Practicing mindfulness reduces stress. Could it be helpful for other issues like binge eating or weight management?
A small, preliminary study published in Complementary Health Practice Review (2006; 11 , 133–43) has shown that a modified mindfulness program with a special focus on eating can help adults reduce binge eating, anxiety and depressive symptoms. Binge eating is defined as repeated, uncontrolled consumption of a large amount of food.
Researchers at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque recruited men and women from an ongoing mindfulness program held at the university. Out of 30 program participants, 27 enrolled in the study, and 25 completed it. The investigators assessed binge eating, depressive symptoms, mindfulness, self-acceptance and anxiety through questionnaires 1 week before the 8-week course started. One week after it ended, questionnaires were administered again.
Subjects participated in a modified version of the 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program created by Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, at the University of Massachusetts. Program enhancements included several mindful-eating exercises; for example, a 10-minute raisin-eating lesson, encouragement to eat mindfully during the week and one silent brown-bag lunch. Additional tasks focused on taste awareness and on how to choose which foods to eat.Data analysis showed a small to moderate decrease in binge eating, a large decrease in depressive symptoms, a moderate decrease in anxiety, a moderate increase in self-acceptance and a moderate to large increase in mindful awareness and attention. Study authors determined that mindfulness practice significantly reduced binge eating in the group as a whole and noted that lower anxiety levels and increased self-acceptance were associated with this improvement. Limitations of the study included its lack of a control group and the small sample size.