Does Mindfulness improve eating habits in binge eaters?
After all, people who are naturally mindful tend to eat less impulsively, eat fewer calories and make healthier snack choices.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a practice of paying attention to experiences in the present moment, in a non-judgmental manner. It has been found to have a number of positive effects on individuals:
- Being more mindful has been found to be associated with a greater sense of wellbeing;
- Mindfulness helps you respond less frequently and less intensely to negative situations;
- Mindfulness gives you greater space to choose the most effective ways to respond, rather than simply reacting to your emotions;
- The development of greater awareness of the present is believed to enable you to have a greater ability to detect thoughts – and to consciously replace unhelpful thoughts with more balanced, healthier responses.
As a result, mindfulness training is being increasingly incorporated into treatments for a wide variety of mental health disorders. Therapists often do this by helping their clients to establish a mindful meditation practice and to develop greater mindfulness in everyday activities – such as eating.
What does the Research Say?
Given that mindfulness can be taught, and increases with practice, there has been growing interest in seeing whether teaching this skill could be beneficial in encouraging healthier eating behaviours.
The research bears this out – there is now good evidence that increasing your mindfulness should result in good reductions in binge eating. Not only this, there is some evidence that the benefits you can expect are as good as those found for other psychological treatments such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) .
Useful, but not a Panacea for Weight Control
Despite the benefit of helping binge eaters to reduce the frequency and severity of their binge eating episodes, mindfulness is not a panacea for obesity and weight control. Unfortunately, there are other barriers to achieving weight reductions in these binge-eating populations that are not overcome by greater mindfulness. For example, mindful eating does not seem to overcome the portion-size effect: that is, the tendency for people to consume more calories when served greater portion sizes.
So what can you do?
If you binge eat: Mindfulness could be a really useful intervention for you to try, which may help you to eat less, binge less frequently, and make healthier choices about what you eat.
If you need to control your weight: Mindfulness will still be useful, but you’ll need to continue to use other strategies to help you achieve the results you are after, such as limiting your portions and getting regular exercise.
If binge eating is undermining your health, preventing you from maintaining a healthy weight or making your feel distressed, then consider seeing us at M1 Psychology.
Author: Kelly Gall, BSc (Hons), M Psych (Health), M Clin Psych, MAPS, MCHP.
Kelly Gall is a Health Psychologist who is passionate about helping clients improve their physical and emotional wellbeing. Kelly develops tailored, holistic and evidence-based treatment plans that incorporate psychological, physical and social strategies aimed at empowering her clients to achieve relief from psychological symptoms and improve their health. Find out more on her website, Healthy Inside and Out.
To make an appointment with Health Psychologist Kelly Gall, please call (07) 3067 9129 or you can book online today.
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- Katterman, S. N., Kleinman, B. M., Hood, M. M., Nackers, L. M., & Corsica, J. A. (2013). Mindfulness meditation as an intervention for binge eating, emotional eating and weight loss: a systematic review. Eating Behaviours, 15, 197-204.
- Marchiori, D., & Papies, E. S. (2014). A brief mindfulness intervention unhealthy eating when hungry, but not the portion size effect. Appetite, 75, 40-45.
- Wansink, B. (2004). Environmental factors that increase the food intake and consumption volume of unknowking consumers. Annual Review of Nutrition, 24, 455-479.