Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience. It isn’t more complicated than that. It is opening to or receiving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is, without either clinging to it or rejecting it.
― Sylvia Boorstein
Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present in the moment. It is an essential skill that can put you on the path to permanent weight loss or “en-liten-ment”. It is only by centering your full attention in the moment that you can become fully aware of your thoughts,feelings, and bodily sensations, such as hunger and feelings of fullness.
Those of us who eat compulsively, do so out of reactivity. Reactivity is when thoughts, emotions, and body sensations are channeled into behavior. Compulsive overeating and binge eating is a way to regulate emotions like boredom, anger, sadness, anxiety, and even happiness.
Mindfulness gives you the awareness to make permanent changes in your eating patterns. It has been used successfully to stabilize eating behaviors in persons with compulsive eating and binge eating disorder. Mindfulness allows you the spaciousness to become aware of your internal state. It is this internal state that drives your emotional eating. With mindfulness, you can tune in to see if you are hungry for food, or if you’re in need of some emotional nourishment.
Research on eating regulation shows that people who eat compulsively are generally less aware of hunger and satiety cues, including feelings of fullness. My personal experience, and that of clients, is that we are simply lost in our thoughts and do not pay attention to our bodily sensations.
Mindfulness gives you the ability to see how your thoughts, emotions, and bodily feelings are influencing your behaviors. Until you become aware of this, you’re on autopilot, mindlessness cruising through life, victimized by your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Mindfulness allows you to develop your ability to pause and make better choices. These skills are crucial if you want to end compulsive eating and achieve permanent weight loss.
Mindfulness hands you the keys to your inner world. This is where all thoughts, emotions, and behaviors arise. With mindfulness, you are given the awareness and opportunity to deconstruct your behavior and thinking, thus allowing you a choice as to how you want to react. Once you have access and familiarity to your inner world, you can begin to create an inner sanctuary – an internal state and place that is safe and nourishing – a place you will want to return again and again. Once this nourishing place is established within you, emotional eating will begin to lose its stronghold in your life.
In a 1999 pilot study conducted by Jean Kristeller, PHD, a psychology professor at Indiana State University, and Brendan Hallett, a grad student, showed that mindfulness practice increased feelings of self acceptance and control around food, decreasing binges and reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression in just 6 weeks.
The meditation-based group intervention for Binge Eating Disorder (BED) involved 18 obese women, with binges decreasing in frequency, from 4.02 a week down to 1.57 a week. They also lessened in severity. Those who were still bingeing reported eating much less.
Note: You don’t have to be a binge eater to benefit from this approach. I’ve used this method for well over a decade with clients who are compulsive, emotional eaters, mindless eaters, and chronic dieters. Read my success stories here.
As a person who has recovered from binge eating disorder, I can attest to the benefits of mindfulness. Mindfulness played a crucial role in my recovery; it has given my life the peace, pleasure, and the freedom with food that I enjoy today. Read my full story here.
If you want to end compulsive, mindless, or emotional eating and make better choices that can lead to permanent weight loss, try mindfulness practice. You will enjoy your food more, eat less, and develop the freedom to make conscious choices that support your health.