Using Evidence-Based Mindfulness Programs to Improve Disorder Eating: Understanding Emotional and Binge Eating Among Athletes

William Steffen, United States Sports Academy, USA
Conrad Woolsey, United States Sports Academy, USA

Theme: Mental training/interventions

Poster Number: 126

Program ID: POS-2

Presentation: October 4, 2013 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

Room: Napoleon


Emotional eating is characterized by episodes of binge eating to cope with feelings or to serve as a positive reward and is often followed by feelings of guilt and lost control. In the forthcoming DSM-V, binge eating disorder (BED) will be in its own distinct disorder due to the previous underdiagnoses of this condition. BED is defined as “recurrent episodes of binge eating in the absence of the regular use of inappropriate compensatory behaviors characteristic of Bulimia Nervosa” (DSM-IV-TR, p. 595). In sports such as American football where large size is encouraged, athletes are frequently asked to gain weight and even overeat. In addictive behaviors, early exposure and habit formation during the developing years is highly predictive of continued problems later in life. Multiple studies (Baer, Fischer, & Huss, 2005; Kristeller & Hallett, 1999; Telch, Agras, & Linehan, 2001) show athletes report a higher incidence of disordered eating compared non-athlete populations. To help coaches and practitioners understand the impacts of sport-specific eating behaviors and to provide effective applied intervention strategies, this presentation introduces research on evidence-based mindfulness programs. Mindfulness is commonly described as a purposeful, open, and nonjudgmental attention and curiosity directed at one’s moment-to-moment thoughts, feelings, and sensations (Baer, 2003; Kabat-Zinn, 1994; Mannion & Andersen, 2013). Mindfulness has been shown to be a highly effective and holistic intervention for eating disorders, anxiety, addiction, and several other issues (Gaylord et al., 2009; Ledesma & Kumano, 2009; Skanavi, Laqueille, & Aubin, 2011). Mindfulness has great applied potential for coaches and practitioners as athletes are accustomed to receiving information and covert mindfulness messages as part of an effective coaching process. As suggested by Birrer, Rothlin, and Morgan (2012), using an evidence-based and reproducible procedural process to teaching and learning mindfulness should be beneficial to improving existing mental skills training programs.

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