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The festive season has begun and so too the busy social calendar with work parties, Christmas shindigs and of course the family get-togethers. So too, therefore, the boxes of chocolates, the turkey dinners, the mince pies, the Christmas pudding, the cheese, the mulled wine, the list goes on…

Although aimed to be a time of joy and cheer, unfortunately it can also be a time of heightened anxiety for clients who have spent so much time reducing their intake and working towards their weight loss goal. The projection of being surrounded by so much ‘temptation’ and larger than life portion sizes can be a source of fear of ‘losing control’ and ‘putting all the weight they lost back on’. So as practitioners, how can we support clients to find a balance between enjoying the festive season and food on offer whilst not undoing their hard work and bringing them back to the start of their journey?

The answer may be in introducing the client to Mindful Eating. Originating from Buddhist practice as one being in a state of acute awareness to the present moment with no critical judgements, translates to eating with a mindful approach whereby the appearance, smell, texture and taste of food are taken into detailed consideration to truly ‘savour’ the moment in a non-critical way (Kabat-Zinn, 2003).

Studies have shown that using this approach to help with overeating and obesity significantly improves outcomes. For example; a study looking at the association between mindfulness treatment and abdominal obesity found that participants in the study group who showed improvements in using mindful techniques also showed the most weight loss in abdominal fat (Daubenmier, 2011). Furthermore, a mindfulness intervention has been shown to reduce episodes of binge eating and associated anxiety in participants (Smith, 2006).

If this approach sounds like it could be of benefit to preparing your clients for Christmas, there are several tools available to use in clinic. A questionnaire to identify clients’ current mindful awareness is available (Framson, 2009). Moving on from that, conducting a mindful eating exercise in clinic can also demonstrate the concept itself to the client and show how it can reduce overeating. Although traditionally a raisin is described, this can be adapted to be a food your client particularly struggles eating moderate amounts of, or for a festive flavour try a minced pie (Extension Service West Virginia University, 2016).

Using this approach and practicing it in clinic may be the coaching your client needs to truly enjoy the festive season and all the social gatherings and food around it, whilst continuing their healthy lifestyle and weight loss goals.

 

Merry Christmas all!

The Genovive team

 

References

Daubenmier, J. K. (2011). Mindfulness Intervention for Stress Eating to Reduce Cortisol and Abdominal Fat among Overweight and Obese Women: An Exploratory Randomized Controlled Study. Journal of Obesity, doi:10.1155/2011/651936.

Extension Service West Virginia University. (2016, December 3). Eating One Raisin: A First Taste of Mindfulness. Retrieved from West Virginia University: http://hfhc.ext.wvu.edu/r/download/114469

Framson, C. K. (2009). Development and Validation of the Mindful Eating Questionnaire. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 109(8)1439-1444.

Kabat-Zinn, J. (2003). Mindfulness-Based Interventions in Context: Past, Present, and Future. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10(2)144-156.

Smith, B. W. (2006). A Preliminary Study of the Effects of a Modified Mindfulness Intervention on Binge Eating. Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine, 11(3)133-143.