Mindful Eating Program set to begin at ISU

By: ISU Communications and Marketing Staff, ISU Communications and Marketing Staff
October 8, 2010

For those who struggle with their weight and overeating, the Indiana State University Psychology Clinic is offering the Mindful Eating Program to help.

Jean Kristeller, who pioneered the program, said it is not a diet.

"The program is designed to help them change their relationship to food permanently," she said.

While the program is part of six National Institutes for Health research grants, this is the first time for the program to be offered as a service of the ISU Psychology Clinic.

"This is for people who have significant weight issues," Kristeller said.

Participants will examine their own inner experiences with food and learn to handle what triggers their overeating, what Kristeller calls "inner wisdom." They also will learn to incorporate "outer wisdom," such as nutrition and exercise, into their lives.

"We do this in a way that works for them permanently," Kristeller said. "So many go on diets and lose 20 pounds. Then they go off the diet and it all comes back."

While the program is not a diet, Kristeller said that it can be compatible with weight-loss programs such as Weight Watchers. Many diets restrict what a person may eat, giving a list of rules that the dieter must follow, which can lead to binges.

"You need to learn how to use it for yourself," she said. "We say, ‘Thin people eat chocolate. They just eat small amounts.'"

The program helps participants cultivate mindfulness with their eating. It encourages being mindful of each bite and to savor the experience of eating. It also helps participants become aware of hunger and satiety cues.

"We get away from the black and white thinking that they can't eat these foods," Kristeller said. "They can eat them in small amounts. What we find in a very short period of time is that they realize, ‘I can eat a small piece of chocolate and get even more pleasure from it than if I eat a whole chocolate bar.'"

Participants learn to find satisfaction in quality, not quantity, of food.

"Satisfaction is defined in many ways, from enjoying the food we eat, to feeling pleasantly full instead of being stuffed, to experiencing a joyful family or social experience around a meal," she said.

Participants also will learn how to meditate as part of the program although Kristeller described it as "not a religious meditation." Research has shown that basic meditation is valuable to people, she said.

"It helps people cultivate mindfulness, in helping people become more aware of every day experiences," she said. "Often people are stress eaters. They go to food than find another way to manage stress. Meditation is one of many ways to manage stress."

Participants also get experience of responding to food during the sessions, as well as receiving group support for when they face daily meals.

"Part of what we emphasize is you come in here for two and a half hours but you have to commit to what we do in the session for the rest of the week," Kristeller said. "It's putting it into practice."

The 12-session program begins on Oct. 25. Participants will meet from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on Mondays. The cost is $120 ($10 per session), but a sliding fee schedule also is available. If a participant attends each of the 12 sessions and completes a final assessment, he or she will receive a refund of 25 percent of the fee.

To schedule a personal assessment or for more information, contact the ISU Psychology Clinic at 812-237-3317.

Contact: Jean Kristeller, Indiana State University, psychology professor, at 812-237-2467 or Jean.Kristeller@indstate.edu

Writer: Jennifer Sicking, Indiana State University, assistant director of media relations, at 812-237-7972 or Jennifer.Sicking@indstate.edu