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Mindfulness May Protect Against Eating Disorders

March 11, 2020

Mindfulness is inversely associated with eating disorder psychopathology, according to a meta-analysis published online in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.

The research spanned 70 papers, 74 independent samples, and 18,402 participants.

“Overall results from our meta-analysis suggest that individuals who struggle with dysregulated eating and body dissatisfaction may be most likely to benefit from mindfulness training,” researchers wrote. “However, it is important to note that mindfulness was significantly associated with all of the eating disorder constructs we examined, suggesting that mindfulness should be studied in the context of all eating disorder symptoms.”

The association between mindfulness and eating disorder psychopathology was −.25, according to the study. The strongest associations found were for emotional/external eating (−.29), body dissatisfaction (−.29), and binge eating (−.28).

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When researchers looked at how specific facets of mindfulness related to eating disorder psychopathology, they found the strongest correlations for nonjudging (−.25) and acting with awareness (−.23). 

“Higher levels of nonjudging may promote accepting thoughts and feelings about one's body and food without acting upon them by engaging in disordered eating behaviors,” they reasoned. “Higher levels of acting with awareness may lead individuals to lower behavioral automaticity, which would result in lower levels of eating disorder psychopathology.”

Findings from the meta-analysis point to a need for future prospective and experimental studies to further investigate the relationship between mindfulness and eating disorder psychopathology, researchers concluded.

“Our findings suggest that targeting mindfulness may be promising in alleviating eating disorder psychopathology,” they wrote.

—Jolynn Tumolo

Reference 

Sala M, Shankar Ram S, Vanzhula IA, Levinson CA. Mindfulness and eating disorder psychopathology: a meta-analysis. International Journal of Eating Disorders. 2020 February 25;[Epub ahead of print].

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