Are you are eating because you are hungry? Or is your eating disordered by negative emotions or by your response to external food cues? Do you obsess about food or binge out?
A lot of us who have diabetes have disordered eating, says Carla Miller, a professor of human nutrition at Ohio State University. Diabetes professionals who stayed to the final day of the American Diabetes Association’s annual convention in Boston earlier this month were able to hear her presentation of “Mindful Eating — Am I Hungry?”
Most of the large crowd of 17,844 people in attendance were doctors, but I am a journalist who represented HealthCentral.com at the event. People came from 131 different countries, and 58 percent of them were from countries other than the United States. By my count, we came to hear more than 800 scheduled presentations, addresses, and talks like Professor Miller’s as well as to see the more than 2,300 posters and hundreds of exhibits by companies that work with diabetes.
After her talk Professor Miller gave my copies of the slides that she had presented at the conference. This is one of them:
In her presentation she reviewed the most important studies about eating mindfully, summarizing our current knowledge of this approach for those of us with diabetes to manage our weight. It is new: when I searched PubMed, the U.S. government’s database of more than 24 million biomedical citations for “mindful eating,” I got only 21 hits.
Comparing Mindful Eating with Standard Advice
One of those studies is a randomized controlled trial that she herself lead and that the journal, Health Education & Behavior, published last year. This study is a “Comparison of a Mindful Eating Intervention to a Diabetes Self-Management Intervention Among Adults With Type 2 Diabetes.”
The study compares how effective two types of behavior trainings were for people with type 2 diabetes who needed to lose weight. One group got training in a standard diabetes self-management program with a strong focus on nutrition. The other group got training in mindful mediation and how to mindfully select and eat food.
“We studied two very different approaches,” Professor Miller says. “Both of them worked. This means that people with diabetes have a choice when it comes to eating a healthy diet. If mindful mediation is appealing and people think that this approach is effective, then it very well could be their best choice.”
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness, she says, is a state of consciousness that involved attending to one’s moment-to-moment experiences, thoughts, and emotions with an open, non-judgmental approach. It has three components: intention, attention, and attitude. A practice of mindfulness brings increasing ability to take interest in each experience as it arrives and to allow what we experience to pass away, whether it is pleasant or not. It gives us the ability to simply witness the experience.
We can define mindfulness in even fewer words: It means paying attention to the present moment without preference or judgment.
Other Studies Show that Mindful Eating Works
Professor Miller brought us up to speed on the other studies of this new approach to weight loss. A review of 21 studies of mindfulness for weight loss included mindful eating exercise, mindful meditation, mindful body scan, or acceptance-based practices, Professor Miller says. This review, “Mindfulness-Based Interventions for Obesity-Related Eating Behaviors,” came out last year in the journal Obesity Reviews. Eighteen of the 21 studies reported improvements in eating behaviors, and of the 10 studies that reported on weight, nine of them led to weight loss averaging 10 pounds.
Earlier this year a second review looked at 19 studies. This review, “Mindfulness and weight loss” in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, found that the people in 13 of the 19 studies had significant weight loss.
Practicing mindful eating is one of the strategies that I use to manage my weight, bringing it down to a normal level and keeping it there. I know that it works.
See more of my articles about how to manage diabetes:
David Mendosa was a journalist who learned in 1994 that he had type 2 diabetes, which he wrote about exclusively. He died in May 2017 after a short illness unrelated to diabetes. He wrote thousands of diabetes articles, two books about it, created one of the first diabetes websites, and published a monthly newsletter, “Diabetes Update.” His very low-carbohydrate diet, A1C level of 5.3, and BMI of 19.8 kept his diabetes in remission without any drugs until his death.