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

 

Don’t Give in to Food Temptation with Mindfulness

 

“Eating is a natural, healthy, and pleasurable activity for satisfying hunger. However, in our food-abundant, diet-obsessed culture, eating is often mindless, consuming, and guilt-inducing instead. Mindful eating is an ancient mindfulness practice with profound modern implications and applications for resolving this troubled love-hate relationship with food.” – Am I Hungry

 

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. Although the incidence rates have appeared to stabilize, the fact that over a third of the population is considered obese is very troubling. Particularly troubling is that about one-third of children and adolescents are considered to be overweight or obese and half of those are obese. This is having a major impact on the health of the population. Obesity has been found to shorten life expectancy by eight years and extreme obesity by 14 years. This is 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, drug development, and a myriad of dietary and exercise programs, there still is no safe and effective treatment.

 

Overweight and obesity result from an imbalance between energy intake and expenditure. One tactic to address the problem is to reduce intake.  Countless dietary programs to do just that have been proposed and tested, but the epidemic appears to be getting worse rather than better. One of the problems with intake in the modern world is much eating occurs mindlessly while the individual is otherwise occupied, perhaps with TV, reading, conversation, driving, work, etc. It has been shown that when distractions are present, the individual tends to eat more, and eat beyond the level where the individual feels full. So, recently attempts have been made to increase awareness of eating and decrease distractions.

 

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 swallowing, and to the physiological feelings of hunger and fullness from the body. It is hoped that mindful eating may help reduce intake. Indeed, high levels of mindfulness are associated with lower levels of obesity (See http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/category/research-news/eating/) and mindfulness training has been shown to reduce binge eating, emotional eating, and external eating (See http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/08/26/eat-mindfully-for-obesity/). These results are encouraging, so, there is a need to explore in detail how mindfulness has its effects on intake.

 

In today’s Research News article “Attention with a mindful attitude attenuates subjective appetitive reactions and food intake following food-cue exposure”

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1164421993581725/?type=3&theater

Fisher and colleagues studied the effects of mindfulness on reactions to food cues and intake. They randomly assigned university students and staff to a mindfulness induction or a control condition. Participants received either a brief instruction in mindfulness followed by a brief breath awareness meditation or listened to a neutral story. They were then exposed to the sight of a number of attractive foods. This resulted in heightened hunger in the control participants but not the mindfulness participants. Afterwards the participants either practiced meditation or reflected on their experience for 10 minutes. Subsequently they were left for 5-minutes with a plate of cookies present that they were told was a reward for participation. The mindfulness group ate significantly fewer cookies than the control group.

 

These results are interesting and suggest that mindfulness training, even when brief, can reduce reactions to food cues and reduce intake. Although this was an artificial laboratory condition, the findings suggest that mindfulness can reduce mindless eating by reducing reactions to the presence of attractive foods. This, of course, does not show that mindfulness will reduce intake in the real world. But, it does demonstrate one of the ways that mindfulness might work to help control real world intake.

 

So, don’t give in to food temptation with mindfulness.

 

“Food reveals our connection with the earth. Each bite contains the life of the sun and the earth…. We can see and taste the whole universe in a piece of bread! Contemplating our food for a few seconds before eating, and eating in mindfulness, can bring us much happiness.” – Thich Nhat Hahn
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

Lower Disordered Eating with Genuine Religion and Spirituality

 

“Eating disorders are like a gun that’s formed by genetics, loaded by a culture and family ideals, and triggered by unbearable distress.” – Aimee Liu

 

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. Indeed, the mortality rate associated with anorexia nervosa is 12 times higher than the death rate associated with all causes of death for females 15-24 years old

 

Anorexia Nervosa is particular troubling as it is often fatal as sufferers literally starve themselves to death. It occurs in about 1% to 4% of women in the U.S. In binge eating disorder (BED), the initiation of eating frequently results in the ingestion of wildly excessive amounts. It is called disinhibited eating as there appears to be no restraints (inhibitions) that stop food intake. Once eating starts it goes on without anything holding it back. “Binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in the United States, affecting 3.5% of women, 2% of men, and up to 1.6% of adolescents.” – National Eating Disorders Association. Bulimia Nervosa is characterized by a cycle of binge eating followed by some form of purge, often induced vomiting. It is estimated that up to 4% of females in the United States will have bulimia during their lifetime. Tragically around 4% of the sufferers will die.

 

Disordered eating is difficult to deal with in part because it is frequently paired with other disorders. In fact, around 50% of people with eating disorders meet the criteria for clinical depression. Eating disorders are also 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 (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/category/research-news/eating/).

 

In today’s Research News article “Religiosity, spirituality in relation to disordered eating and body image concerns: A systematic review”

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1123497741007484/?type=3&theater

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4536728/

Akrawi and colleagues review the literature on the relationship between religiosity and eating disorders. They defined religiosity “as a system of organized beliefs, practices, rituals and symbols designed to facilitate closeness to the transcendent” and spirituality “as the personal quest for understanding answers to ultimate questions about life, meaning, and a relationship with the transcendent.” They found that an extrinsic orientation to religion and spirituality where faith was superficial and religion was “pursued for social reasons, and seen as a way of achieving status, acceptance and security,” was associated with higher levels of disordered eating. Conversely, they found that an intrinsic orientation to religion and spirituality where faith was deep and devout and religion was associated “with deeply internalized beliefs manifested through strong religious observance and commitment,” was associated with lower levels of disordered eating. So sincere spirituality but not superficial spirituality is related to low incidence of eating disorders.

 

Eating disorders are often driven by social concerns, particularly about how one appears to others. So, it is not surprising that superficial faith that is also pursued for social reasons would be associated with high levels of eating disorders. The individuals’ high reliance on the opinions of others is their downfall. On the other hand a deep and devout religious orientation is associated with the idea that the body is a temple of God and must be treated as a sacred object. So, it is not surprising that devout faith is associated with lower levels of eating disorders. The individual looks to a higher power for solutions to their problems.

 

It is not known what the causal connections might be. It is possible that the kinds of people who are sincerely religious are also the kinds of people who are resistant to eating disorders rather than spirituality being the cause of lower rates of eating disorders. But the results are promising and suggest that devout engagement in religion and spirituality may be of assistance in resisting the development of an eating disorder.

 

So, lower disordered eating with genuine religion and spirituality

 

“Most women in our culture, then, are disordered when it comes to issues of self-worth, self-entitlement, self-nourishment, and comfort with their own bodies; eating disorders, far from being ‘bizarre’ and anomalous, are utterly continuous with a dominant element of the experience of being female in this culture.” – Susan Bordo

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

Fight Disordered Eating with Mindfulness

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“In all the years I’ve been a therapist, I’ve yet to meet one girl who likes her body.” – Mary Pipher

 

Disordered eating is difficult to deal with particularly 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. In binge eating disorder (BED), the initiation of eating frequently results in the ingestion of wildly excessive amounts. It is called disinhibited eating as there appears to be no restraints (inhibitions) that stop food intake. Once eating starts it goes on without anything holding it back.

 

“Binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in the United States, affecting 3.5% of women, 2% of men, and up to 1.6% of adolescents.” – National Eating Disorders Association. BED is associated with body weight and around 2/3 of individuals with BED are obese. It has not been proven but it is thought that overweight and obese individuals chronically diet and are chronically hungry. The disinhibited eating, binge, is much like going off the wagon for an alcoholic; once, started excessive intake results.

 

Contemplative practices have shown promise for the prevention and treatment of eating disorders. Yoga practice has been shown to reduce emotional eating (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/07/30/stop-emotional-eating-with-yoga/). In addition, research demonstrates that mindfulness based interventions are effective for reducing the incidence of some obesity related behaviors that lead to overeating; binge eating, emotional eating, and external eating. (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/08/26/eat-mindfully-for-obesity/). So, it would seem appropriate to further investigate the application of mindfulness for eating disorders like BED.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness and Eating Behavior in Adolescent Girls at Risk for Type 2 Diabetes”

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1105490052808253/?type=3&theater

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4544599/

Pivarunas and colleagues investigated the relationship of mindfulness to binge eating, eating in the absence of hunger, the reinforcing value of food, and eating attitudes, in adolescent overweight and obese girls. They found that girls who were high in mindfulness were significantly less likely to engage in binge eating and had less concern with eating.

 

Pivarunas and colleagues also found that high mindfulness was associated with lower levels of eating in the absence of hunger. Thus the individual is less likely to eat palatable foods in the absence of physiological hunger. In addition, high mindfulness was associated with lower levels of the reinforcing value of food. Thus high mindful individuals find food less reinforcing and are less willing to work for preferred, palatable snack foods.

 

These results represent an important piece in the case for mindfulness’ applicability to the prevention of binge eating. The higher levels of present moment awareness associated with mindfulness may make the individual more aware of their actual state of hunger and satiety, producing better control of eating.

 

Mindfulness also is known to improve emotion regulation, allowing the individual to sense and feel emotions but react to them appropriately. Additionally, mindfulness has been shown to reduce perceived stress and the physical and emotional responses to stress. Hence the emotional triggers for a binge eating episode may be less likely to actually produce one in a high mindfulness individual.

 

Finally, mindfulness is associated with mindful eating. That is a mindful individual is aware of eating and all of its associated sensations while they’re eating. Frequently eating, particularly excessive eating, occurs while the individual is distracted, watching TV, engaged in conversation, texting, reading etc. This has been shown to produce overeating. Hence, by improving the present moment awareness of eating, the individual is more aware of their body’s signals of hunger and satiety and more likely to stop eating at an appropriate amount.

 

So, practice mindfulness and fight disordered eating.

 

“Most women in our culture, then, are disordered when it comes to issues of self-worth, self-entitlement, self-nourishment, and comfort with their own bodies; eating disorders, far from being ‘bizarre’ and anomalous, are utterly continuous with a dominant element of the experience of being female in this culture.” –  Susan Bordo

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

Eat Mindfully for Obesity

 

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. 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 troubling 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 is 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 (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/07/17/eat-mindfully-and-have-a-healthier-weight/). This suggests that mindfulness training may be an effective treatment for overeating and obesity. In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness-Based Interventions for Obesity-Related Eating Behaviors: A Literature Review”

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1077863002237625/?type=1&theater

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4046117/

O’Reilly and colleagues reviewed the published research on mindfulness interventions for obesity related eating behaviors. They concluded that the research demonstrates that mindfulness based interventions are effective for reducing the incidence of some obesity related behaviors that lead to overeating; binge eating, emotional eating, and external eating.

Binge eating disorder involves regularly eating far more food than most people would in a similar time period under similar circumstances and feeling that eating is out of control. It’s the most common eating disorder and is estimated to affect 2.8 million U.S. adults of which 70% are obese. The reviewed research indicates that mindfulness based interventions had large, clinically significant effects.

Emotional eating involves the consumption of food in response to emotions and external eating involves eating in response to the stimuli that are associated with food such as the sight, smell, and taste of food. Both of these eating patterns are associated with overweight and both are effectively reduced with mindfulness based interventions.

One way that mindfulness appears to have its effects on eating results from mindfulness improving emotion regulation. It has been well demonstrated that mindfulness improves the individual’s ability to regulate their emotions, reducing their intensity and responding more effectively and appropriately to them. So, the individual feels the emotion mindfully and then responds not by eating but by responding in a way more appropriate to the actual emotion.

Mindfulness also appears to affect eating by making the individual more sensitive to their internal state of hunger and satiety. By improving present moment awareness, mindfulness helps the individual be more in touch with the sensations from their body. This makes them more sensitive to their state of hunger and satiety, responding to these appropriate stimuli for eating and stopping eating. This then reduces mindless eating to emotions and food cues.

These findings are important and suggest that mindfulness based interventions may be useful in the treatment and prevention of obesity.

So, be mindful and control your eating.

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies