Weight loss diet and exercise for obesity do not work. A mindful eating program can probably help you achieve a healthy BMI.
I am excited about mindful eating to tackle the problem of obesity in America. The story starts with the dysregulation model of obesity. This model stipulates that obese people have lost the ability to recognize or respond to internal cues of hunger, taste, satiety, and fullness (Dalen et al., 2010).
To get a better understanding of the dysregualtion model of obesity, we need to take a look at mood, satiation, hunger and the stomach-brain axis connectivity. This overview is needed to make the case for Part 2 of this series titled 5 Mindful Eating Tips to Put One Over Obesity and Pull Off Weight Loss to tackle the problem of obesity in America. However, the journey starts in your gut. Yes, your gut!
The Stomach’s Functions
Your stomach has distinct functions in relation to eating food and the assimilation of solids and liquids. Your stomach’s job is to store food before moving it slowly into the duodenum. Your stomach also crushes larger particles of food to increase your meal’s surface area. Via peristalsis, your stomach mixes an acidic enzyme rich gastric juice with ingested food (Holtmann & Talley, 2014).
Food in the Stomach Influences Your Mood and Food Intake
Your stomach senses the constitution of the stomach’s contents. The vagal nerve relays this information to the hypothalamus and the limbic system. From there, palatability signals inform unconscious and conscious eating behavior (Holtmann & Talley, 2014).
Feelings of satiety and fullness have their origin with gastric tension receptors. Gastric tension receptors respond to your stomach’s food composition and gastric wall tension. Their activity impacts appetite and meal related hormone secretion. The expression of ghrelin (a hunger-driving hormone) and neuropeptide Y (it affects food intake) originate in the gastrointestinal tract (Holtmann & Talley, 2014).
You are probably not a stranger to the phenomenon of your stomach having a mind of its own? I know I have been there. Ice cream, cookies, cake, sweets, greasy food, you name it, these foods all have the power to make you zombielike. It seems as if you checked free will at the dinner table, overindulging mindlessly, helpless to stop the feeding frenzy.
How can you regulate eating behavior, without mood swings, without anxiety, without the slightest whiff of depression? You need to develop a conscious awareness of the ever so subtle psychophysiology involved in satiation, hunger and mood (Holtmann & Talley, 2014).
You need to learn how to communicate consciously with your stomach. How is this possible?
Modulation of Brain Function Influences the Stomach
The act of eating, and merely the anticipation of eating, activate specific brain regions. For the sake of thoroughness, ingestion of food activates the thalamus, amygdala, putamen, and precuneus. Infusion of nutrients into the stomach sparks activity in the hippocampus and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC).
Your brain synthesizes the visual, olfactory and anticipatory signals with the neuronal and hormonal feedback from your stomach. Combining this information via central processing, neural activity, and hormonal signaling further guide your eating behavior (Holtmann & Talley, 2014).
This neural activity is not without consequences.
According to the dysregulation model of obesity, mindless eating hampers stomach to brain communication and distorts the regulation of satiation, hunger, and mood (Dalen et al., 2010).
What is mindless eating? Simply put, mindless eating is food consumption without ample conscious awareness to what and how much you eat.
A Focused Mindful Eating Program Fits the Bill for Long-Term Weight Management
You need a strategy that slowly and subtly homes in on the central processing that goes on while you eat. You need a strategy with the potential to alter positively neuronal connectivity to treat or prevent obesity.
Frankly, I do not know of any diet or exercise program that directly addresses the central processing of the stomach-to-brain signaling.
Mindfulness research indicates that mindfulness-based interventions can help you lose weight, change long-term eating behavior, and cut psychological distress (Dalen et al., 2010).
Before delving into the mindful eating tips, let’s look at why I think the targeted approach of a mindful eating program is a good approach for successful, long-term weight management. Mindful eating will stack the odds of successful weight management in your favor. And here is why.
The Probability of Attaining Normal Body Weight
Obesity treatment frameworks grounded in community-based weight management programs may be ineffective (Fildes et al., 2015, p. e1).
A British research team led by Alison Fildes (2015) just reported the findings of a population-based cohort study. The investigators examined electronic records of a little over 2 million patients registered in the UK Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD).
The research team organized the obesity statistics into six categories of Body Mass Index (BMI) values.
BMI Formulas to Calculate Your Own Body Mass Index
If you would like to follow along to see how the obesity statistics apply to your personal situation take a moment and calculate your personal BMI.
Here are the formulas to calculate BMI courtesy the Centers for Disease Control (2015). A word of caution, however. Even though the correlation between BMI and body fatness is pretty strong, there are some limitations of this index.
For example, at the same body index (Centers for Disease Control, 2015):
- women have more body fat than men,
- athletes have less body fat than do non-athletes, and
- older people tend to have more body fat than young adults.
Here is how you calculate your own BMI:
BMI = weight (kg) / [height (m)]2
Example: Weight = 68 kg, Height = 165 cm (1.65 m)
Calculation: 68 ÷ (1.65)2 = 24.98
BMI = weight (lb) / [height (in)]2 x 703
Example: Weight = 150 lbs, Height = 5’5″ (65″)
Calculation: [150 ÷ (65)2] x 703 = 24.96
Based on the results of your calculation, in which of Fildes’ et al. (2015) seven BMI categories do you fall?
Table 1: BMI Categories and Weight Status
|BMI Category||Weight Status||U.S. Weight Status|
|18.5 or below||underweight||underweight|
|18.5 to 24.9||normal body weight||normal or healthy weight in the U.S.|
|25.0 to 29.9||overweight||overweight in the U.S.|
|30.0 to 34.9||simple obesity||obese in the U.S.|
|35.0 to 39.9||severe obesity|
|40.0 to 44.9||morbid obesity|
|45.0 or greater||superobesity|
Armed with your personal data, let’s see how the results generated by Fildes and colleagues (2015) apply to you, shall we?
Probability of a Person Attaining Normal Body Weight
Fildes et al. (2015) analyzed 278,982 patient records. Of those records, 129,194 were men, and 149,788 were women. Patients had at least 3 or more BMI measurements recorded between November 1, 2004, and October 31, 2014.
As far as obesity statistics goes, that is a pretty good data set. The mean age of the patients was 55 years for men and 49 years for women. The number of patients in each BMI category was pretty high as well.
Table 2: BMI Categories and Research Participants
|BMI Category||Weight Status||Women |
(n = 149,788)
(n = 129,194)
|18.5 to 24.9||normal body weight||23,640||25,082|
|25 to 29.9||overweight||26,357||27,408|
|30.0 to 34.9||simple obesity||27,251||27,966|
|35.0 to 39.9||severe obesity||27,373||27,490|
|40.0 to 44.9||morbid obesity||26,716||14,767|
|45 or greater||superobesity||18,451||6,481|
If your personal BMI falls into the normal weight category, congratulations. According to Fildes and colleagues (2015) your weight probably won’t change much. According to the Fildes and colleagues data, over nine years, BMI was pretty stable for 57% of men and 59% of women in the normal weight category.
The Probability of Winning a Prize in Powerball is Better Than Attaining a Normal BMI
The overall odds of winning a prize in Powerball are 1 in 31.85. Compare this number to the probability of achieving a normal BMI in any of the four BMI categories below (Welcome to Powerball – Prizes, n.d.).
Table 3: Annual Probability of Attaining Normal BMI for Women
|BMI Category||Weight Status||Women||Number of Women Attaining Normal Body Weight||Annual Probability of Attaining Normal BMI, Estimate (95% CI)|
|30.0 to 34.9||simple obesity||27, 251||1,398||1 in 124|
|35.0 to 39.9||severe obesity||27,373||408||1 in 430|
|40.0 to 44.9||morbid obesity||26,716||252||1 in 677|
|45 or greater||superobese||18,451||187||1 in 608|
Table 4: Annual Probability of Attaining Normal BMI for Men
|BMI Category||Weight Status||Men||Number of Men Attaining Normal Body Weight||Annual Probability of Attaining Normal BMI, Estimate (95% CI)|
|30.0 to 34.9||simple obesity||27,966||857||1 in 210|
|35.0 to 39.9||severe obesity||27,490||249||1 in 701|
|40.0 to 44.9||morbid obesity||14,767||71||1 in 1,290|
|45 or greater||superobese||16,481||106||1 in 362|
So clearly, to stay motivated and on the course of achieving normal BMI, you need to take steps to increase the probability of achieving your goal. How can you do this?
In part 2, titled 5 Mindful Eating Tips to Put One Over Obesity and Pull Off Weight Loss of this two part series about mindful eating and achieving a healthy BMI I will give you helpful tips to achieve a healthy BMI.
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ACEF can tailor innovative, evidence mind-body medicine programs to your company’s needs. Contact Werner to develop a Meditation Program, Stress Management Program, and/or Mindful Eating Program to your business’ unique needs. ACEF can help both you and your employees improve your bottom line.
lucy_b22. (2012). In the trenches [Image]. Retrieved from Flickr website
Centers for Disease Control. (2015, May 15). About adult BMI. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/adult_bmi/
Dalen, J., Smith, B. W., Shelley, B. M., Sloan, A. L., Leahigh, L., & Begay, D. (2010). Pilot study: Mindful Eating and Living (MEAL): Weight, eating behavior, and psychological outcomes associated with a mindfulness-based intervention for people with obesity. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 18(6), 260–264. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctim.2010.09.008
Fildes, A., Charlton, J., Rudisill, C., Littlejohns, P., Prevost, A. T., & Gulliford, M. C. (2015). Probability of an obese person attaining normal body weight: Cohort study using electronic health records. American Journal of Public Health, e1–e6. http://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2015.302773
Holtmann, G., & Talley, N. J. (2014). The stomach–brain axis. Best Practice & Research Clinical Gastroenterology, 28(6), 967–979. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.bpg.2014.10.001
Welcome to Powerball – Prizes. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.powerball.com/powerball/pb_prizes.asp