Would you stop eating out in order to prevent gaining weight? A new study, led by Gayle Timmerman, a nursing professor at the University of Texas at Austin, suggests that might not be necessary. The study acknowledges that eating out has become part of North American culture, and often contributes to excess calorie intake and weight gain. But it also suggests that individuals don’t have to cut restaurants out of their lives in order to lose weight—just add mindfulness to the menu.
Thirty-five healthy women aged 40 to 59 (who eat out frequently) enrolled in the study. Researchers randomly selected about half of the women to serve as a control group, and assigned the other half to a six-week program called Mindful Restaurant Eating, a weight-gain prevention intervention that helps develop the skills needed to reduce caloric and fat intake when eating out.
Though the focus of the program was on preventing weight gain in this population, not weight loss, on average the intervention group lost 3.75 pounds during the six weeks and were eating about 300 fewer calories daily. (Weight and calorie intake didn’t change in the control group.)
“Based on what we learned from this study, for those individuals who eat out frequently, developing the skills needed to eat out without gaining weight from the excess calories typically consumed at restaurants may be essential to long-term health,” said Timmerman.
To read more about the study, click here.
Interested in learning more? Check out Eating the Truly Balanced Way, a collection of stories about mindful eating, and this blog post by “Heart & Mind” blogger Kelly McGonigal: End the suffering of binge eating—one breath at a time, on Mindful.org.