At the end of the four-month study, she had lost 14 ounces of belly fat. Within a year, she'd shed 25 pounds and two inches from her waist—all without a single day of dieting. Instead, she says, "I changed how I thought about eating."
Jennifer Daubenmier, PhD, lead author of the study (which was published in the Journal of Obesity), says the idea was to help participants "tune in to physical sensations of hunger, fullness, and taste satisfaction, and to eat based on that awareness," rather than on stress. Subjects attended a series of classes in mindfulness practices, where they learned to recognize negative feelings (like anger and anxiety) and resist the urge to seek comfort in food.
The women who reported the greatest improvement in mindfulness and stress levels lost the largest amount of belly fat—4.2 ounces on average. With just 47 subjects, the study was small, Daubenmier says, "but it was proof of concept."
Next: The explanation behind their weight loss
Victoria Sheehan*, 46, was well aware of the dangers associated with her "apple shape" when she joined the UCSF study. Her weight and family history put her at risk for heart disease. But by the time the experiment ended, she had lost 25 ounces of belly fat. Sheehan recalls her turning point clearly: "One night I opened an e-mail that made me furious, and I found myself in front of the fridge. Then, all of a sudden, the mindfulness kicked in and I thought, What am I doing?" So she closed the door and walked away.
*Name has been changed.
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