January 10, 2006

Contact: Jenny Savage (505) 272-3651

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

It haunts New Years resolution lists year after year: weight loss that will statistically never occur. Despite increased public awareness of the morbid consequences, obesity has swept the nation in part because most individuals are unable to adhere to a diet for a prolonged period of time. But rather than combating obesity with the latest fad diet or other deprivation, a new program designed by doctors of integrative medicine at UNM focuses on mental retraining and a heightened awareness of eating.

Funded by the La Tierra Sagrada Society Award, the Mindful Eating and Living (MEAL) program focuses directly on impulses to eat, emotions related to food and eating, and self image. The goal of the program is to foster a non-judgmental attitude toward self, food, eating and body image. Early clinical trials in this area are promising, indicating strong improvements in psychological well-being, perceived stress, and physical symptoms.

"With mindfulness training, people will be better able to cultivate awareness of their behaviors and give themselves better options," said Brian Shelley, MD, assistant professor of integrative medicine at the UNM School of Medicine.

MEAL is seeking to educate obese individuals as to the caloric and nutrition values of foods and to help them develop more positive relationships with food and the body. Small groups will meet over six weeks to participate in meditation exercises, group discussions, and mindful eating. Participants are also required to track eating and exercise patterns. It is the hope of UNM doctors that this innovative type of behavioral intervention will aid the obese community.

"The major health-related ramifications of obesity are worsening, particularly in New Mexico , where the Native American population has twice the rate of obesity as the Healthy People 2010 goal outlined by the federal government," said Shelley . "It is important to help people find a way to strengthen their intention to eat in a healthy way."