Do you find yourself eating even when you are not hungry? Do you have trouble resisting impulsive eating throughout the day? Overweight and obese individuals tend to be more impulsive and sensitive to food rewards compared to normal weight individuals. Obesity is a growing health concern, with over 2/3 of the U.S. population being overweight or obese (CDC, 2015). A recent study published in the journal Health Psychology investigated the effects of a mindful-eating training on impulsive food choice in both adolescents and adults. Mindful eating is an approach to eating where you learn to pay attention to your thoughts, feelings and sensations both during and after eating.
In this study, 348 adults and adolescents participated in two study sessions. The first session was to measure the baseline discounting rate. The baseline rate was compared to the discounting rate after the intervention in order to determine the amount of change. During the first session, participants completed a delayed discounting task, a task that measures impulsivity by comparing the preference for smaller, more immediate rewards over larger, delayed rewards. For the second session, participants were randomized to a mindful eating group, DVD control, or a standard control group. The mindful-eating group completed a 50-min workshop on mindful eating where they applied their newly learned skills while eating four types of foods. The DVD control group watched a 50-min DVD about nutrition and the food pyramid. The standard control group did not participate in any training or standardized activity.
Both adolescents and adults who participated in the mindful-eating session experienced reduced impulsivity towards food choices from the baseline session. In addition, consistent with prior research individuals, both adolescents and adults, with higher percent body fat had higher food impulsivity than healthy weight individuals.
Strengths of this study include the randomized control design. This means that there was a control group and an intervention group. Also, participants were randomly assigned to their group, which ensures that the groups are equal on everything except the intervention. This design allows for more conclusive evidence about the effect of mindful eating training on impulsive eating compared to other designs. Findings from this study suggest that mindful eating interventions can decrease impulsive food choices, which could lead to weight loss. Mindful-eating training could also be a potential prevention strategy for impulsive eating, thus preventing obesity. Future research should investigate the long-term effects of mindful-eating interventions since this study only looked at short-term effects.
Hendrickson, K. L., & Rasmussen, E. B. (2017). Mindful eating reduces impulsive food choice in adolescents and adults. Health Psychology, 36(3), 226.