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Teaching Acceptance and Mindfulness to Improve the Lives of the Obese: A Preliminary Test of a Theoretical Model
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Obesity is a growing epidemic. Weight control interventions can achieve weight loss, but most is regained over time. Stigma and low quality of life are significant problems that are rarely targeted. A new model aimed at reducing avoidant behavior and increasing psychological flexibility, has shown to be relevant in the treatment of other chronic health problems and is worth examining for improving the lives of obese persons. Patients who had completed at least 6 months of a weight loss program (N = 84) were randomly assigned to receive a 1-day, mindfulness and acceptance-based workshop targeting obesity-related stigma and psychological distress or be placed on a waiting list. At a 3-month follow-up, workshop participants showed greater improvements in obesity-related stigma, quality of life, psychological distress, and body mass, as well as improvements in distress tolerance, and both general and weight-specific acceptance and psychological flexibility. Effects on distress, stigma, and quality of life were above and beyond the effects due to improved weight control. Mediational analyses indicated that changes in weight-specific acceptance coping and psychological flexibility mediated changes in outcomes. Results provide preliminary support for the role of acceptance and mindfulness in improving the quality of life of obese individuals while simultaneously augmenting their weight control efforts.