I started eating vegan about 9 months ago. I’ve lost a fair amount of weight but even more importantly, I’ve brought my blood glucose levels down to normal.
“[Her training] blends ‘mindful eating’ exercises, such as being aware of hunger, chewing food slowly, tuning in to taste and noticing fullness, with mindfulness meditation practice to cultivate more general moment-to-moment awareness of self. Psychologists around the country are using it to help binge and compulsive eaters, diabetics, and people who are mildly and moderately obese to regulate their eating and avoid weight gain.
“”Traditional techniques for tackling the obesity epidemic often don’t take into account the strong drivers of eating: negative emotions, cravings and impulsivity, particularly in the face of highly palatable food,” says… Elissa Epel, PhD, who has collaborated with Kristeller on several research studies using MB-EAT. ‘Mindfulness training gives us more control over these strong drives and makes us more aware of the triggers of overeating that come from outside of us.’
“Kristeller advocates no particular diet — and no foods are off-limits. She teaches students to savor their food while eating, rather than mindlessly eating while watching television, surfing the Internet or reading the paper….
“Kristeller’s MB-EAT 10-week course teaches people that, once they pay attention to their body’s signals, brownies and chocolate cake are best experienced and savored in just a few bites.
“’Our taste buds are chemical sensors that tire quickly,’ she says. “The first few bites of a food taste better than the next few bites, and after a large amount, we may have very little taste experience left at all.’
“Participants in her training programs — those who struggle with food and weight issues and health-care professionals interested in helping them — focus on three mindfulness practices: awareness of hunger and what it feels like in the body, awareness of what it feels like to be full, and the practice of savoring — slowing down to truly taste food and be mindful of the various flavors and sensory experiences associated with each bite. A variety of foods — including chocolate — are used in the program, and Kristeller even assigns participants increasingly challenging homework assignments, such as going to a buffet. She teaches them that by attending to how much they are enjoying the food and recognizing the point at which it stops being as enjoyable, they can eat much smaller amounts, leave food on their plates and return for seconds if they still want more.
“’It’s about finding satisfaction in quality, not quantity,’ Kristeller says. She also teaches people not to beat themselves up if they overeat, but to see this as a learning experience….
“[E]ffects [of her program] are proportional to the amount of mindfulness meditation practice that is reported….
“[T]he more mindfulness the women practiced, the more their anxiety, chronic stress and deep belly fat decreased. Obese participants in the mindfulness program also maintained their body weight while those in the control group increased their weight over the same period of time….
“’One lesson we’ve learned is that with the effort and attention to eating taught in the MB-EAT program, people can change their relationship with food very quickly, and within a few sessions, they’re often starting to eat differently,’ [one researcher] says.”