What if simply being aware of your mood and thoughts as they are happening could help you maintain a healthy weight? Researchers from the Brown University School of Public Health in Rhode Island believe they may have found a link between everyday “mindfulness” and belly fat—one that may change how we look at weight management in the future.
The study, published this month in the Internal Journal of Behavioral Medicine, followed nearly 400 men and women from the time they were children and determined that those who were more mindful were less likely to be obese or carry excess belly fat. Researchers point out that this type of mindfulness is different from focused meditation; it is simply a heightened awareness of one’s mood and feelings in the present moment.
Participants’ responses were measured using the popular Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale, or MAAS—a brief questionnaire featuring 15 specific prompts to help assess how mindful an individual is based on a six-point scale. Researchers also recorded ongoing measurements of belly fat, hip fat, BMI, and diet and lifestyle characteristics.
Interestingly, regardless of outside factors, people who had lower MAAS scores were more likely to be overweight or obese. And, those who were not obese as children but put on excess weight and belly fat in adulthood had notably lower MAAS scores than those participants who maintained a healthy body weight.
While lead author Eric Loucks points out that the study simply shows a correlation and not a direct link between mindfulness and body weight, it may be possible in the future to use mindfulness practices to help maintain a healthy weight as well as follow a more healthful diet and exercise regimen.