I’m not sure whether this story qualifies as alternative medicine or religion, or neither. I throw it out to you because I and other sci/med bloggers widely criticize the infiltration of so-called alternative medicine in our academic medical centers.
But here in today’s Health Journal section of the Wall Street Journal, Melinda Beck tells us of the application of mindfulness, a practice derived from Buddhism, to overcoming binge-eating disorders. Sure, this may be considered alternative medicine but it’s really an application of psychology under the auspices of integrative medicine:
In a randomized controlled trial at Duke and Indiana State University, binge eaters who participated in a nine-week mindful-eating program went from binging an average of four times a week to once, and reduced their levels of insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes. More NIH-funded trials are under way to study whether mindful eating is effective for weight loss, and for helping people who have lost weight keep it off.
I cannot yet find the original literature citation for this work, but the approach may be of use for all of us who are looking to lose a couple pounds. Beck gives us her firsthand experience:
First, ask yourself how hungry you are, on a scale of 1 (ravenous) to 7 (stuffed).
Next, take time to appreciate the food on your plate. Notice the colors and textures.
Take a bite. Slowly experience the tastes on your tongue. Put down your fork and savor.
“Most people don’t think about what they’re eating — they’re focusing on the next bite,” says Sasha Loring, a psychotherapist at Duke Integrative Medicine, part of Duke University Health System here. “I’ve worked with lots of obese people — you’d think they’d enjoy food. But a lot of them say they haven’t really tasted what they’ve been shoveling down for years.”
Over lunch, Ms. Loring is teaching me how to eat mindfully — paying attention to what you eat and stopping just before you’re full, ideally about 5½ on that 7-point scale. Many past diet plans have stressed not overeating. What’s different about mindful eating is the paradoxical concept that eating just a few mouthfuls, and savoring the experience, can be far more satisfying than eating an entire cake mindlessly.
It sounds so simple, but it takes discipline and practice. It’s a far cry from the mindless way many of us eat while walking, working or watching TV, stopping only when the plate is clean or the show is over.
It’s also a mind-blowing experience: I’m full and completely satisfied after three mindful bites.
Well, Ms. Beck, I doubt seriously that I would be “full and completely satisfied” after three mouthfuls of anything. but simply moving my eating from in front of the TV and using smaller plates when eating takeaway food has helped me in my battle against metabolism in the fifth decade. This mindful eating thing might be worth thinking about.
The article is currently free as is a discussion forum moderated by Melinda Beck on this article. Take a look while it’s free – it has links to other mindfulness eating sources on the web and in print.