Mindful Eating and Weight Loss: A Systematic Review of Literature

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Carissa B. Alinat, MSN
Cecile A. Lengacher, PhD
College of Nursing, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL, USA

Objective: More than one-third of adults in the United States are obese (body mass index >30) and the number is expected to increase. Obesity has become one of the most prevalent, costly, and risky disorders in the United States, increasing the risk of heart disease, liver disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, stroke, osteoarthritis, and cancer. Excess weight is a risk factor for several leading causes of preventable death, which can be reduced through modifiable behaviors such as diet. Recent findings suggest that through specific behavioral strategies, weight loss maintenance of at least five percent can be achieved in more than 45% of patients at four years. The purpose of this systematic review of literature was to explore mindful eating and its effects on weight loss and weight-related co-morbidities.

Methods: PubMed and CINAHL databases were searched using the key terms “mindful eating” and “weight.” Inclusion criteria were: (1) included mindful eating in an intervention or as a dependent variable, (2) focused on weight or weight-related co-morbidities, (3) quantitative data, (4) published in peer-reviewed journals, (5) published in English. Reviews, commentaries, case studies, and articles focusing on eating behaviors not in support of beneficial weight loss were excluded.

Results: A total of 19 out of 46 retrieved articles were included in this review. Sample sizes ranged from 10 to 1,314 participants and the mean body mass index in most studies was >30 kg/m2, indicating that a majority of participants were obese. Obesity-related eating behaviors found in the literature included emotional eating, external eating, reward-based eating, hedonistic eating, homeostatic eating, binge eating, and restrained eating. Mindful eating interventions were shown to decrease weight, body mass index, waist circumference, blood pressure, C-reactive protein, fasting glucose, and HgA1C.

Conclusions: The results from this systematic review of literature suggest promising benefits for the use of mindful eating interventions for weight loss and weight maintenance, as well as for weight-related co-morbidities. Mindful eating has the potential to help individuals gain awareness of eating tendencies, which could prevent excessive calorie consumption and thereby reduce or maintain weight. By applying the principles of mindful eating, individuals may be able to recognize and follow internal hunger cues, rather than be driven by external cues or internal cues that are based on emotions or other non-biologically-driven cues, which may ultimately lead to weight loss and maintenance.