Mindfulness Training and Meditation to Combat Obesity?

Regular readers of these pages may recall previous posts on how “mindless” eating may well be contributing to the current obesity epidemic.

It may therefore be logical to presume that increasing “mindfulness” may help modify and improve eating behaviours.

But what does it take to actually help clients become more mindful of their eating behaviours?

This interesting issue is the topic of a paper by Jean Kristeller and Ruth Wolever just published in Eating Disorders, in which they describe a conceptual framework and the preliminary results of an approach that they call Mindfulness-Based Eating Awareness Training (MB-EAT).

As the authors explain:

The MB-EAT program is designed to help individuals cultivate awareness of both internal and external triggers to eating, interrupt dysfunctional cycles of binging, self-recrimination and over-restraint, and re-engage the natural physiological processes of eating regulation. Furthermore, the program emphasizes the pleasure and nurturing aspects of eating, while encouraging healthier patterns of food choice, in terms of both types and amount of food eaten. MB-EAT is further designed to do so in a way that is effective in internalizing and maintaining change.

Specifically, the MB-EAT program includes strategies such as meditation practice to cultivate attention and awareness.

In addition, participants are encouraged to recognize their own internal strengths, and be open to their own understanding and solutions to challenging situations, rather than reacting judgmentally to self-perceived variances from internalized norms of eating behavior or weight.

The 10-session treatment program uses a range of strategies and exercises to cultivate mindfulness, mindful eating, emotional balance, and self-acceptance.

The authors present preliminary findings from studies in patients with and without binge eating disorder suggesting significant improvements in eating behaviours and mood.

Certainly a paper that I would recommend to anyone who believes that helping patients change their eating behaviour requires more than simply “educating” them about healthy choices.

I wonder what my readers have to say about this approach to weight management, which is so very different from the “kick-in-the-butt” approach that I blogged about yesterday.

Chicago, IL

Kristeller JL, & Wolever RQ (2011). Mindfulness-based eating awareness training for treating binge eating disorder: the conceptual foundation. Eating disorders, 19 (1), 49-61 PMID: 21181579