Why The ‘Mindfulness’ Approach To Weight Loss Is Considered The Best Diet Plan

Losing weight and successfully keeping it off is something that millions of people struggle with each year. A recent study has found that “mindfulness” is a successful way to not only lose weight, but keep it off. So, how can your big-picture life values help you stick to your diet and exercise goals to help you finally lose weight and keep it off?


Called the Mind Your Health trial, researchers reported their findings in this month’s issue of Obesity, the official journal for the Obesity Society. They revealed that dieters were more successful when they combined diet and physical activity, which they call Standard Behavioral Treatment, along with Acceptance-Based Behavioral Treatment, which includes the big-picture life values that made the temporary discomfort of dieting worth the sacrifice.

Researchers reveal that SBT includes the core principles that everyone needs to lose weight. This includes how many calories you eat and the amount of exercise necessary to burn off fat. As important as this is, lead author Evan Forman, PhD, FTOS explains, this strategy is hard to maintain for a lengthy period of time. This is where most dieters fail.

“Standard Behavioral Treatments (SBT), which emphasize the importance of decreased caloric intake and increased physical activity, can help individuals lose weight for a period of time, but the strategies taught in such a program are difficult to maintain long-term.”

Next, Forman introduces that core values need to be examined, that need to go hand-in-hand with SBT in order to make weight loss happen and to keep the weight off. The combination of the two is called ABT. First, there is the education of what is needed to lower caloric intake and to increase exercise to burn fat. What makes this different is the mindfulness component. This is when the dieter identifies and commits to “big-picture” life values. Together, with the healthful diet and exercise choices, the dieter is focused on mindfulness and the end result is weight loss. This is because the dieter is conscious of what they are eating and comprehending that there will be some temporary discomfort, yet the dieter knows that this is okay as they are a step closer to achieving their diet goal.

“The Acceptance-Based Behavioral Treatment (ABT) method teaches highly specialized self-regulation skills so individuals trying to lose weight can continue making healthful choices long after the program ends. These skills include mindful decision making, identifying and committing to big-picture life values and a willingness to accept discomfort and reduced pleasure for the sake of those values.”

When focusing on the big-picture life values, the authors suggest goals for a healthy body or being present and active with children or grandchildren. In addition, the study focuses on the reality that losing weight and keeping it off will require some sacrifice. Instead of a baked good, the substitution will be fruit. Instead of a night sitting on the sofa and watching movies, the dieter will be keeping active in the garden or out on a bike ride. Instead of relying on straight willpower, the dieter is substituting one behavior for another.


The study focused on 190 overweight or obese participants over a single year. They discovered that those study participants that only focused on SBT had 9.8 percent weight loss. Those who received ABT lost 13.3 percent of their weight making this the more successful method of weight loss.

Forman and the research team are thrilled with the results. This landmark study demonstrates that this combination is successful for dieters in losing weight and changing behaviors long-term.

“We’re excited to share this new proven therapy with the weight-loss community, and in fact this is one of the first rigorous, randomized clinical trials to show that an alternative treatment results in greater weight loss than the gold standard, traditional form of behavioral treatment.”

An Obesity Society spokesperson, Steven Heymsfield, MD, FTOS, realizes this is indeed a breakthrough study. He believes this will help healthcare professionals, including clinicians, dietitians, and psychologists. The latter is often not part of the weight loss picture for overweight and obese patients.

“These findings are a boon to clinicians, dietitians and psychologists as they add a new dimension to behavioral therapy that can potentially help improve long-term outcomes for people with obesity. This study is one of the first of its kind, and offers promise of a new tool to add to the toolbox of treatments for overweight and obesity.”

What do you think of this mindfulness approach to dieting? Is this something you are willing to try?

[Featured Image by Ethan Miller/Getty Images for Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit]