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How Mindfulness Can Heal Your Relationship with Food

mind·ful·ness
ˈmīn(d)f(ə)lnəs/
noun
1. the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
2. a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
 
In 2014, a review was published looking at Mindfulness-Based Interventions for Binge eating, emotional eating, external eating, and eating in response to food cravings, all of which have been linked to weight gain and weight regain after successful weight loss. Researchers included randomized controlled trials, pretest-posttest designs using different forms of mindfulness training, including mindful eating programs.
 
Eleven out of the twelve studies that targeted binge eating (92%) reported improvements in binge eating frequency and/or severity, and the majority of reported effect sizes were large (average Cohen’s d=1.39).
 
Here’s the truth: mindfulness is not ‘woo-woo magic’. Regular mindfulness infused into eating practices is both a science and an art…and often runs counter-cultural to modern American styles of eating. Researchers believe that regular mindfulness practice leads to structural and functional CHANGES in brain regions involved in attention control (the anterior cingulate cortex and the striatum), emotion regulation (multiple prefrontal regions, limbic regions, and the striatum), and self-awareness (insula, medial prefrontal cortex and posterior cingulate cortex, and precuneus) (source).
 
Should you think about spending time on building mindfulness skills?
 
Andrea Lieberstein, internationally known mindfulness based Registered Dietitian, offers these questions to help you decide in her book “Well Nourished: Mindful Practices to Heal Your Relationship with Food, Feed Your Whole Self, and End Overeating”:
1. Do I overeat on a regular basis?
2. Do I eat predominately to procrastinate, soothe away uncomfortable feelings, ease stress or tension, or because food is there?
3. Do I reach for food to energize me because I am tired?
4. Do I make poorer self-care choices when I am fatigued?
5. Do I often eat while engaging in other activities (e.g. reading, watching TV, cooking) without paying attention to quantity, taste, or satisfaction?
6. Do I often feel spacey or sluggish after meals?
7. Am I fatigued and unfocused during the day?
 
If you answer ‘yes’ to many of these questions, you have an opportunity to hit the ‘reset’ button by changing the way that you approach food and eating. Are you ready? Let’s Connect!

About Sarah Ferreira

Sarah Ferreira,MS,MPH,RD,CDN,CNSC,IFNCP,CHWC is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with complementary certification as an Integrative and Functional Nutrition Certified Practitioner and Certified Health and Wellness Coach. She is the owner of Mindfully Nourished Solutions, where she uses a whole-person, whole-food approach to explore the impact of nutrition on mood and cognition. Her individualized approach integrates an assessment of nutritional, genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors into a collaborative nutrition care plan using cutting-edge research designed to facilitate meaningful and restorative changes based around client goals and priorities.

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