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Understanding the relationship between mindfulness and eating behaviour

Vaughan, Karis 2018. Understanding the relationship between mindfulness and eating behaviour. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Mindfulness is a meditation practice and personality trait that concerns the extent to which an individual attends to present-moment experience in an open and non-judgemental manner. Mindfulness has been associated with a wealth of benefits for both psychological and physical wellbeing. With respect to eating behaviour, mindfulness has been linked with more favourable eating practices and positive outcomes for weight management, encompassing reduced energy intake, greater intake of fruit and vegetables, lower BMI, and greater success in weight loss efforts. In order to best apply mindfulness to eating and weight management a greater understanding of the mechanisms underlying the relationship between mindfulness and eating would be beneficial. Here, I investigated these mechanisms by focusing on the extent to which mindfulness may allow greater self-regulation of eating behaviour. Across six studies I used a variety of methods to examine processes of self-regulation in relation to mindfulness in the context of eating behaviour. This included investigating the mediating role of executive function in determining food consumption following a mindfulness induction, as well as implementing food cueing paradigms that manipulated the need for self-control to observe effects of dispositional mindfulness on eating behaviour. Finally, I examined the cognitive accessibility of dieting goals and motivational styles of behavioural regulation in relation to mindfulness and how they predicted weight and diet outcomes across time. Overall, the effects of mindfulness on eating behaviour were nuanced and complex. Rather than simply reducing energy intake per se, mindfulness may increase healthy food choices or act as a moderator of effects, and its benefits may be overridden by the motivational state of hunger. I found no evidence for enhanced self-control in the form of executive function or accessibility of dieting goals as being a mechanism underlying the effects of mindfulness. Instead, mindfulness may be predictive of slower responses to food stimuli and specific styles of behavioural regulation which represent more deliberative self-regulation rather than automatic self-control.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 20 December 2018
Date of Acceptance: 20 December 2018
Last Modified: 20 Dec 2018 14:24

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