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What’s interesting is that this exchange was part of a nutrition counseling session that focused on mindfulness, the concept of being present in the moment, and mindful eating, being aware of all facets of the eating process. Nutrition professionals can discuss these and other questions with clients, and encourage clients to ask themselves these questions daily to boost awareness of the factors guiding their eating decisions.
Ideally, these mindful eating techniques should be used as a framework to give clients additional insight into their eating patterns and not be used as a tool to dictate an appropriate chain of responses. One of the most researched mindfulness programs is Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).
Several other programs have adopted this model to help treat eating disorders such as binge-eating disorder (BED), type 2 diabetes, weight loss, and promote positive dietary changes in cancer survivors.
MB-EAT was adapted for diabetes patients in a randomized, prospective controlled study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Both groups in MB-EAT-D experienced significant weight loss, improved glycemic control, increased fiber intake, and lower trans fat and sugar consumption.
A 2012 study of prostate cancer survivors showed that a combination of nutrition information, cooking classes, mindfulness, and mindful eating training led to dietary changes linked to lower risk of prostate cancer recurrence. Although mindful eating programs include a meditation component in addition to mindful activities and discussion, others successfully use only hands-on mindful eating exercises. While the concept of mindful eating has been shown to be effective and is growing in popularity, so are techniques to reduce mindless eating. Minimizing mindless eating cues also can make it easier for clients to pay attention to their body’s signals.
If you’re intrigued by the mindful eating concept and want to discuss it with patients, Fletcher recommends first observing your own eating habits. As nutrition professionals, we’re the experts on choosing the quality and quantity of foods needed for optimal health, yet that’s only one piece of the puzzle for many clients.
Create a hunger scale ranging from 0 to 10 (0 being the most hungry and 10 being the least hungry). Tell the client to keep a journal of his or her hunger rating before, during, and after each meal for three days. Additionally, the client should experiment with eating to achieve a different level of fullness. Take a raisin, grape, strawberry, piece of cheese, or chocolate.* Observe the appearance and texture. Given that many people with EDs are extremely self-judgemental (I think I’m CEO of this club) and try desperately to alter their feelings and internal experiences (because they are uncomfortable or bad or whatever), mindfulness was seen as a really good way to get at these symptoms.
If people practice more mindful eating, the theory goes, they will be less likely to binge and perhaps not feel so awful when they’re done eating. In a study involving 17 female ED patients in a day treatment program and 23 healthy controls, Ryan Marek and colleagues divided each group in two. For the healthy controls, mindfulness training significantly decreased negative mood post-meal. My reason is simple: if the goal is to get x amount of food into my body, and getting x amount in causes nausea, panic, gagging, and tears, and messing around on the computer while eating helps to decrease those reactions and increase the likelihood of success for said goal, then this must then be acceptable. But I suppose in terms of eating disorders, this is maybe a step on the continuum toward more healthy eating habits. I am a huge fan of mindfulness in general, but when it comes to eating, I am all for distraction. All that said, learning mindfulness based skills in DBT has made the rest of my life a lot better.

Personally, mindfulness was the first thing to have a genuine and lasting positive effect on my recovery. That said, promoting certain kinds of distraction for certain clients during mealtimes is very different than re-thinking mindfulness in ed treatment! I wouldn’t toss the towel in on mindfulness especially MBSR in early refeeding, but like everything else get thee to a qualified clinician who has the empathy and clinical skills necessary to deliver.
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After breathing in its sweet aroma, she took a small bite and let the chocolate slowly dissolve in her mouth. Mindfulness continues to gain widespread support to promote health and wellness, and mindful eating is being used as a tool to improve eating behaviors, encourage weight control, prevent chronic disease, and foster a healthful relationship with food.
In our technological, on-the-go society, exploring the process of eating can be eye-opening. As mentioned, a key component of mindful eating is nonjudgmental awareness of eating patterns.
His mindfulness model involves guided mindful meditation practices, gentle stretching, and the discussion of strategies to incorporate mindfulness into daily life.
Called MB-EAT-D, the program encouraged participants to combine “inner wisdom,” or mindful self-awareness around food, and “outer wisdom,” or knowledge about nutrition and diabetes concerns.
Obese participants experienced significantly lower cortisol levels and decreased anxiety but had no changes in weight from baseline.
A significant correlation existed between meditation habits at six months and increased vegetable and lower animal product consumption.
The mindless eating concept involves making adjustments to avoid triggers that may compel individuals to eat unhealthful foods, eat too much, or both. The popular book Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think by Brian Wansink, PhD, offers great information and many practical strategies to avoid mindless eating.
Mindful eating enables you to become more aware of other factors influencing eating decisions, which provides an avenue to empower clients to make the necessary changes from the inside out. It’s everywhere, and plenty of research is showing that it can be helpful in managing anxiety, depression, and many of the other woes of modern living. Some ED psychologists decided to ask this question, and looked at the efficacy of pre- and during-meal mindfulness in ED patients who were in a day treatment program. We further see mindfulness as a process of gaining insight into the nature of one’s mind and the adoption of a de-centered perspective on thoughts and feelings so that they can be experienced in terms of their subjectivity (versus their necessary validity) and transient nature (versus their permanence). Although some of the results are mixed, and not all of the data is really strong and needs to be replicated, mindfulness-based treatments do appear promising for these disorders. Half of the study participants received pre-meal distraction training followed by mindfulness training.
For the eating disorder group, however, this effect was actually worse: depression went up after mindfulness training vs. Subsequently, these individuals report excessive fullness, bloating, and abdominal pain after consuming small amounts of food. Thus, for those in the clinical sample, mindful attention to the physical sensation of fullness may have been iatrogenic.
There’s nothing wrong with paying attention to your meal, and it probably does help you enjoy it more. I should add that mindfulness OUTSIDE of the actual sitting down and eating part of recovery has actually been very helpful. I originally wanted to do my thesis project on mindful eating and eating disorders, but to get done in the amount of time I needed to that wasn’t feasible.

I try to practice mindfulness in other areas of my life so that one day I can practice mindfulness around eating too.
However, I agree with the other commentators that practicing mindfulness during eating would be counterproductive at best. The type of mindfulness MBSR that I know of, is quite different from what was describled in the piece and has a large basis of applicability for other uses.
During each session, one group of participants practiced mindful eating exercises and meditation, and was encouraged to continue this at home. Mindfulness-based eating awareness training for treating binge eating disorder: the conceptual foundation.
Comparative effectiveness of a mindful eating intervention to a diabetes self-management intervention among adults with type 2 diabetes: a pilot study. Mindfulness intervention for stress eating to reduce cortisol and abdominal fat among overweight and obese women: an exploratory randomized controlled study.
Not surprisingly, mindfulness has also become extremely popular in the eating disorder field. How mindfulness is used colloquially may not precisely reflect what psychologists mean when they use the term.
The groups ate a piece of blueberry coffee cake and completed the mood questionnaires both before and after eating. Anecdotally mindfulness sounds great, but it just doesn’t seem to always play out as expected, and people need to prioritize and pick their battles! The therapist who introduced me to mindfulness never even suggested doing that (maybe she knew that just the thought of it would give me anxiety). MBSR Mindfulness is characterized by nonevaluative and sustained moment-to-moment awareness of perceptible mental states and processes. But these results don’t necessarily indicate that mindfulness always works for every ED diagnosis. The ED group also liked the mindfulness training significantly less than the control group. But if the focus is just on getting the food down and keeping it down, or on including more foods in your diet, then distraction may be a good way to get those things done.
She encouraged me to try it during parts of the day when I felt, or expected, to feel anxiety, whether or not food-related, and especially when I started to feel guilty after eating. MBSR Mindfulness is nondeliberative: It implies noticing ongoing mental content without thinking about, comparing or in other ways evaluating it. While I have personally found the latter half of that to be extremely useful, the evidence supporting the use of mindfulness in EDs, especially AN, is much more limited.
Lots of clinicians and treatment programs say they use mindfulness as a treatment philosophy and protocol. Mindfulness while eating (for me) would be as stupid as telling my child to consider how foul the medicine tastes before he swallows it rather than advising him to hold his nose and just gulp it down quickly. Rather than thinking of eating or not eating as either good or bad and taking it to mean something about who I am as a person, I’m learning to tell myself that it means absolutely nothing. Just do your fucking job and tell me what to eat- and leave me the fuck alone as to how I do it.

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