Losing Weight with ‘Mind over Food’
Dr. Meryl James, Clinical Psychologist – Psychology Lead Adult Weight Management Service
Hywel Dda University Health Board
‘Mind over Food’ is an 8-week psychotherapeutic and psychoeducational psychology group programme, aimed to help people living with obesity to overcome psychological and emotional barriers to weight loss (i.e. emotional eating; yo-yo dieting). Thirty-one people who previously attended the group face-to-face reported improvements in anxiety, depression and emotional eating. An unexpected finding was that 37% of participants also reported weight loss.
- Mind over Food affords people the opportunity to think about their relationship with food, without the pressure to lose weight. It is not a weight loss group. Instead, participants are encouraged to create a personal ‘toolkit’, which they build week by week throughout the programme. Topics include: ‘Why losing weight is difficult’; ‘Why diets don’t work’ and ‘How to manage difficult feelings’ which are linked to weight and eating.
- Group interventions are more prudent than 1-1 sessions as the therapist’s time is spread out over multiple group members. Online delivery of groups is even more cost-effective as there is no need for travel, parking and setting up venues. Online groups are also more accessible to patients.
- To establish whether delivering the group online would replicate results from the previous small service evaluation.
- There was a waiting list for Mind over Food.
Many people living with obesity were shielding or self-isolating during the pandemic, due to the increased risks of developing severe complications or death from COVID-19. It was also reported that during the first lockdown, people living with obesity gained, on average, 7-8kg (known as the ‘corona stone’ or ‘quarantine 15’ [pounds]1.
The pandemic provided the opportunity to establish whether delivering the group online would be as successful as face-to-face delivery. We were keen to reduce social isolation and increase peer support and invited participants to join a WhatsApp group which most did and found helpful.
Two groups were delivered online using Microsoft Teams over 2 consecutive days, for 8 weeks. Each session lasted 75 minutes. Participants were invited to attend optional 1-month group and individual follow-up sessions.
Karen shared her experience of Mind over Food with her video testimonial:
Other experiences of ‘Mind Over Food’:
To establish whether Mind over Food can be offered to people who experience emotional eating and barriers to weight loss but are not necessarily living with overweight or obesity. There may be people in the healthy weight range who struggle with their weight but are caught up in a cycle of emotional eating and/or yo-yo dieting. It may also be useful for people who are overweight but who are struggling to maintain their weight due to factors contributing to weight gain (e.g. emotional eating).
Our Exemplar Experience
It has been a great opportunity for networking and I would thoroughly recommend it. Thank you.