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Running Head: MINDFUL EATING

Wellness Plan: Mindful Eating, Self Compassion, and Meditation

Shelly Schantz

Oakland University

Caryn Wells, Ph.D

EA 8820

December 5, 2017
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Part I : Review of the Literature

In an article by Anderson et al. (1999), ​The effects of meditation on teacher perceived

occupational stress, state and trait anxiety, and burnout​, the authors correlate stress with medical

conditions and teacher burnout. In fact, “75% of the 9,000 teachers responding to a survey

indicated that most of their absences during the preceding year were due to stress or tension related

to classroom teaching. Many noted that their chronic health problems were anxiety related.”

(Anderson et al., p. 6). In that study, it was found that mindful meditation reduces the stress that

teachers perceive having. Like many educators, I experience stress and it has taken its toll on me in

the form of weight gain. For the purpose of finding a way to get my weight under control, this paper

is a review of the literature which seeks to find how mindful eating and self-compassion can aid in

reducing stress and weight gain to positively benefit health.

First, in Making concrete construals mindful: A novel approach for developing mindfulness

and self-compassion to assist in weight-loss (2014), the authors completed three related studies to

determine if (and if so, how) mindfulness and self-compassion could help with individuals on diets.

In their literature review the authors point out that people often eat emotionally and in an automatic

manner, both of which contribute to overeating. Mindfulness and loving-kindness meditation are

ways that have been shown to be useful for weight loss, but many do not maintain the practice to a

point to continue or maintain weight loss. While being mindful, or paying attention “on purpose” to

what is happening in the present and developing self-compassion, they point out that dieters are

typically in an avoidance mode, “... a practice of keeping away or withdrawing from something

undesirable or a source of conflict, and is often used as a coping mechanism.” (Mantzios and

Wilson, p. 425). The authors discuss the counterproductive manner of suppressing the thoughts and
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urges to eat (which intensify rather than really curb urges) and offer present research that explores

that mindfulness and self-compassion could help to reduce it. They state that, “mindfully accepting

urges has proven useful in lowering the occurrences of such unwanted thoughts and impulses.”

(Mantzios and Wilson, p. 425). They found that dieters who increased mindfulness and

self-compassion had a positive correlation of weight loss (Mantzios and Wilson, p. 428). They

also found that dieters who spent a few moments before and during their meals thinking about ​how

they eat had better results than those who thought about the ​why​ of their eating lost more weight

(Mantzios and Wilson, p. 430) Finally, there was not a significant difference between the amount of

time spent practicing meditation and the development of self-compassion and mindfulness, which

“opens the door to other methods that may be highly important for people who are not able, willing

or ready to meditate.” (Mantzios and Wilson, p. 438).

The first study lead me to further examine self-compassion. Kristin D. Neff and Katie A.

Dahm in ​Handbook of mindfulness and self-regulation: Self-compassion: What it is, what it does,

and how it relates to mindfulness​, wrote, “Self-compassion is simply compassion directed inward,

relating to ourselves as the object of care and concern when faced with the experience of suffering.”

(Neff and Dahm, p.121). They write about three components of self-compassion; self kindness,

common humanity, and mindfulness. Being kind to oneself involves support and understanding- a

gentle and encouraging voice toward ourselves. Remembering that we are not alone in making

mistakes and falling short, is human nature, we have it in common with the rest of humanity.

Mindfulness, they write is the awareness of our inner thoughts and emotions without judgement in

order to find a balance. Neff writes “one of the most consistent findings in the research literature is

that greater self-compassion is linked to less anxiety and depression” (Neff and Dahm, p. 123).
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Self- compassion shifts the motivation from being driven to succeed to avoid self-judgment to being

driven because we care or want to learn from it. “Self-compassion also promotes health-related

behaviors such as sticking to one’s diet.” (Neff and Dahm, p. 126). They state in the research that

self-compassion is most likely a stronger predictor of well-being than just mindfulness. (Neff and

Dahm, p. 131).

The authors of “Mindful Eating and Its Relationship with Mental Well-Being” report that

mindful eating as “being aware in the present moment when one is eating; paying close attention to

the senses, including physical and emotional sensations.” (Khan and Zadeh, p. 70). Mindful eating

is not in and of itself a diet in the respect that it does not restrict the intake of food. Rather, pay

attention to all of the senses while eating, recognize habits (ie. multitasking while eating), and being

aware of triggers for stopping and starting to eat. In their study, mindful eating and mental

well-being had a significantly positive correlation. When a person learns to identify the cues of

hunger versus emotional eating, they begin to self regulate their eating. Though this study was not

directly related to weight loss, I would argue that if a person can self regulate eating habits through

mindfulness, one or more of the obstacle of overeating will be curbed.

Yoga for weight loss - historically yoga is thought to reduce stress and increase mood and

mindfulness. Balk points out that yoga may reduce emotional eating because it improves how we

face and cope with stress. (Balk, p.1) Because yoga helps those who practice it develop awareness

and a less judgmental attitude, they may be less likely to overeat. Mindfulness that spills over into

eating “may be associated with noting satiety or being aware of hunger vs. boredom as cues to eat.”

(Balk, p. 2). Since yoga trains a person to relax it can teach the person to cope with the stress that

leads to overeating. In her study, those who learn relaxation techniques had fewer overeating
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episodes, less depression and anxiety, and perceived having better eating control. The author

cautions that because yoga is multidisciplinary, it is difficult to determine if a single aspect of yoga

is what affects the most change.

Part II- My Wellness Plan

After careful review of the literature and self reflection of the way stress affects my eating

habits, I am creating a stress reduction plan for myself that includes mindful eating, self compassion,

and meditation. I have reacted to stress in overeating which has lead to a tremendous amount of

weight gain. Workplace and life stressors are unavoidable, how I react them is up to me. I tend to

be hard on myself and expect perfection. When I don’t live up to my own set of standards, I tend to

get down on myself and negative thoughts take over. I am not compassionate to myself but I am a

very compassionate person to others. I took a self compassion quiz on Kristin Neff’s Self

Compassion website and found that I have an overall self-compassion score of 1.82 (on a 5 point

scale). A score between 1-2.5 is considered low. My plan is to develop self compassion through

regular meditations directed being kind and forgiving to myself. I am going to commit to

participating in our after school yoga class which meets once a week and to spend at approximately

20 minutes two additional days each week in yoga or guided meditation focusing on

self-compassion. I found the following guided meditations on self-compassion.org website by

Kristen Neff that I will work into my week.

1. This is a moment of suffering- “this is really hard right now”


2. Suffering is a part of life- “it’s not abnormal to feel this way”
3. May I be kind to myself in this moment- hands on heart care for self “It going to be ok, I care
about you”
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I have already started a diet using Nutrisystem as a way to control the calories and quality of

the foods I eat. My next step in the process is to use mindful eating practices to just eat. While

eating, my plan is to just eat and be present in my meals. This is going to be a big step for me as I

am constantly eating on auto-pilot or while multi-tasking. I am going to start with one meal and

work my way up to mindful eating for 3 meals a day. For mindful eating I am referring to a blog by

Paige Smith called ​9 Mindfulness Tips to Eat Smart and Lose Weight ​dated February 27, 2017. The

blogger includes pausing before eating, chew and savor and eat without distractions while eating,

and taking note of cravings in between eating.

Finding a way to take care of myself and reduce the effects of stress will help me to be more

present in my teaching. It will help me to devote more of my brain power to my students’ needs, the

curriculum I teach, and to the rest of the school.


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Shelly Schantz Mindful Eating and Self Compassion Wellness Plan


Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday

1 Mindful Eating: Mindful Eating: Mindful Eating: Mindful Eating: Mindful Eating: Mindful Eating: Mindful Eating:
Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast

Self Journal Yoga Journal Self Journal


Compassion Compassion
Meditation Meditation

2 Mindful Eating: Mindful Eating: Mindful Eating: Mindful Eating: Mindful Eating: Mindful Eating: Mindful Eating:
Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast
Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch

Self Journal Yoga Journal Self Journal


Compassion Compassion
Meditation Meditation

3 Mindful Eating: Mindful Eating: Mindful Eating: Mindful Eating: Mindful Eating: Mindful Eating: Mindful Eating:
Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast
Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch
Dinner Dinner Dinner Dinner Dinner Dinner Dinner

Self Journal Yoga Journal Self Retake Self


Compassion Compassion Compassion
Meditation Meditation Quiz

Journal

4 Mindful Eating: Mindful Eating: Mindful Eating: Mindful Eating: Mindful Eating: Mindful Eating: Mindful Eating:
Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast
Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch
Dinner Dinner Dinner Dinner Dinner Dinner Dinner

Self Journal Yoga Journal Self Journal


Compassion Compassion
Meditation Meditation

5 Mindful Eating: Mindful Eating: Mindful Eating: Mindful Eating: Mindful Eating: Mindful Eating: Mindful Eating:
Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast
Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch
Dinner Dinner Dinner Dinner Dinner Dinner Dinner

Self Journal Yoga Journal Self Journal


Compassion Compassion
Meditation Meditation

6 Mindful Eating: Mindful Eating: Mindful Eating: Mindful Eating: Mindful Eating: Mindful Eating: Mindful Eating:
Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast
Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch
Dinner Dinner Dinner Dinner Dinner Dinner Dinner

Self Journal Yoga Journal Self Retake Self


Compassion Compassion Compassion
Meditation Meditation Quiz

Journal
*In addition, I will use these 3 statements in a “​Self-Compassion Break​” when going through something difficult. 1. ​This is a moment
of suffering 2. Suffering is a part of life, and 3. May I be kind to myself in this moment.
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Part III- Evaluation and Reflection

As I reflect on the plan I created, I realize that I do not make time for myself on a regular

basis. I found that it is easy for life to get in the way of my best laid plans for taking care of myself.

It was pretty easy for me to find excuses as to why I should put off, or postpone starting another

layer of my plan. I have continued to lose weight using Nutrisystem due to portion and hunger

control. My reflections of my plan for Mindful Eating, Yoga, and Self Compassion are highlighted

below.

I started out strong implementing Mindful Eating. I began to get up ten minutes early and eat

my breakfast at home. As I drank my coffee and as I ate my breakfast, I just ate. As thoughts of my

day began to swirl around my head I simply let them go and focused my attention on eating. I

focused my attention on the thoughts of what I was eating and why. In most cases, I was eating

because of the belief that breakfast was really important. Even though I thought I was not hungry at

the start of eating, I noticed that after a slow few bites, a feeling of satisfying hunger was present.

During the third and fourth week, I was not feeling well. I had a cold or flu virus and was just doing

what I could to make it to work each day. I was not eating breakfast and switched from drinking my

morning coffee to drinking tea and taking Mucinex. I mindfully swallowed the medication and

could feel the burn of the medicine go all the way down to my chest. Thanksgiving week came and

once again I found myself completely off kilter with the plan. I found it difficult to implement

Mindful Eating at lunch at school. Though the concept seemed beneficial when creating the plan,

adult interaction in the teacher’s lounge seemed more refreshing to me than to isolate myself during

the school lunch period. During the last week of the plan, I left the building to eat in my car to see if

I could move toward including lunch in the Mindful Eating routine. The change of scenery was
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refreshing, but I had difficulty bringing my thoughts back to eating as they kept drifting to

interactions with other teachers at lunch. I was quite ambitious when I planned to make all three

meals mindful. When Mindful Eating of lunch we not mastered, dinner never really followed suit. I

did stop multitasking things such as surfing the web, checking facebook, and working on school

work while eating dinner, but that is as far as I got. As I think about my next steps, I am going to

skip making lunch mindful and try to keep the TV off when I eat dinner.

I did not make it to yoga once! Why? Because I procrastinated starting it the first week, had a

meeting the second week, was sick (so sick) during the third week, had two weeks off due to there

being no school, and the final week… let’s just say that it didn’t even cross my mind until I was

walking past the library and yoga was half over. I really enjoy yoga, so this area of my plan is

disappointing to me. The next step for me in this area is going to be to find a way to fit yoga in. I

may need to pull out the DVDs I have and just do it at home.

The third area I am reflecting on is increasing Self-Compassion. While I found it difficult to

actually do the meditations that I planned, I did incorporate the practice of telling myself that “It’s

OK to feel this way, others feel this way, and It’s OK, I care about you.” It was difficult at times, to

believe what I was saying to myself. I retook the Self-Compassion test that I took during the

research portion of this paper. I found that even though I didn’t feel I fully implemented the

meditations, I did have a mind shift in how I was approaching myself. In all areas of the quiz, my

self-compassion score either increased, or decreased in a more positive way. My overall

Self-Compassion score increased from a low range (1.82) to a moderate range (3.30). The biggest

difference is in Common Humanity, I have made a conscious effort to realize that regardless of what
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or how I am feeling, I am not alone… others have or do feel that way at times. See the table below

for specific areas of increased Self-Compassion.

Self-Compassion Test Result Comparison


Category Beginning Score Ending Score Increase in Self Compassion?

Self-Kindness 1.80 3.20 Yes

Self Judgement* 4.40 3.40 Yes

Common Humanity 2.00 4.25 Yes

Isolation* 4.75 3.50 Yes

Mindfulness 2.25 3.75 Yes

Over-Identification* 4.00 2.50 Yes

Overall Score 1.82 3.30 Yes- Low to Moderate


*Categories in Italics-Higher Score means lower self-compassion.

Through this exercise, I have learned to have compassion for my shortcomings. When I

think about all the failures I have had with this plan, I could be really hard on myself. The fact that I

didn’t do yoga, even one time, I could and would have in the past, been down on myself. The same

can be said for the shortcomings of my Mindful Eating plan. I fell short of my goal, which in the

past, would have had me eating emotionally. If I have learned nothing else, it is to be

Self-Compassionate. However, I do believe that this six weeks is not the end of the opportunity to

implement the plan. I plan to modify the plan to fit into my life. One thing I know about myself is

that if I do not consciously keep Self-Compassion at the forefront of my thinking, I will revert to

thoughts and feelings similar to those at the start of this plan.


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References

Alternative medicine alert: Yoga for weight loss​ (05/01/2011). American Health Consultants.

Anderson, V. L., Levinson, E. M., Barker, W., & Kiewra, K. R. (1999). The effects of

meditation on teacher perceived occupational stress, state and trait anxiety, and

burnout.​ School Psychology Quarterly, 14​(1), 3-25.

doi:http://dx.doi.org.huaryu.kl.oakland.edu/10.1037/h0088995

Khan, Z., & Zadeh, Z. F. (12/01/2014). ​Procedia, social and behavioral sciences: Mindful

eating and it's relationship with mental well-being.​ Elsevier B.V.

doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.12.330

Mantzios, M., & Wilson, J. C. (2014). ​Psychology & health: Making concrete construals

mindful: A novel approach for developing mindfulness and self-compassion to assist

weight loss.​ Taylor & Francis. doi:10.1080/08870446.2013.863883

Neff, K. D., & Dahm, K. A. (01/01/2015). ​Handbook of mindfulness and self-regulation:

Self-compassion: What it is, what it does, and how it relates to mindfulness.​ Springer

New York. doi:10.1007/978-1-4939-2263-5_10

Neff, K. (n.d.) Self-Compassion. Retrieved from ​http://self-compassion.org/

Smith, P. (2017, February 27). ​9 Mindfulness Tips to Eat Smart and Lose Weight. [Web
Blog]​.​ Retrieved from
https://www.beachbodyondemand.com/blog/9-mindfulness-tips-to-eat-smarter-and-lo
se-weight
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Appendix A
My Self Compassion result from Kristin Neff’s Self Compassion site.
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Appendix B
My Retake of the Self Compassion test from Kristin Neff’s Self Compassion site.