By Keegan Abernathy MS, CNS, LDN
Nutritional science typically explores the effect nutrients, foods, and eating patterns have on human biochemistry and health. But what about how we eat? In this post, I will explore the practice of mindful eating and its researched effects on health and psychology.
Mindful Eating vs. Mindless Eating
To understand what mindful eating is and how it works, it is helpful to understand its opposite behavior. We can categorize a very common way of eating as mindless eating. This occurs when we are not aware of our experience of eating. There are many factors that can induce mindless eating such as stress, difficulty regulating emotions, being distracted while eating, or eating too quickly. Social situations, culture, and familial conditioning also play a role in how mindfully we eat (Wansink, 2010). Food choices can become more challenging when we haven’t eaten all day which means it is easier to eat mindlessly.
What Is Mindful Eating?
Mindful eating happens when we are fully aware of the experience of eating. It includes noticing the flavor, satisfaction, smell and feel of food being eaten. When eating mindfully, one can notice internal states such as hunger level, satiety, and physical fullness (Kristeller et al., 2014). There tends to be self-reports of increased pleasure and satisfaction from food with the practice of mindful eating (Kristeller et al., 2014). Mindful eating can happen naturally, but its occurrence can be limited by learned eating habits, emotional states, and distractions (Wansink, 2010). Cultivating mindful eating as a new habit can occur with the support of training and practice. The Mindfulness-Based Eating Awareness Training (MB-EAT) is a studied approach to eating mindfully. This training is a non-dieting approach to eating that teaches participants to become aware of the complexity, choices, and experiences that occur while eating (Kristeller et al., 2014).
Researched Effects of MB-EAT
Several studies have been conducted exploring the effects of MB-EAT. Kristeller & Hallett (1999) performed a single-group, extended baseline follow-up design that included 18 participants, most of whom were obese middle-aged women with binge-eating disorder (BED). After MB-EAT intervention, binge episodes decreased from 4 per week to 1.5. Measures of depression and binge severity also decreased. In a randomized clinical trial, 194 adults with obesity were randomly placed into a 5.5 month program that either included MB-EAT or did not include MB-EAT (Daubenmier et al., 2016). While there were no substantial differences in weight loss between the groups, cardiometabolic markers such as fasting glucose and lipids were improved in the treatment group receiving MB-EAT.
Please note that this post is for educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional care by a physician or other qualified medical professionals. It is provided on the understanding that it does not constitute medical or other professional advice or services. If you are interested in nutritional support, consider reaching out to the Natural Care Center for consultations by calling 443-906-9754 or emailing
Natural Care Center (NCC)
Looking to see a Nutritionist at the Natural Care Center to meet your nutritional needs? Integrative nutritionists use science-based diet and nutrition therapies to support your personal health and well-being. They recognize that individualized nutrition is essential to health and their integrative approach is not limited to one dietary theory. And for more than 40 years, the Natural Care Center at Maryland University of Integrative Health, which includes our student teaching clinic and professional practitioners, has provided powerful, meaningful, and effective healing experiences for patients and clients that arrive with a wide array of health challenges.
During your first visit at the NCC, your practitioner will gather information about your health and personal history, review your dietary preferences and health concerns, and assess your nutritional status. Together with your nutritionist, you will craft a personalized nutrition plan to start you on your path to greater health and vitality.To talk with someone about making an appointment, call 443-906-5794 or email .
Daubenmier, J., Moran, P. J., Kristeller, J., Acree, M., Bacchetti, P., Kemeny, M. E., … & Hecht, F. M. (2016). Effects of a mindfulness‐based weight loss intervention in adults with obesity: A randomized clinical trial. Obesity, 24(4), 794-804.
Kristeller, J. L., & Hallett, C. B. (1999). An exploratory study of a meditation-based intervention for binge eating disorder. Journal of Health Psychology. 4(3), 357-363.
Kristeller, J., Wolever, R. Q., & Sheets, V. (2014). Mindfulness-based eating awareness training (MB-EAT) for binge eating: A randomized clinical trial. Mindfulness, 5(3), 282-297.
Wansink, B. (2010). From mindless eating to mindlessly eating better. Physiology & behavior, 100(5), 454-463.