Richard G. Petty, MD

Mindfulness and Eating Disorders

There is a very interesting report about a study that is going on at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia.

They are using a psychological technique called "mindfulness" that is firmly rooted in Buddhist philosophy, in which a person becomes intentionally aware of his or her thoughts and actions in the present moment, non-judgmentally. Mindfulness is applied to both bodily actions and the mind’s own thoughts and feelings.

The idea is  to help them understand and deal with the emotions that trigger their binges. Unlike many other therapies used in the treatment of eating disorders, there is less focus on food and controlling eating and more on providing freedom from negative thoughts and emotions.

Psychologists Michelle Hanisch and Angela Morgan said that women who binged were often high-achievers and perfectionists and  when they perceived that they didn’t measure up to self-imposed standards or were not in control of situations, they indulged in secretive eating binges.

It is well known that many women with eating disorders develop elaborate methods of hiding the evidence of their binges. Some feel so guilty afterwards they also induce vomiting, overuse laxatives or exercise excessively to counteract the effects of the binge.

The researchers say, "Binge eating is largely a distraction – a temporary escape from events and emotions that nevertheless can cause long-term physical problems including electrolyte imbalances. Instead, women need to learn how to react in a different way… Women who have been through the program report less dissatisfaction with their bodies, increased self-esteem and improved personal relationships," and "They learn that thoughts and emotions don’t have any power over us as they are just passing phenomena and aren’t permanent."

Mindfulness involves techniques and exercises that are very similar to meditation. They could help people live more in the moment, and develop a healthy acceptance of self and become aware of potentially destructive habitual responses.

There is quite a large literature on the use of mindfulness in a variety of clinical situations including substance abuse, oncology, chronic stress, reducing symptoms after organ transplantation, chronic headache and perhaps anxiety.

It will be interesting to see the final results of this study: I shall keep you informed about this and other studies on mindfulness, meditation and acceptance and committment therapy (ACT).

“Peace can be reached through meditation on the knowledge which dreams can give. Peace can also be reached through concentration upon that which is dearest to the heart.”

–Patanjali (Indian Philosopher said to be the Compiler of the Yoga Sutras, Dates Unknown)

"Meditation is not to escape from society, but to come 
back to ourselves and see what is going on. Once there is 
seeing, there must be acting. With mindfulness, we know 
what to do and what not to do to help.”
Thich Nhat Hanh (Vietnamese Buddhist Monk, 1926-)

“Generosity is another quality which, like patience, letting go, non-judging, and trust, provides a solid foundation for mindfulness practice. You might experiment with using the cultivation of generosity as a vehicle for deep self-observation and inquiry as well as an exercise in giving. A good place to start is with yourself. See if you can give yourself gifts that may be true blessings, such as self-acceptance, or some time each day with no purpose. Practice feeling deserving enough to accept these gifts without obligation — to simply receive from yourself, and from the universe.”
–Jon Kabat Zinn (American Mindfulness Meditation Teacher and Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, 1944-)

About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.

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