New research just published in the journal Eating Behaviors (Masudo & Wendell, 2010) indicates that how we relate to the thoughts we have about our weight, fear of weight gain, the importance of being thin, and other eating-related thoughts makes a difference in how we’ll feel and behave. Let me break this down just a little for you. First of all, based on prior research, we know that the more people engage in negative thoughts about their weight and eating behaviors (called “negative eating-related cognitions”) the more likely someone will have an eating disorder and be prone to negative emotions, distress, and psychological ill-health. Second, mindfulness (defined as nonjudgmental awareness of present moment experience) has been shown in numerous studies to help people relate to negative thoughts in a way that keeps them from experiencing the usual negative distress and psychological consequences that otherwise occur. This current study looked at the degree of negative eating-related cognitions and the degree of mindfulness someone exhibits and provides more proof that the more mindful someone is, the less likely they will fall prey to the effects of the negative thoughts they might have. Please don’t confuse these findings as saying you will ever get rid of negative thoughts. We all have them and we can’t really control our thoughts. However, we do have a choice about how we relate to them when they occur.
Mindfulness, which helps us step back and experience our negative thoughts with a greater degree of kindness, can be learned through formal practices such as sitting meditation with focus on the breath, mindfulness of the body through the body scan practice or eating meditation, or mindful yoga. Mindfulness can also be strengthened through the day just by taking a moment or two to check in with your body, your thoughts, and your emotions. Or, one of my favorite practices is to be really mindful and present with my body as I walk from place to place throughout the day.
To assist you in your own mindfulness, check out the recordings on the Tips for Mindful Eating blog. Like anything, the more you practice mindfulness, the better you get at it. A consistent, regular practice of mindfulness (even for just a few minutes each day) can help you feel better and make more skillful choices in how you think about yourself and ultimately respond to your life.