Not having lunch at your desk and switching off the TV while eating could be the key to losing weight, new research suggests.
A new study on the effects of mindful eating found that those who ate this way lost far more weight than other slimmers.
Dr Carolyn Dunn, from the University of North Carolina, who worked on the study, said: “Mindfulness is paying attention to your surroundings, being in the present moment.
“Mindful eating is eating with purpose, eating on purpose, eating with awareness, eating without distraction, when eating only eating, not watching television or playing computer games or having any other distractions, and not eating at our desks.”
Experts from the University of North Carolina analysed data from 80 people who said they were ready to lose weight at the start of the study.
They were split into two groups, with the first encouraged to follow mindful eating, such as paying attention to hunger and feelings of fullness, planning meals and snacks, savouring tastes and keeping away from distractions.
They followed this plan for 15 weeks and were encouraged to exercise.
The second group was given no intervention and acted as a control group.
Neither group was told to count calories or follow a restricted diet.
The results showed that, after 15 weeks, those in the mindful group had lost 1.9kg (4lb) compared with 0.3kg (0.6lb) for participants in the control group.
Dr Dunn said the study results showed that “people did increase their mindfulness and they did absolutely decrease their weight”.
She added: “We instructed people to eat the foods that they love, and not give them up, but to eat them in a mindful way.
“For example, if one of us was going to eat a food that has very high calories, we would tell them to eat one or two bites, but to eat those one or two bites with awareness, so they are getting the most pleasure out of those one to two bites.
“Other research has shown that those first two bites are associated with the most enjoyment – eating more will certainly give you more calories but not more enjoyment.
“So a chocolate mousse for example – we would not want our participants to not eat it at all, but we would advise them to eat it with mindfulness and with purpose and to enjoy those first few bites.”
Professor Hermann Toplak, president of the European Society of Obesity, encouraged people to reduce their stress levels before eating.
He said: “You have to reduce your stress levels before – walk or do something restful – then you will eat differently.
“If you are eating out from your stress and that’s very frequent today – especially in cities like London where people are so busy – then you eat quicker, fatter and sweeter.
“And if you reduce stress levels you will eat salad, you will eat vegetables, because you are in the mood to eat things like that also.”