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
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
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.