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Mindfulness-based interventions for healthier eating

Exploring the utility of mindfullness and associated techniques to aid positive eating behaviours and provide an evidence base for the application of mindfulness-based practices to encourage weight regulation.

Mindfullness eating research large

Researchers 

Research background 

The prevalence of overweight and obesity in the UK is high; 62% of the UK population are classed as overweight and 25% as obese. Obesity and obesity-related health problems may lead to potentially life-threatening conditions such as type 2 diabetes, stroke, as well as a decrease in quality of life and depression. Collectively, at least £5.1 billion is spent by the NHS on treating obesity and related illnesses. As such, addressing eating behaviour that leads to the excess calorific intake is of primary importance. Dr Mantzios and Dr Egan’s research responds to this real life problem, and aims to improve the advice, access and treatment provided by healthcare services through their work with international, national, regional and local organisations.

The Mindful Construal Diary (MCD) was developed by associating psychological theories of construal level theory and fundamentals of secular mindfulness practices. The diary can be used when eating, and a few minutes prior to eating, to get grounded into the meal you are about to have, and is essentially proposing a mindful eating practice. Past research indicated the usefulness in aiding weight loss and maintenance when the diary is used over a period of time for every meal.

Later research identified that using the exact same questions, but simply considering the questions (instead of filling in the diary) was equally useful, and at the same time less effortful for people who are using this mindful eating intervention, which led us to the Mindful Construal Reflection (MCR). Both have been tested with meals, rather than snacks. Recently we identified that a shortened version of the MCD is equally helpful for snack consumption such as eating chocolate (MCD-C).   

Last, but not least, we developed Mindful Chocolate Practice (MCP), based on the Mindful Raisin Practice, that was developed to engage people into mindful eating through traditional contemplative practices. What we found was that this practice assisted people to respond to more mindful and eat less throughout two laboratory experiments.

For more information, please get in touch with Dr Michael Mantzios at michael.mantzios@bcu.ac.uk   

Download our mindful eating tools

If you would like to access the mindful eating tools, please click here to complete a short survey and download your chosen tool.

Please note that undertaking any weight loss activities should be discussed first with your doctor. The tools provided are not intended to override or replace professional medical advice, and are provided by Birmingham City University for informational purposes only.

For health and eating practitioners and clinicians

If you are a health practitioner and would like to provide feedback on your use of the Mindful Construal Diary (MCD), Mindful Construal Reflection,  MCD – Chocolate or Mindful Chocolate Practice) tools please click here to complete a short survey.

Research aims

The research explores the effectiveness of mindfulness interventions to promote weight regulation. The broad range of studies undertaken by the team identify best practice in the design and efficacy of mindfulness-based training and interventions for eating, whilst also trialling interventions using a range of mindfulness-based constructs. Together, this activity aims to strengthen the evidence base for the application of mindfulness-based practices to encourage weight regulation.

Research methods

Through working closely with a range of nutrition, bariatric and obesity specialist clinicians and services both within Birmingham and internationally, the research team have used a range of self-report questionnaire and in-depth interview methods to carry out their work. This activity has also included experimental and longitudinal approaches, including the use of a randomised experiments to determine whether snack consumption could be reduced using a novel interventions.

Research outcomes

The research has identified a number of valuable findings in relation to the development and application of mindfulness-based practices to promote weight regulation.

Firstly, Mantzios and Wilson’s (2015) review of mindfulness-based interventions for weight loss identified best practice within this area of research, and highlighted the benefits of mindful eating whilst calling for further development of mindfulness-based training. Mantzios, Egan, Hussain, Keyte and Bahia (2018) furthered the exploration of the necessary constructs required to design mindfulness-based weight regulation interventions, including mindfulness, self-compassion, and mindful eating in relation to fat and sugar consumption. Both mindfulness and mindful eating were found to be negatively related to fat and sugar consumption.

Mantzios, Skillet Egan (2019) utilised a mindful eating intervention to demonstrate that participants assigned to this condition ate, on average, 50 calories less than those in the control condition. Together these findings indicate the utility of mindful eating practices in reducing calorie consumption.

For further information on his research, please see Michael Mantzios Google Scholar page