Binge Eating and Mindfulness

Does Mindfulness improve eating habits in binge eaters?

After all, people who are naturally mindful tend to eat less impulsively, eat fewer calories and make healthier snack choices.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a practice of paying attention to experiences in the present moment in a non-judgmental manner.  Studies show that people find that mindfulness to have a number of positive effects including:

  • a greater sense of wellbeing;
  • being able to respond less frequently and less intensely to negative situations;
  • helping to develop a greater capacity to choose the most effective ways to respond, rather than react, to your emotions;
  • enabling people to have a greater ability to detect thoughts, and to consciously replace unhelpful thoughts with more
  • balanced, healthier responses.

Mindfulness training is therefore being increasingly incorporated into treatments for a wide variety of mental health disorders. Therapists often do this by helping their clients to establish a mindful meditation practice. They also help people to develop greater mindfulness in everyday activities.  One of the daily activities where mindfulness can be helpful is in eating.

What does the Research Say About Using Mindfulness to Address Binge Eating?

Mindfulness can be taught, and increases with practice. As a result, there has been growing interest in seeing whether teaching this skill could be beneficial in encouraging healthier eating behaviours.

The research bears this out – there is now good evidence that increasing your mindfulness should result in good reductions in binge eating. Not only this, there is some evidence that the benefits you can expect are as good as those found for other psychological treatments such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) .

Mindfulness is Useful, but is not a Panacea for Weight Control in Binge Eating

So, mindfulness can help binge eaters to reduce the frequency and severity of their binge eating episodes. Unfortunately, mindfulness is not a panacea for obesity and weight control. Unfortunately, mindfulness alone does not overcome other barriers to achieving weight reductions. For example, mindful eating does not seem to overcome the portion-size effect. That is it does not stop the tendency for people to consume more calories when served greater portion sizes.

So what can you do?

If you binge eat: Mindfulness could be a really useful intervention for you to try.  It might help you to eat less, binge less frequently and make healthier choices about what you eat.

If you need to control your weight: Mindfulness will still be useful, but you will need to continue to use other strategies to help you achieve the results you are after.  These strategies may include limiting your portions and getting regular exercise.

If binge eating is undermining your health, preventing you from maintaining a healthy weight or making your feel distressed consider booking in with Kelly.