Researchers think people who practice yoga can look at all this food and be "mindful", instead of mind-less, about eating it. "Mindful eating tends to be NOT judgmental about what you're eating. It's just being responsive and aware of your motivations for eating and your physiologic responses when you do eat," says Dr. Alan Kristal.
Investigators at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center developed a mindful eating questionnaire and gave it to 500 men and women at yoga studios, gyms, offices, even weight loss clinics. They asked about weight, physical activity and if they practiced yoga.
"We found that people who practiced yoga were indeed more mindful eaters, we found that people who did other types of physical activity like running or weight lifting were not more mindful, it's completely independent, and we found that people that are over-weight are also less mindful eaters," says Dr. Kristal.
Nancy Press swims and does yoga once or twice a week. Before middle age, she was 20 pounds heavier. "My weight has been more stable the last 3 or 4 years since I've been more regular about my yoga," says Nancy.
Researchers think people who practice yoga learn how to be calm and observant, which helps filter out the external cues for eating, like the way food looks or smells, or internal factors, like anxiety or depression.
"Yoga can help you learn to eat more mindfully and more mindful eating translates to generally less weight gain and better weight control," says Dr. Kristal.
Researchers say the next step is to see if yoga and mindfulness can help improve outcomes for standard weight loss intervention programs.
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