Very few of us only eat when we’re hungry and then stop eating once we’re full. We also have an emotional relationship to food. Some of us eat as a response to stress and anxiety, some of us don’t eat as a response to stress and anxiety. Some of us try to restrict our food consumption to lose weight but then binge eat when we feel so deprived and starved. These kinds for relationships with food aren’t always so healthy for our bodies (have you ever heard anyone say “Oh wow I’m feeling so stressed, please pass me that bowl of sautéed broccoli and quinoa?”), and using food generally doesn’t resolve our emotional distress.
A recent review article examined 14 different published studies that all used mindfulness as an intervention for binge eating, emotional eating, or weight change. Results indicate that mindfulness interventions successfully reduce binge eating and emotional eating, but the jury’s still out for effectiveness in weight loss. The mechanism through which mindfulness helps us have a more emotionally healthy relationship with food was not discussed at length in the paper. One hypothesis is that mindfulness gives us a better strategy for dealing with our negative emotions and thus reduces our need to use food as a coping strategy. This could be similar to findings in studies on mindfulness and alcohol consumption.