In last week’s article, you were introduced to the concept of mindfulness as a state of awareness, without judgement. When we practice mindful eating, we use our inner wisdom, (our awareness of hunger and fullness cues, stress level, feelings, etc.) combined with our outer wisdom (what we know about healthy eating and lifestyle).
But does mindful eating really work? Initial research shows mindful eating can help improve our relationship with food and reduce depressive symptoms in people with binge-eating disorder and type 2 diabetes. It has also been shown to help with weight management for individuals with type 2 diabetes.
One study of particular interest, compared the effectiveness of a mindfulness-based eating awareness program, adapted for type 2 diabetes (MB-EAT-D) to a diabetes self-management education (DSME) program, which addresses knowledge, self-efficacy, and outcome expectations for improving food choices. Community-dwelling adults (35-65 yrs) with type 2 diabetes (for ≥1 year, no insulin) were randomly assigned to a group-based 3-month MB-EAT-D (n = 27) or to a group-based DSME "Smart Choices" (SC) intervention (n = 25). A primary component of the MB-EAT-D intervention was mindful meditation applied to eating. Each session included guided meditations oriented toward the experiences and emotions associated with food intake.
At the end of the study, both the mindful eating and the self-management groups lost weight although there was no significant difference with either program [(-1.53+/- 0.54 kg) and (-2.92+/-0.54 kg), respectively]. Additionally, participants in both groups had significant improvement in depressive symptoms, outcome expectations, nutrition and eating-related self-efficacy, and cognitive control (all p < .0125). Of particular interest, these changes were still observed at 3-months.
Both SC and MB-EAT-D were effective treatments for diabetes self-management outcomes. Additional research also supports mindful eating training is linked with improved glycemic control. These results indicate mindful eating offers people with type 2 diabetes an additional choice in meeting their self-care needs and improving eating behaviours.
In next week’s article, we’ll review the different types of hunger and do a mini-meditation exercise you can try when eating your next meal mindfully.
Check out www.tcme.org to get more information, or contact dietitian Coleen Nolan for info on mindful eating programs being offered in the Halifax area:
Coleen Nolan, MSc, RD, CYI is a Halifax-based registered dietitian and yoga teacher.