Jennifer Daubenmier and the Elissa Epel University of California, San Francisco, said the women involved in their study were not on calorie-counting diets.
Instead, 24 of the 47 chronically stressed, overweight and obese women were randomly assigned to mindfulness training and practice. The other 23 served as a control group. No diets were prescribed, but all participants attended one session about the basics of healthy eating and exercise.
The training included nine weekly sessions, each lasting 2.5 hours, during which the women learned stress reduction techniques and how to be more aware of their eating by recognizing bodily sensations, including: hunger, fullness and taste satisfaction.
At week six they attended an intensive 7-hour, silent meditation retreat, the researchers said.
The study participants were asked to set aside 30 minutes daily for meditation exercises and to practice mindful eating during meals.
The study, published online in the Journal of Obesity, found those who had greater improvements in listening to their bodies' cues, or greater reductions in stress or cortisol -- a stress hormone -- experienced the greatest reductions in abdominal fat.