For many people who struggle with food and body weight, the simple solution may be learning to eat mindfully. For others, mindful eating may be one part of a multifaceted solution.
The benefits of mindful eating have been increasingly researched over the past 15 years, and the benefits of mindfulness meditation researched for twice that long. One syndrome that has been closely researched is binge eating disorder. Thus far, studies suggest that mindful eating can substantially reduce bingeing behaviors.
Eating mindfully also helps people to resolve food cravings. How? By helping to disrupt the (usually unconscious) link between one’s eating urges and the resulting behaviors.
Mindfulness can also reduce emotional eating behaviors, because mindfulness has been well-demonstrated to improve mood states and to reduce stress generally. Mindfulness has even been shown to increase activity in the parts of the brain that are associated with happiness and optimism!
The practice can also help those who struggle with obesity. For example, the results of a 2009 study reported that “in those who applied the principles and practices of mindfulness consistently, there were greater increases in physical activity and significantly greater reductions in Body Mass Index.”**
There are numerous mindful eating books, audio programs, and live trainings to choose from. Choosing a method that comprehensively introduces you not only to basic skills, but also to the deeper mindfulness meditation tradition from which mindful eating comes, is likely to be most beneficial for your ultimate success.
Obviously, one’s learning style plays a role. Reading one of the better books may be enough to get many people started. There are also guided audio programs, which can be particularly useful for those who desire the comfort and convenience of a self-paced, at-home program. The most effective audio programs will lead you through guided eating exercises, and also lead you through basic meditations.
In-person and web-based mindful eating trainings are also available. Trainings can be quite useful because a teacher can provide specific feedback and individual support as needed.
When comparing programs and resources, choose one that covers as many of the following areas as possible (all of which are related to eating behaviors):
- Basic mindful eating skills
- Mindful stress reduction (via mindfulness meditation)
- Bodily awareness meditation (sometimes called body scanning)
- Mindfulness of emotions (in order to diminish “emotional eating”)
- Mindfulness of thoughts (thoughts tend to precede out-of-control eating behaviors)
- How to exercise mindfully
- How to cultivate lovingkindness for oneself and others
- How to make the practice a part of your daily life (i.e., effective practice strategies)
**Tapper, K., et al. (2009). Exploratory randomised controlled trial of a mindfulness-based weight loss intervention for women. Appetite, 52:2, 396-404.