselves the opportunity to make effective behavioral change. This type of focused attention in the present moment, referred to as mindfulness, has also been demonstrated to change the physical structure of the brain (studies have shown changes in as short as 2 weeks with 20-minute mindfulness meditation each day). For those of us not seeking a regimen of mindfulness meditation, the results we are looking for do not require daily meditation practice. In any given moment, wherever we are, by being mindful of exactly what we are doing we harness the power of our higher brain functions. This integrative attentional process starts a communication between our lower/older brain regions with our higher/more evolved prefrontal cortex that allows for the modulation of our emotional responses and increases our self-control. As an added bonus, by being more mindful and accepting we begin to more fully appreciate ourselves and those around us. We are able to remove the painful and hurtful judgments that keep us from moving forward. Through mindfulness we provide ourselves with the directions to get us where we want to go, the keys to a brand new vehicle to take us there, and a beautiful new road to travel on. In my experience, the more joy we find in the journey the more likely we are to reach the destination.

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