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Being Mindful May Guard Against Belly Fat

Study found awareness of thoughts and feelings was linked to lower risk for obesity

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 21, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Being self-aware may help reduce your risk of obesity, a new study contends.

Researchers looked at more than 400 people in New England and found that those with higher levels of what is known as dispositional mindfulness -- an awareness and attention to current feelings and thoughts -- had less belly fat. They were also less likely to be obese than those with lower levels of such mindfulness.

Specifically, people with low levels of this type of self-awareness were 34 percent more likely to be obese and to have a bit more than a pound of belly fat than those with higher levels of self-awareness, the investigators found.

The study was published Oct. 19 in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine.

Dispositional mindfulness is not the same as meditation, the Brown University researchers explained.

"This is everyday mindfulness," study author Eric Loucks, an assistant professor of epidemiology, said in a university news release. "The vast majority of these people are not meditating."

Previous research has shown that mindfulness can help people overcome cravings for unhealthy foods, and it may also help people overcome their reluctance to start exercising, Loucks added.

"That's where the mindfulness may come in. Being aware of each and every moment and how that's related to what we do and how we feel," he explained.

While the effects of mindfulness on weight and belly fat are significant, they are not huge, the scientists said.

"Awareness seems to be enough to have a small to medium effect. Then there is the question of what could we do to increase it," Loucks said.

He pointed out that this study found an association, but did not prove that higher mindfulness levels actually cause weight loss. Further research is needed to determine if that's the case.

Loucks' next study will examine whether mindfulness helps people adhere to doctor-prescribed healthy lifestyle regimens, such as changing eating habits or getting more exercise.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains how to prevent weight gain.

SOURCES: Brown University, news release, Oct. 20, 2015

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