Improve Eating Behavior with Mindfulness

Improve Eating Behavior with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Mindful eating involves paying full attention to the experience of eating and drinking, both inside and outside the body. We pay attention to the colors, smells, textures, flavors, temperatures, and even the sounds (crunch!) of our food. We pay attention to the experience of the body. Where in the body do we feel hunger? Where do we feel satisfaction? What does half-full feel like, or three quarters full?” – Jan Chozen Bays

 

Eating is produced by two categories of signals. Homeostatic signals emerge from the body’s need for nutrients, is associated with feelings of hunger, and usually work to balance intake with expenditure. Non-homeostatic eating, on the other hand, is not tied to nutrient needs or hunger but rather to the environment and or to the pleasurable and rewarding qualities of food. These cues can be powerful signals to eat even when there is no physical need for food.

 

Mindful eating involves paying attention to eating while it is occurring, including attention to the sight, smell, flavors, and textures of food, to the process of chewing and may help reduce intake by affecting the individual’s response to non-homeostatic cues for eating. Indeed, high levels of mindfulness are associated with lower levels of obesity. Hence, mindful eating may counter non-homeostatic eating.

 

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a mindfulness-based psychotherapy technique that is based upon Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). ACT focuses on the individual’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior and how they interact to impact their psychological and physical well-being. It then works to change thinking to alter the interaction and produce greater life satisfaction. ACT employs mindfulness practices to increase awareness and develop an attitude of acceptance and compassion in the presence of painful thoughts and feelings. Additionally, ACT helps people strengthen aspects of cognition such as in committing to valued living. ACT teaches individuals to “just notice”, accept and embrace private experiences and focus on behavioral responses that produce more desirable outcomes.

 

In today’s Research News article “The effects of acceptance and commitment therapy on eating behavior and diet delivered through face-to-face contact and a mobile app: a randomized controlled trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5828146/ ), Järvelä-Reijonen and colleagues examine the effectiveness of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) on facilitating mindful eating and as a result improving eating behavior and diet. They recruited overweight and obese adults (aged 25-60 years) and randomly assigned them to receive ACT either face-to-face in a group setting or on line or to a no-treatment control. ACT was delivered for 90 minutes, once a week over 8 weeks.

 

The participants were measured before and 2 weeks and 28 weeks after the intervention for perceived stress, intuitive eating, including unconditional permission to eat, eating for physical rather than emotional reasons, and reliance on internal hunger/satiety cue. They were also measured for cognitive restraint of eating, uncontrolled eating, emotional eating, taste pleasure, using food as a reward, eating attitudes, food acceptance, internal regulation, contextual skills, and eating behaviors, including intrinsic motivation, integrated regulation, identified regulation, introjected regulation, external regulation, and amotivation. Finally, they were measured for food and nutrient intakes including alcohol.

 

They found that both the face-to-face and the on-line Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) training produced significant improvements in the reasons for eating from emotional or environmental triggers towards hunger and satiety cues, acceptance of a variety of foods, and perceptions of healthy eating. They also showed significant increases in eating for physical rather than emotional reasons while decreases in using food as a reward. In general, the face-to-face ACT training produced larger improvements than the on-line ACT training. But, both were effective. Even though there were many improvements in the psychological components surrounding eating produced by ACT training, there were no significant changes in actual dietary intake.

 

These results are interesting and suggest that ACT training, regardless of whether it occurs face-to-face or on-line, alters the psychology of eating toward more mindful eating and toward homeostatic eating. These are very healthy changes. The fact, however, that they were not reflected in actual changes in intake is disappointing. Perhaps if there was an active dietary reduction component, there might have been a change in intake. But, without this emphasis on intake reduction it is hard to see what the motivation might be for the participants to reduce the amounts of food ingested. It is also possible that given more time for the psychological changes to take hold, intake changes may have occurred. Finally, even though the participants were overweight and obese they were weight stable, neither increasing or decreasing intake. They were eating an appropriate amount for their metabolic needs, neither overeating nor undereating. So, changing then psychology of eating may not affect their intake as it is appropriate for the circumstances.

 

So, improve eating behavior with mindfulness.

 

Mindless eating happens when you are distracted by something else so that all of your attention is not on what you are eating or how you are eating.  When distracted, we are far more likely to shift into autopilot and overeat and this is one very common reason for weight gain.” – J. Marlin

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Järvelä-Reijonen, E., Karhunen, L., Sairanen, E., Muotka, J., Lindroos, S., Laitinen, J., … Kolehmainen, M. (2018). The effects of acceptance and commitment therapy on eating behavior and diet delivered through face-to-face contact and a mobile app: a randomized controlled trial. The International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 15, 22. http://doi.org/10.1186/s12966-018-0654-8

 

Abstract

Background

Internal motivation and good psychological capabilities are important factors in successful eating-related behavior change. Thus, we investigated whether general acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) affects reported eating behavior and diet quality and whether baseline perceived stress moderates the intervention effects.

Methods

Secondary analysis of unblinded randomized controlled trial in three Finnish cities. Working-aged adults with psychological distress and overweight or obesity in three parallel groups: (1) ACT-based Face-to-face (n = 70; six group sessions led by a psychologist), (2) ACT-based Mobile (n = 78; one group session and mobile app), and (3) Control (n = 71; only the measurements). At baseline, the participants’ (n = 219, 85% females) mean body mass index was 31.3 kg/m2 (SD = 2.9), and mean age was 49.5 years (SD = 7.4). The measurements conducted before the 8-week intervention period (baseline), 10 weeks after the baseline (post-intervention), and 36 weeks after the baseline (follow-up) included clinical measurements, questionnaires of eating behavior (IES-1, TFEQ-R18, HTAS, ecSI 2.0, REBS), diet quality (IDQ), alcohol consumption (AUDIT-C), perceived stress (PSS), and 48-h dietary recall. Hierarchical linear modeling (Wald test) was used to analyze the differences in changes between groups.

Results

Group x time interactions showed that the subcomponent of intuitive eating (IES-1), i.e., Eating for physical rather than emotional reasons, increased in both ACT-based groups (p = .019); the subcomponent of TFEQ-R18, i.e., Uncontrolled eating, decreased in the Face-to-face group (p = .020); the subcomponent of health and taste attitudes (HTAS), i.e., Using food as a reward, decreased in the Mobile group (p = .048); and both subcomponent of eating competence (ecSI 2.0), i.e., Food acceptance (p = .048), and two subcomponents of regulation of eating behavior (REBS), i.e., Integrated and Identified regulation (p = .003, p = .023, respectively), increased in the Face-to-face group. Baseline perceived stress did not moderate effects on these particular features of eating behavior from baseline to follow-up. No statistically significant effects were found for dietary measures.

Conclusions

ACT-based interventions, delivered in group sessions or by mobile app, showed beneficial effects on reported eating behavior. Beneficial effects on eating behavior were, however, not accompanied by parallel changes in diet, which suggests that ACT-based interventions should include nutritional counseling if changes in diet are targeted.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5828146/

 

Mindfulness Effects on Eating Disorders Depends on Ethnicity

Mindfulness Effects on Eating Disorders Depends on Ethnicity

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“The practice of mindful eating may be helpful to those struggling with eating disorders, such as bulimia, binge eating disorder and compulsive overeating. It is common for individuals with eating disorders to numb emotions through restricting, binging or choosing foods that are not pleasurable while eating. Mindful eating can help a person reconnect to the joy and experience of eating by creating an awareness of thoughts, emotions, feeling, and behaviors associated with the eating experience.” – Julia Casidy

 

Around 30 million people in the United States of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder; either anorexia nervosa, bulimia, or binge eating disorder. 95% of those who have eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 26. Eating disorders are not just troubling psychological problems, they can be deadly, having the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Eating disorders can be difficult to treat because eating is necessary and cannot be simply stopped as in smoking cessation or abstaining from drugs or alcohol. One must learn to eat appropriately not stop. So, it is important to find methods that can help prevent and treat eating disorders. Contemplative practices, mindfulness, and mindful eating have shown promise for treating eating disorders.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness as a Moderator of the Association Between Eating Disorder Cognition and Eating Disorder Behavior Among a Non-clinical Sample of Female College Students: A Role of Ethnicity.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00700/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_695451_69_Psycho_20180705_arts_A ), Masuda and colleagues recruited college women  and had them complete online demographic characteristics including racial identity and body size and measures of eating disorder behaviors, mindfulness, and the thought patterns associated with eating disorders (eating disorder cognitions). These include “rigid beliefs about the importance of weight regulation, strong beliefs in appearance as the basis of self-worth, and inflexible beliefs in self-control as the basis of self-esteem.”

 

They found that the higher the levels of mindfulness the lower the levels of eating disorder cognitions but only for Asian and white American and not black women mindfulness was also associated with lower levels of eating disorder behaviors. They then performed a hierarchical regression to determine moderation effects and found that only for white women mindfulness moderated the effects of eating disorder cognitions on eating disorder behaviors such that high mindfulness significantly weakened the association of cognitions with behavior.

 

These are interesting results that suggest that how young women think about eating disorders affects eating disordered behavior. Mindfulness only appeared to influence this association for a single racial group, white American women. Since most research with eating disorders is performed with young white women, these results call into question the generalizability of mindfulness ability to reduce eating disorders. It would appear to be not true for black and Asian American women. Why mindfulness effects differ between racial groups is unknown and will require future research to investigate.

 

What is clear is that how a woman thinks about her weight and self-worth is a significant contributor to the potential development of an eating disorder. This predicts that perhaps Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) might be particularly useful in treating or preventing eating disorders particularly in white women.

 

“Practicing mindfulness techniques has proven to be extremely helpful in aiding individuals to understand the driving forces behind their eating disorder. . . students receiving mindfulness demonstrated significant reductions in weight and shape concern, dietary restraint, thin-ideal internalization, eating disorder symptoms, and psychosocial impairment.”

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Masuda A, Marshall RD and Latner JD (2018) Mindfulness as a Moderator of the Association Between Eating Disorder Cognition and Eating Disorder Behavior Among a Non-clinical Sample of Female College Students: A Role of Ethnicity. Front. Psychol. 9:700. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00700

 

The present cross-sectional study examined whether mindfulness moderated the association between eating disorder cognition and eating disorder behaviors among Asian American, Black American, and White American female college students in the United States. Participants (N = 463, age range = 18–25 years) completed self-report measures online. Results revealed that mindfulness moderated the association between eating disorder cognition and eating disorder behavior in the White American group, but not in Asian American or Black American samples. Future research should replicate these differential findings across ethnic groups and investigate the factors that may contribute to this group difference.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00700/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_695451_69_Psycho_20180705_arts_A

 

Reduce Eating When Not Hungry with Mindfulness

Reduce Eating When Not Hungry with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Being mindful helps you gain awareness so you can identify specific cues that influence your eating behavior. Practicing mindfulness can change your actions so that you have a sense of greater control over eating. It allows you to make deliberate decisions about eating instead of acting without thinking. “ – Carolyn Dunn

 

Obesity has become an epidemic in the industrialized world. In the U.S. the incidence of obesity, defined as a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or above has more than doubled over the last 35 years to currently around 35% of the population, while two thirds of the population are considered overweight or obese (BMI > 25). Although the incidence rates have appeared to stabilize, the fact that over a third of the population is considered obese is very troubling. This is because of the health consequences of obesity. Obesity is associated with cardiovascular problems such as coronary heart disease and hypertension, stroke, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and others. Indeed, obesity has been found to shorten life expectancy by eight years and extreme obesity by 14 years. Obviously, there is a need for effective treatments to prevent or treat obesity.

 

Eating is produced by two categories of signals. Homeostatic signals emerge from the body’s need for nutrients, is associated with feelings of hunger, and usually work to balance intake with expenditure. Non-homeostatic eating, on the other hand, is not tied to nutrient needs or hunger but rather to the environment and or to the pleasurable and rewarding qualities of food. These cues can be powerful signals to eat even when there is no physical need for food.

 

Mindful eating involves paying attention to eating while it is occurring, including attention to the sight, smell, flavors, and textures of food, to the process of chewing and may help reduce intake by affecting the individual’s response to non-homeostatic cues for eating. Indeed, high levels of mindfulness are associated with lower levels of obesity. Hence, mindful eating may counter non-homeostatic eating.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness and Laboratory Eating Behavior in Adolescent Girls at Risk for Type 2 Diabetes.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5878719/ ), Annameier and colleagues recruited overweight or obese adolescent girls between 12 to 17 years of age who were at risk for the development of Type II diabetes. They were measured for body size and composition, mindfulness, episodes of loss of control (binge) eating in the past month, their state of hunger, and depressive symptoms. They were also tested in the lab where they were provided a buffet lunch meal and instructed to eat till they were no longer hungry. As a test of eating in the absence of hunger, an hour after the beginning of the lunch the girls were provided with an array of snacks (e.g. popcorn, chips, candy, and ice cream) and asked to taste them and rate them for liking. They were then left for 15 minutes and told that they could eat as much as they’d like. Their intake of the snacks was measured.

 

They found that the girls who reported engaging in loss of control eating during the previous month had higher body mass indexes (BMIs) and ate significantly more in the absence of hunger and tended to have lower mindfulness than the girls who did not report any cases of loss of control eating. They also found that the girls who reported engaging in loss of control eating ate more in the lunch when they were hungry. With the test of eating the snacks (eating in the absence of hunger) but not when eating hungry, they found that the higher the levels of mindfulness the lower the amount eaten.

 

Hence, mindfulness is related to lower intake when hunger is absent but does not affect intake when hunger is present. This suggests that mindfulness does not affect homeostatic eating but rather only affects non-homeostatic food intake. This is important as responding to hunger with intake is adaptive, satisfying the body’s need for nutrients. On the other hand, eating in the absence of hunger is ingesting unneeded food energy and may contribute to overweight and obesity. The fact that mindfulness only appears to affect eating in the absence of hunger suggests that it tends to counteract this more harmful form of eating.

 

So, reduce eating when not hungry with mindfulness.

 

“The moment you become aware that you are eating mindlessly, it’s hard not to “see” it anymore. When you sit on the coach robotically eating chips or at a bar popping peanuts into your mouth, you recognize the behavior right away. This little inner voice speaks up and says, “Hey, I am mindlessly eating right now!”” – Susan Albers

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Annameier, S. K., Kelly, N. R., Courville, A. B., Tanofsky-Kraff, M., Yanovski, J. A., & Shomaker, L. B. (2018). Mindfulness and Laboratory Eating Behavior in Adolescent Girls at Risk for Type 2 Diabetes. Appetite, 125, 48–56. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2018.01.030

 

Abstract

Mindfulness-based intervention has become increasingly popular to address disinhibited eating in obesity and type 2 diabetes (T2D). Theoretically, present-moment attention promotes the ability to recognize and respond to internal hunger cues and to differentiate physiological hunger from other stimuli. Yet, there is limited research describing the relationship of mindfulness with disinhibited eating patterns in adolescents. In this study, we evaluated the relationship of dispositional mindfulness to laboratory eating in 107 adolescent (12–17 years) girls at risk for T2D. Adolescents reported dispositional mindfulness, were evaluated for recent loss-of-control-eating (LOC-eating) by interview, and participated in two successive, standardized laboratory test meals to assess eating when hungry as well as eating in the absence of hunger (EAH). Adolescents rated state appetite throughout the test meal paradigms. In analyses adjusting for body composition and other possible confounds, mindfulness was inversely related to caloric intake during the EAH paradigm. Mindfulness did not relate to energy intake when hungry. Instead, there was a significant interaction of reported LOC-eating by state hunger, such that girls with recent, reported LOC-eating and high state hunger consumed more calories when hungry, regardless of mindfulness. Findings suggest that in girls at risk for T2D, mindfulness may play a role in disinhibited eating. A propensity for LOC-eating may be most salient for overeating in a high hunger state.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5878719/

 

Grazing is Associated with Lower Mindful Eating and Greater Body Fatness

Grazing is Associated with Lower Mindful Eating and Greater Body Fatness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Yep, most vets suggest not leaving food out to graze on. As humans, we can follow the same guidelines to avoid becoming overweight. A consistent routine is more easily transitioned into habit. If you currently graze all day long, shift to scheduled meals and snacks. It will take some mindfulness, but try to leave two to three hours between all points of eating.” – Jill Koegel

 

Obesity has become an epidemic in the industrialized world. In the U.S. the incidence of obesity, defined as a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or above has more than doubled over the last 35 years to currently around 35% of the population, while two thirds of the population are considered overweight or obese (BMI > 25). Although the incidence rates have appeared to stabilize, the fact that over a third of the population is considered obese is very troubling. This is because of the health consequences of obesity. Obesity has been found to shorten life expectancy by eight years and extreme obesity by 14 years. This occurs because obesity is associated with cardiovascular problems such as coronary heart disease and hypertension, stroke, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and others. Obviously, there is a need for effective treatments to prevent or treat obesity.

 

Eating is produced by two categories of signals. Homeostatic signals emerge from the body’s need for nutrients and usually work to balance intake with expenditure. Non-homeostatic eating, on the other hand, is not tied to nutrient needs but rather to the environment and or to the pleasurable and rewarding qualities of food. These cues can be powerful signals to eat even when there is no physical need for food. A pattern of food intake called “grazing” is defined as the uncontrolled and repetitive eating of small amounts of food. It is not known if this pattern may be associated with overeating and obesity.

 

Mindful eating involves paying attention to eating while it is occurring, including attention to the sight, smell, flavors, and textures of food, to the process of chewing and may help reduce intake by affecting the individual’s response to non-homeostatic cues for eating. Indeed, high levels of mindfulness are associated with lower levels of obesity. Hence, mindful eating may counter non-homeostatic eating. It is also possible that it may counter the “grazing” pattern of intake.

 

In today’s Research News article “How does grazing relate to body mass index, self-compassion, mindfulness and mindful eating in a student population?” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5846935/ ), Mantzios and colleagues recruited college students and measured them for body size, mindfulness, self-compassion, mindful eating, and “grazing”. The relationships between these measures were explored with a regression analysis.

 

As predicted, they found that the higher the levels of “grazing” the larger the degree of obesity (Body Mass Index, BMI) and the lower the levels of self-compassion. In addition, they found that the higher the levels of mindful eating the smaller the degree of obesity. Finally, they found that the relationship between ”grazing” and body fatness was mediated by mindful eating. That is, ”grazing” is associated with reduced mindful eating which, in turn, is associated with lower body fatness. Hence, it appears that “grazing” is associated with obesity by being associated with less mindful eating.

 

This study is correlative and thus no conclusions regarding causation can be supported. But, the result suggests an interesting potential association between “grazing” and obesity, mediated by mindful eating. Future research should look at the effect in increasing mindful eating on the relationship between “grazing” and obesity and also at the effect of reducing “grazing” on mindful eating and body fatness. It is possible that altering the grazing pattern may be a useful strategy in reducing intake and perhaps body weight and fatness.

 

“Learning how to snack mindfully can help you create a healthy relationship with your food, mind and body. We need to accept our cravings and recognise when we’re experiencing them but also arm ourselves with snacks that are wise and nutritious.” – Mindfood

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Mantzios, M., Egan, H., Bahia, H., Hussain, M., & Keyte, R. (2018). How does grazing relate to body mass index, self-compassion, mindfulness and mindful eating in a student population? Health Psychology Open, 5(1), 2055102918762701. http://doi.org/10.1177/2055102918762701

 

Abstract

Contemporary research investigating obesity has focused on grazing (i.e. an uncontrolled and repetitive consumption of small amounts of food). Meanwhile, constructs such as mindfulness, mindful eating and self-compassion have received much attention in assisting individuals with eating behaviours and weight regulation. The association between those constructs and grazing, however, has not been explored. In a cross-sectional study, university students (n = 261) were recruited to explore the relationship of mindfulness, mindful eating and self-compassion with current weight and grazing. Results indicated that all constructs were negatively related to grazing, but only mindful eating related negatively to current weight. In addition, mindful eating mediated the relationship between grazing and current weight. Possible explanations and future directions are discussed further with an emphasis on the need for more empirical work.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5846935/

 

Be Better at Resisting Food with Mindfulness

Be Better at Resisting Food with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Mindfulness is paying attention to your surroundings, being in the present moment. Mindful eating is eating with purpose, eating on purpose, eating with awareness, eating without distraction, when eating only eating, not watching television or playing computer games or having any other distractions, not eating at our desks.” –  Carolyn Dunn

 

Eating is produced by two categories of signals. Homeostatic signals emerge from the body’s need for nutrients and usually work to balance intake with expenditure. Hedonic eating, on the other hand, is not tied to nutrient needs but rather to the pleasurable and rewarding qualities of food, also known as food cues. These cues can be powerful signals to eat even when there is no physical need for food.

 

Mindful eating involves paying attention to eating while it is occurring, including attention to the sight, smell, flavors, and textures of food, to the process of chewing and may help reduce intake. Indeed, high levels of mindfulness are associated with lower levels of obesity and mindfulness training has been shown to reduce binge eating, emotional eating, and external eating. It is suspected that mindful eating counters hedonic eating.

 

Mindfulness has two main components the first is present moment awareness while the second is decentering. This is a less well appreciated component of mindfulness. Decentering changes the nature of experience by having the individual step outside of experiences and observe them from a distanced perspective and be aware of their impermanent nature. The individual learns to observe thoughts and feelings as impermanent objective events in the mind rather than personally identifying with the thoughts or feelings. In other words, they’re not personal but simply things arising and falling away. This way of viewing the world should make the individual less responsive to outside stimuli.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness Reduces Reactivity to Food Cues: Underlying Mechanisms and Applications in Daily Life.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5435775/ ), Keesman and colleagues review the published research literature on present moment awareness and decentering and reactivity to the stimuli from foods. They examine the ability of present moment awareness and decentering to decrease the individual’s resistance to food cues.

 

They found that the literature reported that when participants were induced to produce a decentering perspective rather than a present moment perspective, there was a large drop in their attraction to food and cravings for foods, and an increase in healthy food choices. Indeed, participants with a decentering perspective produced less saliva when confronted with an energy dense attractive food. There was even a reduction in chocolate consumption over a week when adopting a decentering perspective. Finally, it was reported that meditators who were high in decentering had much fewer food cravings.

 

Hence, decentering reduces reactivity to food cues while simple present moment awareness does not. It is likely that seeing these cues and one’s response to them as impermanent may well make the individual more resistant to them. It is also possible that seeing one’s response to foods cues as mere thoughts that come and go, makes it easier to resist them. Regardless, it is clear that mindfulness, particularly decentering reduces the ability of food cues to affect the individual’s behavior.

 

So, be better at resisting food with mindfulness.

 

“mindfulness can disrupt that automatic reaction by reducing the appeal of unhealthy foods. . . the trick is to think of your food craving, when it pops up, as nothing more than a mere thought. “It’s really like a soap bubble. As soon as you touch it, it’s going to disperse.” – Esther Papies

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Keesman, M., Aarts, H., Häfner, M., & Papies, E. K. (2017). Mindfulness Reduces Reactivity to Food Cues: Underlying Mechanisms and Applications in Daily Life. Current Addiction Reports, 4(2), 151–157. http://doi.org/10.1007/s40429-017-0134-2

 

Abstract

Purpose of Review

Mindfulness-based interventions are becoming increasingly popular as a means to facilitate healthy eating. We suggest that the decentering component of mindfulness, which is the metacognitive insight that all experiences are impermanent, plays an especially important role in such interventions. To facilitate the application of decentering, we address its psychological mechanism to reduce reactivity to food cues, proposing that it makes thoughts and simulations in response to food cues less compelling. We discuss supporting evidence, applications, and challenges for future research.

Recent Findings

Experimental and correlational studies consistently find that the adoption of a decentering perspective reduces subjective cravings, physiological reactivity such as salivation, and unhealthy eating.

Summary

We suggest that the decentering perspective can be adopted in any situation to reduce reactivity to food cues. Considering people’s high exposure to food temptations in daily life, this makes it a powerful tool to empower people to eat healthily.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5435775/

Reduce Intake of Sweets and Blood Glucose Levels with Mindful Eating

Reduce Intake of Sweets and Blood Glucose Levels with Mindful Eating

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Mindful eating helps us learn to hear what our body is telling us about hunger and satisfaction. It helps us become aware of who in the body/heart/mind complex is hungry, and how and what is best to nourish it.” – Jan Chozen Bays

 

Eating is produced by two categories of signals. Homeostatic signals emerge from the body’s need for nutrients and usually work to balance intake with expenditure. Hedonic eating, on the other hand, is not tied to nutrient needs but rather to the pleasurable and rewarding qualities of food. Overeating sweets is a good example. Mindful eating involves paying attention to eating while it is occurring, including attention to the sight, smell, flavors, and textures of food, to the process of chewing and may help reduce intake. Indeed, high levels of mindfulness are associated with lower levels of obesity and mindfulness training has been shown to reduce binge eating, emotional eating, external eating and hedonic eating.

 

Obesity has become an epidemic in the industrialized world. In the U.S. the incidence of obesity, defined as a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or above has more than doubled over the last 35 years. Currently more than 2 in 3 adults are considered to be overweight or obese and around 35% of the population meets the criteria for obesity. Obesity has been found to shorten life expectancy by eight years and extreme obesity by 14 years. This occurs because obesity is associated with cardiovascular problems such as coronary heart disease and hypertension, stroke, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and others. Hence there is a great need to find ways to prevent obesity from occurring and reversing it when it does.

 

The best available treatment for overweight and obesity is obviously weight loss. But, as anyone who has tried well knows, losing weight with diet and exercise is extremely difficult. So, it is important to identify means to assist with weight loss. In today’s Research News article “Effects of a mindfulness-based intervention on mindful eating, sweets consumption, and fasting glucose levels in obese adults: data from the SHINE randomized controlled trial.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4801689/

Mason and colleagues examine the effectiveness of mindfulness training in assisting with a diet and exercise weight loss program.

 

They recruited obese individuals (BMI > 30) and randomly assigned them to receive either a diet and exercise weight loss program supplemented with mindfulness training or diet and exercise only. The weight loss program consisted of a 5.5 month program with modest dietary restriction aimed at reducing intake by 500 Kcal per day and with a program to increase expenditure by increasing daily activity levels and with a structured aerobic exercise program. The mindfulness intervention consisted of a Mindfulness Based Eating Awareness Training  program. involving guided eating meditations and discussion of mindful eating practices of (1) attending to physical hunger, stomach fullness, and taste satisfaction, (2) increasing awareness of these practices in “mini-meditations” prior to meals, and (3) identifying food craving, and emotional and other triggers to eat.” The participants were measured before and after treatment and 6 months later for body weight, mindful eating, eating of sweet foods and deserts, and fasting blood glucose levels.

 

They found that the mindfulness group demonstrated a significant increase in mindful eating, particularly in eating awareness, that was maintained 6 months after the end of treatment. Eating of sweets and fasting blood glucose levels significantly declined 6-minths after treatment in the mindfulness group while the control group significantly increased. They also found that the change in mindful eating, to a small extent, mediated the influence of mindfulness training on blood glucose levels. The diet and exercise program was moderately successful. At the end of training the mindfulness group lost 5.2 Kg while the control group lost 4.0 Kg. It was disappointing, however, that there was not a significant difference between the groups in body weight reduction. So, although the mindfulness training appeared to be effective in reducing intake of sweets and blood glucose levels, it did not improve weight loss beyond the effects of diet and exercise alone.

 

This is an excellently designed and executed study with an active control condition. It revealed that supplementing diet and exercise with mindfulness training slightly improves weight loss, but not significantly. It is possible that there was a floor effect where the diet and exercise program produced maximal results for both groups so any effect of mindfulness could not be detected. But, the weight loss was modest and there was plenty of room for greater loss. Hence, it would appear that mindfulness training is a helpful addition to a diet and exercise program, but does not produce major improvements in body weight loss.

 

So, reduce intake of sweets and blood glucose levels with mindful eating.

 

“Many of the habits that drive overeating are unconscious behaviors that people have repeated for years, and they act them out without even realizing it. The process of mindfulness allows a person to wake up and be aware of what they’re doing. Once you’re aware, you can change your actions.” – Megrette Fletcher

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

Mason, A. E., Epel, E. S., Kristeller, J., Moran, P. J., Dallman, M., Lustig, R. H., … Daubenmier, J. (2016). Effects of a mindfulness-based intervention on mindful eating, sweets consumption, and fasting glucose levels in obese adults: data from the SHINE randomized controlled trial. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 39(2), 201–213. http://doi.org/10.1007/s10865-015-9692-8

 

Abstract

We evaluated changes in mindful eating as a potential mechanism underlying the effects of a mindfulness-based intervention for weight loss on eating of sweet foods and fasting glucose levels. We randomized 194 obese individuals (M age = 47.0 ± 12.7 years; BMI = 35.5 ± 3.6; 78 % women) to a 5.5-month diet-exercise program with or without mindfulness training. The mindfulness group, relative to the active control group, evidenced increases in mindful eating and maintenance of fasting glucose from baseline to 12-month assessment. Increases in mindful eating were associated with decreased eating of sweets and fasting glucose levels among mindfulness group participants, but this association was not statistically significant among active control group participants. Twelve-month increases in mindful eating partially mediated the effect of intervention arm on changes in fasting glucose levels from baseline to 12-month assessment. Increases in mindful eating may contribute to the effects of mindfulness-based weight loss interventions on eating of sweets and fasting glucose levels.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4801689/

Reduce Food Cravings with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

 “When it comes to overcoming food addictions and cravings, if we learn to observe and view our craving-related thoughts and feelings as something separate from ourselves, they lose their power over us.  And we can begin to take back our rightful place in the driver’s seat.” – Traci Pedersen

 

Craving for certain foods is an almost universal phenomenon. There are specific foods, chocolate for many, the thought of which sets off an intense desire to consume them and often food seeking to obtain and ingest them. This is normal. But, in some, food cravings, also known as specific hungers, are the source of overeating and may be a source of overweight and obesity. So, being able to cope with or control food cravings may be of assistance in reducing intake and body weight.

 

Mindfulness has been demonstrated to be effective in reducing food intake. It attempts to reduce intake by engendering mindful eating, which involves paying attention to eating while it is occurring, including attention to the sight, smell, flavors, and textures of food, to the process of chewing and swallowing, and to the physiological feelings of hunger and fullness from the body. Another way mindfulness can help control intake is that it can promote decentering, where the individual learns to view thoughts as just thoughts and not personal. Taking a step back from the craving for a food the individual can see that “I have a thought about wanting chocolate” is different from “I must have chocolate.”

 

It is not known whether mindfulness may produce reduced food cravings by engendering decentering, by another mechanism, or by producing multiple routes to lower cravings. In today’s Research News article “Food-Specific Decentering Experiences Are Associated with Reduced Food Cravings in Meditators: A Preliminary Investigation.” See:

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1345624652128124/?type=3&theater

or see summary below or view the full text of the study at:

http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12671-016-0554-4

Papies and colleagues investigate mindfulness’ and decentering’s associations with food cravings. They recruited practiced meditators and measured, meditation experience, decentering from food thoughts, awareness of food thoughts, and food cravings. They found that the greater the meditation experience the lower the food cravings. They also found that the greater the decentering from food thoughts the lower the food cravings and this association was stronger for women than for men. Finally, they demonstrated that meditation experience was only associated with lower food cravings when the meditators were low in decentering from food thoughts.

 

These results suggest that both meditation experience and decentering are associated with lower food cravings. Unfortunately, there were no measure of actual intake. So, it cannot be determined if the lower food cravings were associated with actually lower food intake. The fact that meditation experience was only associated with lower cravings when decentering was low may be accounted for by the fact that when decentering was high food cravings were low and there was no room for meditation experience to further lower cravings. In addition, because this study was correlational, cause and effect cannot be determined. For example, people who are low in cravings might be the types of people drawn to meditation and who are already highly decentered.

 

Regardless, it is clear that there are strong relationships between meditation experience and decentering of food thoughts with the levels of food craving in the individual. It will remain for future research to manipulate these variable, disentangle their respective influences, examine causal relationships, and determine if they’re associated with lower food intake. Nevertheless, the present results make it clear that this future research is justified and has the potential to lead to more effective strategies to reduce intake, overweight, and obesity.

 

“Mindful eating is a practice that allows us to tune in to the body’s needs and be thoughtful about how we nourish ourselves. By fully appreciating a food’s flavors and textures and being in the moment while eating, we open ourselves up to a deeper level of enjoyment, and it becomes easier to make better choices.” – Sonia Jones

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts

 

Study Summary

Papies, E.K., van Winckel, M. & Keesman, M. Food-Specific Decentering Experiences Are Associated with Reduced Food Cravings in Meditators: A Preliminary Investigation. Mindfulness (2016) 7: 1123. doi:10.1007/s12671-016-0554-4

Abstract

This study examined the association of food-specific decentering experiences with food cravings in a sample of meditators. Decentering refers to viewing one’s thoughts as transient mental events and thus experiencing them as less subjectively real. This process has been suggested to be a key mechanism underlying the effects of mindfulness and many contemplative practices. Although most earlier studies have focused on the effects of decentering with regard to negative affect, some studies have shown that brief inductions of decentering among non-meditators reduce food cravings as well as unhealthy food choices. Here, we report a preliminary investigation of whether the food-specific decentering experiences that meditators have in daily life are associated with fewer food cravings. A small sample of meditators (N = 33, female = 15) answered a number of questions about decentering experiences with regard to thoughts about food, and they completed the short version of the Food Cravings Questionnaire–Trait and a measure of meditation experience. Results confirmed that both more meditation experience and more food-specific decentering experiences were associated with fewer food cravings in daily life. In addition, results suggested that when participants had stronger decentering experiences, they experienced fewer food cravings, regardless of their level of meditation experience. Exploratory analyses further revealed that decentering was more strongly associated with reduced cravings in women than in men. These preliminary findings suggest that food-specific decentering experiences indeed help meditators deal with food desires, and thus extend the evidence for decentering effects into the domain of reward. Future research might investigate this in larger samples, validate a food-specific measure of decentering, and consider the broader implications of decentering experiences in daily life.

http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12671-016-0554-4

 

Reduce Hedonic Eating with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“But whether or not you are predisposed to hedonic eating because of your genetics, everyone could benefit by becoming more mindful of what they eat, how much they eat, and when they eat.” – Tim Boyer

 

Obesity has become an epidemic in the industrialized world. In the U.S. the incidence of obesity, defined as a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or above has more than doubled over the last 35 years. Currently more than 2 in 3 adults are considered to be overweight or obese and around 35% of the population meets the criteria for obesity. Overweight and obesity result from an imbalance between energy intake and expenditure. At some point in their lives people who are overweight have eaten a surplus of food energy relative to the amount they’re expending. This fact has led to investigations of the drivers of overeating in hope of discovering methods to treat or prevent obesity.

 

Eating is produced by two categories of signals. Homeostatic signals emerge from the body’s need for nutrients and usually work to balance intake with expenditure. Hedonic eating, on the other hand, is not tied to nutrient needs but rather to the pleasurable and rewarding qualities of food. This latter form of eating appears to be related to the activity of a neural system that produces pleasure and uses opioids as its neurotransmitter. Hedonic eating releases opioids in the brain eliciting pleasure. Indeed, blocking the ability of this system to produce pleasure with drugs that block this systems activity results in a reduction in hedonic eating.

 

Mindful eating involves paying attention to eating while it is occurring, including attention to the sight, smell, flavors, and textures of food, to the process of chewing and may help reduce intake. Indeed, high levels of mindfulness are associated with lower levels of obesity and mindfulness training has been shown to reduce binge eating, emotional eating, and external eating. It is suspected that mindful eating counters hedonic eating. So, how well mindfulness reduces intake may reflect how well it influences the opioid system in the brain. Hence, opioid blocking responses should predict the effectiveness of mindful eating interventions.

 

In today’s Research News article “Acute responses to opioidergic blockade as a biomarker of hedonic eating among obese women enrolled in a mindfulness-based weight loss intervention trial.” See:

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1343082565715666/?type=3&theater

or see summary below or view the full text of the study at:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4485926/

Mason and colleagues recruited obese women (BMI 30-46) and had them complete questionnaires on nausea, binge eating, food addictions, reward based eating, mindful eating, and emotional eating. They completed these measures after ingesting a placebo pill (no active ingredients) and after a pill containing naltrexone, an opioid blocker. The effectiveness of the blocker was verified by its ability to raise salivary cortisol levels. The participants then received a 5.5-month intervention of either mindfulness training or an active relaxation and cognitive therapy control condition.

 

They found that the greater the pretest reward based eating drive and food addictions and the lower the mindful eating, the greater the response to the opioid blocker naltrexone, suggesting that those who are most susceptible to hedonic eating are the most responsive to blocking the opioid system. Importantly, they also found that the greater the response of highly mindful participants to the opioid blocker the greater, 6-months later, the reduction in food addiction symptoms, binge eating, and reward based eating produced by the mindfulness training.

 

These results suggest that the cortisol response to naltrexone is an indicator of susceptibility to hedonic eating. They further suggest that this responsiveness is predictive of the effectiveness of mindfulness training in reducing hedonic eating. These results may be useful in the future in matching the most effective treatment to the characteristics of the obese individual, with those who are the most responsive to hedonic eating the best candidates for mindful eating treatment. In that way the effectiveness of treatment in reducing intake and body weight and be maximized.

 

So, reduce hedonic eating with mindfulness.

 

“This alternative approach has been dubbed “mindful eating.” Applied to eating, mindfulness includes noticing the colors, smells, flavors, and textures of your food; chewing slowly; getting rid of distractions like TV or reading; and learning to cope with guilt and anxiety about food.” – Harvard Health Letter

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts

 

Study Summary

Mason, A. E., Lustig, R. H., Brown, R. R., Acree, M., Bacchetti, P., Moran, P. J., … Epel, E. S. (2015). Acute responses to opioidergic blockade as a biomarker of hedonic eating among obese women enrolled in a mindfulness-based weight loss intervention trial. Appetite, 91, 311–320. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2015.04.062

 

Highlights

  • We examined acute cortisol and nausea responses to naltrexone
  • Naltrexone responses were associated with measures of hedonic eating
  • Naltrexone responses may identify greater opioid-mediated hedonic eating drive
  • A mindfulness vs. standard weight loss program may improve food addiction

Abstract

There are currently no commonly used or easily accessible ‘biomarkers’ of hedonic eating. Physiologic responses to acute opioidergic blockade, indexed by cortisol changes and nausea, may represent indirect functional measures of opioid-mediated hedonic eating drive and predict weight loss following a mindfulness-based intervention for stress eating. In the current study, we tested whether cortisol and nausea responses induced by oral ingestion of an opioidergic antagonist (naltrexone) correlated with weight and self-report measures of hedonic eating and predicted changes in these measures following a mindfulness-based weight loss intervention. Obese women (N=88; age=46.7±13.2 years; BMI=35.8±3.8) elected to complete an optional sub-study prior to a 5.5-month weight loss intervention with or without mindfulness training. On two separate days, participants ingested naltrexone and placebo pills, collected saliva samples, and reported nausea levels. Supporting previous findings, naltrexone-induced cortisol increases were associated with greater hedonic eating (greater food addiction symptoms and reward-driven eating) and less mindful eating. Among participants with larger cortisol increases (+1 SD above mean), mindfulness participants (relative to control participants) reported greater reductions in food addiction symptoms, b=−0.95, SE(b=0.40, 95% CI [−1.74, −0.15], p=.021. Naltrexone-induced nausea was marginally associated with reward-based eating. Among participants who endorsed naltrexone-induced nausea (n=38), mindfulness participants (relative to control participants) reported greater reductions in food addiction symptoms, b=−1.00, 95% CI [−1.85, −0.77], p=.024, and trended toward reduced reward-based eating, binge eating, and weight, post-intervention. Single assessments of naltrexone-induced cortisol increases and nausea responses may be useful time- and cost-effective biological markers to identify obese individuals with greater opioid-mediated hedonic eating drive who may benefit from weight loss interventions with adjuvant mindfulness training that targets hedonic eating.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4485926/

 

Improve Health and Weight with Mindfulness

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Applied to eating, mindfulness includes noticing the colors, smells, flavors, and textures of your food; chewing slowly; getting rid of distractions like TV or reading; and learning to cope with guilt and anxiety about food.” – Celeste Robb-Nicholson

 

Obesity has become an epidemic in the industrialized world. In the U.S. the incidence of obesity, defined as a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or above has more than doubled over the last 35 years to currently around 35% of the population, while two thirds of the population are considered overweight or obese (BMI > 25). Lesbian and bisexual women have even higher incidence rates of overweight and obesity that the general population. Although the incidence rates have appeared to stabilize, the fact that over a third of the population is considered obese is very troubling.

 

This is because of the health consequences of obesity. Obesity has been found to shorten life expectancy by eight years and extreme obesity by 14 years. This occurs because obesity is associated with cardiovascular problems such as coronary heart disease and hypertension, stroke, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and others. Obviously there is a need for effective treatments to prevent or treat obesity. But, despite copious research and a myriad of dietary and exercise programs, there still is no safe and effective treatment.

 

Mindfulness is known to be associated with lower risk for obesity. Mindfulness has also been shown to make people more aware of eating and reduce intake. This suggests that mindfulness training may be an effective treatment for overeating and obesity. Hence it would seem reasonable to investigate the benefits of mindfulness training for a particular vulnerable party of the population, lesbian and bisexual older women.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effects of Mindfulness Interventions on Health Outcomes in Older Lesbian/Bisexual Women.” See:

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1302069166483673/?type=3&theater

or see summary below. Ingraham and colleagues examined the effectiveness for lesbian and bisexual older (>40 years of age) women of a mindfulness-based program entitled Women’s Health and Mindfulness (WHAM) program which was specifically tailored to improve mindfulness, body weight, and overall health. They compared the effectiveness of this program to a similar program designed to promote exercise and dietary restrain but did not contain a mindfulness component. The programs met once a week for 2 hours over 12 weeks. Measurements were taken before and after the programs of mindful eating, nutrition, alcohol consumption, physical activity, body size, and quality of life.

 

They found that the mindfulness intervention significantly increased all three components of mindful eating, emotional eating, disinhibition, and eating awareness. This was associated with healthier eating including decreased alcohol and sugar intakes. The increases in mindful eating were also associated with increased activity levels and mental health quality of life. In addition, there were small but significant decreases in weight and waist circumference.

 

These results are encouraging and demonstrate that a mindfulness-based training program can be effective for a population, older lesbian and bisexual women, which is highly vulnerable to overweight and obesity; improving intake, decreasing body size, and improving mental health quality of life. There is a need for a long-term follow up to examine how lasting the effects of the intervention might be.

 

So, improve health and weight with mindfulness.

 

“Mindfulness is the act of focusing attention on present-moment experiences. Apply that to a meal, and mindful eating means actually paying attention to the food you’re eating, making you less likely to thoughtlessly plow through a bag of potato chips, for instance. “The only thing you have to focus on is the food. Mindfulness brings you back to the present moment, back to the present meal.” – Mandy Oaklander

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts

 

Study Summary

Ingraham N, Eliason MJ, Garbers S, Harbatkin D, Minnis AM, McElroy JA, Haynes SG. Effects of Mindfulness Interventions on Health Outcomes in Older Lesbian/Bisexual Women. Womens Health Issues. 2016 Jul 7;26 Suppl 1:S53-62. doi: 10.1016/j.whi.2016.04.002.

 

Abstract

PURPOSE: Lesbian and bisexual (LB) women are at higher risk for obesity, but no reported interventions focus on older LB women who are overweight or obese. The Healthy Weight in Lesbian and Bisexual Women study funded five programs (n = 266 LB women age ≥40); two examined effects of mindfulness interventions on health outcomes.

METHODS: Analysis of variance and regression measured the impact of mindfulness-based programs on health behaviors and quality of life (MCS). Outcomes were also compared between intervention sites (mindfulness vs. standard weight loss approaches).

RESULTS: Mindful Eating Questionnaire (MEQ) subscale scores improved significantly from preassessment to postassessment in mindfulness interventions. LB women who reported an increase (top tertile) in mindful eating had the most significant increase in MCS scores (35.3%) compared with those with low gains (low and medium tertile) in mindfulness (3.8%). MEQ score increase predicted 40.8% of the variance (adjusted) in MCS score, R(2) = .431, F(6,145) = 18.337, p < .001. Top tertile increases in mindfulness were significantly related to increases in physical activity and some nutrition outcomes. Mindfulness intervention sites showed within-person improvements in MCS and fruit and vegetable intake, whereas standard intervention sites showed within-person decreases in alcohol intake and increases in physical activity level.

CONCLUSIONS: Although weight loss was not a primary outcome at the mindfulness sites, small but significant weight loss and weight-to-height ratio decreases were reported at all five sites. Increases in mindfulness were associated with a number of significant self-reported health improvements, including a great increase in perceived mental health quality of life. Mindfulness may be a promising practice to address health issues in aging LB women.

 

Reduce Reward-Driven Eating with Mindfulness

Mindfulness eating reward2 Mason

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Mindless eating is looking at environmental cues and triggers around eating. Mindful eating is about awareness of internal and external cues that trigger eating.” – Megrette Fletcher

 

Obesity is epidemic in the industrialized world. In the United States the incidence of obesity, defined as a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or above has more than doubled over the last 35 years to currently around 35% of the population. Although the incidence rates have appeared to stabilize, the fact that over a third of the population is considered obese is very troubling.

 

It is particularly troubling because of the effects of obesity on health. Being obese has been found to shorten life expectancy by eight years and in extreme cases by 14 years. This results from the fact that obesity is associated with cardiovascular problems such as coronary heart disease and hypertension, stroke, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and other diseases. Unfortunately, the epidemic of obesity has been resistant to prevention and treatment. Despite copious research and a myriad of dietary and exercise programs, there still is no safe and effective treatment. Hence, there is a need to explore alternative methods to prevent or treat obesity.

 

Mindfulness is known to be associated with lower risk for obesity. This is promising but much more research is needed to understand the mechanism by which mindfulness affects obesity in order to optimize its effectiveness. In today’s Research News article “Reduced Reward-driven Eating Accounts for the Impact of a Mindfulness-Based Diet and Exercise Intervention on Weight Loss: Data from the SHINE Randomized Controlled Trial”

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1187349811288943/?type=3&theater

Mason and colleagues randomly assigned male and female obese participants to either of two interventions; mindfulness or control. Both contained 12 weekly 2.5-hour diet and exercise weight loss programs conducted in a group format. The mindfulness group included additional training in mindful eating, stress reduction, and emotion regulation while the control group included additional training in nutrition and physical activity. They measured reward-based eating, perceived stress, and weight loss at the end of the intervention and 6 and 12 months later.

 

They found that both groups lost weight over the intervention and maintained that weight loss a year later. There was a trend toward greater weight loss in the mindfulness group. Significantly, the mindfulness group demonstrated significantly greater reductions in reward-driven eating which were associated with great weight loss. There were no significant changes in perceived stress. These results suggest that mindfulness training may supplement diet and exercise in weight loss programs by improving the individual’s ability to refrain from reward-driven eating.

 

Reward-driven eating is characterized by a lack of control over eating, a preoccupation with food, and a lack of satiety. Craving is a key driver of this kind of behavior producing a drive to overeat highly palatable food for reward. This is a major obstacle to weight loss. Mindfulness training may improve the individual’s awareness of and attention to their internal state, thereby reducing responses to outside stimuli. Hence, mindfulness training may be effective for weight loss by reducing this obstacle of reward-driven eating, producing more normal eating in response to physiological cues of hunger and satiety.

 

It is interesting that mindfulness training did not reduce perceived stress as mindfulness has been repeatedly shown to reduce perceived stress. This may indicate that the stress of engaging in a diet and exercise program for weight reduction is immune to mindfulness intervention.

 

A strength of this study is that the control condition was so carefully crafted to be very similar to the mindfulness condition in all ways except for the mindfulness training itself. This is an unusually good control condition which accounts for the majority of potential confounding variables that could contaminate the results. As a result, it can be concluded with reasonable certainty that mindfulness training when added to a diet and exercise weight reduction program improves the outcome by reducing reward-driven eating.

 

So, reduce reward-driven eating with mindfulness.

 

“mindful eating does not have to be an exercise in super-human concentration, but rather a simple commitment to appreciating, respecting and, above all, enjoying the food you eat every day. It can be practiced with salad or ice cream, donuts or tofu, and you can introduce it at home, at work, or even as you snack on the go (though you may find yourself doing this less often).” – Jenni Grover

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies