Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Mindful Eating Part 2: Why Does it Matter?

Submitted by Amy Sercel MS RD CD
Edited by Marcia Bristow MS RDN CSSD CD

Five years ago, we published this blog with tips to help you integrate mindful eating into your lifestyle.  Since then, mindful eating has become more and more prominent in the wider discussion of nutrition and healthy lifestyles.  This past February, mindful eating even made an appearance in Canada’s updated food guide, reminding people to take time to enjoy their meals, pay attention to their hunger and fullness around eating, and make an effort to avoid distractions during mealtimes.1

Mindfulness is the process of bringing focused, non-evaluative attention and awareness to the present moment.2 You may already practice mindfulness if you do yoga, meditate, incorporate affirmations or mantras throughout your day, utilize mindful coloring materials, or take time out of your day to avoid being distracted by your phone, email, or television.  Mindfulness becomes mindful eating when it is applied to any eating event.  Mindful eating doesn’t dictate any food rules, or say that you should eat one item instead of something else.  With mindful eating, it’s about the entire experience, not about the particular food you are eating.3 There are four domains of mindful eating: focused eating, eating in response to hunger and satiety cues, eating with awareness, and eating without distraction.3,4

It’s fairly well known that mindfulness in general is associated with improved mental health.  Mindfulness is thought to improve wellbeing by helping people become more aware of their positive emotional experiences.  People who practice mindfulness tend to have more positive emotions overall, are more able to regulate their unpleasant emotions, and are less significantly impacted by negative experiences.5

In the context of food choices, mindfulness has been shown to help people become more aware of and responsive to their hunger and satiety cues.5 This means mindful eaters are less likely to allow themselves to get to a point of being ravenously hungry, and more likely to stop eating when they’re comfortably full.  Mindful eaters report feeling more satisfaction from the foods they eat, and less desire to continue eating after consuming an enjoyable food.2,3,5 A deeper awareness of hunger and satiety cues means that mindful eaters tend to be more able to separate emotions from physical hunger and fullness, making them less likely to turn to food to cope with strong emotions.3 All of this explains why mindful eaters tend to consume fewer calories and have lower weights overall than people who tend to eat in distracted, emotional states.

Interestingly, people don’t have to specifically practice mindful eating for mindfulness to benefit their food choices.  In one study, simply practicing mindfulness earlier in the day led participants to report less “uncontrolled eating” and lower calorie intake when provided with snacks.2 Another study found that people who tend to be mindful eaters are more likely to choose nutrient-dense foods over processed foods and have more positive attitudes towards fruit.2

Overall, mindful eating allows you to choose foods you enjoy without making any foods off-limits, while giving you the opportunity to savor those foods.  Practicing mindful eating will allow you to get the most satisfaction from your meals and snacks, and may lead you to choose more nutrient-dense foods overall.  If you’d like to incorporate mindful eating into your life, start out by eating without distractions as often as possible.  If you’d like a more structured approach, try following along with this video the next time you plan to eat a meal or snack.  After that, you can integrate mindful eating into each of your eating experiences.


1.         Canada’s updated food guide promotes mindful eating - ScienceDirect. https://www-sciencedirect-com.ezproxy.uvm.edu/science/article/pii/S0140673619302028. Accessed June 3, 2019.
2.         Jordan CH, Wang W, Donatoni L, Meier B. Mindful eating: Trait and state mindfulness predict healthier eating behavior - ScienceDirect. https://www-sciencedirect-com.ezproxy.uvm.edu/science/article/pii/S0191886914002396. Accessed June 3, 2019.
3.         Kahn Z, Zadeh ZF. Mindful Eating and its Relationship with Mental Well-being - ScienceDirect. https://www-sciencedirect-com.ezproxy.uvm.edu/science/article/pii/S187704281406460X. Accessed June 3, 2019.
4.         Winkens LHH, van Strien T, Brouwer IA, Penninx BWJH, Visser M. Mindful eating and change in depressive symptoms: Mediation by psychological eating styles - ScienceDirect. https://www-sciencedirect-com.ezproxy.uvm.edu/science/article/pii/S0195666318306330. Accessed June 3, 2019.
5.         Arch JJ, Brown KW, Goodman RJ, Della Porta MD, Kiken LG, Tillman S. Enjoying food without caloric cost: The impact of brief mindfulness on laboratory eating outcomes - ScienceDirect. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0005796716300237. Accessed June 3, 2019.

Thursday, April 25, 2019


Submitted by Amy Sercel MS RD CD
Edited by Marcia Bristow MS RDN CSSD CD

Marijuana has recently been legalized for either medical or recreational use in many states.  Many people are now exploring cannabis-derived products to treat a wide variety of conditions, including (but not limited to) anxiety, arthritis, chronic pain, inflammation, muscle spasms, seizures, and insomnia.1,2 People looking for something to help manage one of these conditions without the intoxicating effect of marijuana often turn to CBD.

CBD, or cannabidiol, is the second-most prevalent compound in the marijuana plant behind THC (tetra-hydrocannabidiol, the psychoactive compound).  CBD is also present in hemp plants, which do not contain THC.  Hemp-based CBD oil is legal in every state, and is often added to tinctures, pills, salves, and even baked goods or energy bars.1,2 The World Health Organization recently reported that CBD has not been associated with addiction or dependence because it does not create the “high” that occurs with the use of THC.2

Both CBD and THC act by stimulating the endocannabinoid system.  This system is made up of neurotransmitters and endocannabinoid receptors in the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral neurons throughout the body.  The activation of endocannabinoid receptors can influence mood, cognition, appetite, pain, blood pressure, digestion, and inflammation, among many other essential processes.3

Although people use CBD to manage a wide variety of ailments, so far there is only strong evidence that CBD can effectively treat seizures.4 A medication called Epidiolex, which contains CBD, was recently approved by the FDA and can now be prescribed to treat two different types of epilepsy.5 Other than that, small-scale studies and case reports indicate that CBD is also a successful treatment for insomnia and anxiety, and has been shown to reduce pain in animals when used topically.2,6 However, more long-term, large-scale studies in humans are needed to determine whether CBD truly does alleviate all of the conditions it has been associated with.

One of the most significant problems with CBD is the lack of dosing recommendations.  Studies suggest that humans can safely tolerate up to 1500 mg of CBD each day, but a daily dose of 100 mg CBD has been shown to reduce seizure frequency in children and adolescents.  In one patient, a 5-month course of just 25 mg of CBD per day helped improve sleep quality and reduce anxiety. There are also no high-quality scientific studies that can provide guidance on how long someone should continue using CBD after their symptoms improve.4,6,7

In addition, CBD is currently treated as a supplement, not a medication, and as such there is little to no regulation of a product’s quality or CBD content.  Although CBD itself is not associated with any negative health impacts, there is a risk that products containing CBD may be contaminated with harmful substances, including pesticides or molds.  A study in the Netherlands recently found that many CBD products also contained THC, and some did not actually contain any CBD at all.7

Given the widespread popularity of CBD products, all of this suggests that there is an urgent need for more studies on the effectiveness of CBD so people can be sure they are using it in the correct dosages.  Additionally, there is a need for more specific testing to guarantee the purity and CBD content of all CBD products available for purchase.  If possible, look for CBD products that have been tested by a third party organization to determine the amount of CBD they contain. In Vermont, the store Ceres Natural Remedies can perform a lab analysis of hemp and marijuana products to determine their CBD and THC content.  Hemp producers who have paid for this analysis should be able to provide the results to their customers.  The Ceres Natural Remedies store is affiliated with the state’s medical marijuana dispensary and certifies products sold there, in addition to other hemp products sold throughout the state.8,9 Although there does not appear to be a risk of dependence and there is no risk of intoxication from CBD alone, it can interact with certain medications (such as Coumadin), so be sure to inform your doctor if you use CBD.


1.         Ask the Expert: Spotlight on Cannabidiol - Today’s Dietitian Magazine. https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/0618p8.shtml. Accessed April 8, 2019.
2.         Cannabidiol (CBD) — what we know and what we don’t - Harvard Health Blog - Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/cannabidiol-cbd-what-we-know-and-what-we-dont-2018082414476. Accessed April 8, 2019.
3.         Endocannabinoids: Overview, History, Chemical Structure. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1361971-overview. Accessed April 15, 2019.
4.         Halford J, Marsh E, Mazurkiewicz-Beldzinska M, et al. Long-term Safety and Efficacy of Cannabidiol (CBD) in Patients with Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome (LGS): Results from Open-label Extension Trial (GWPCARE5) (P1.264). Neurology. 2018;90(15 Supplement):P1.264.
5.         Epilepsy Foundation Statement on DEA’s Scheduling of Epidiolex® Philip M. Gattone, President and Chief Executive Officer, Epilepsy Foundation. Epilepsy Foundation. https://www.epilepsy.com/release/2018/9/epilepsy-foundation-statement-dea%E2%80%99s-scheduling-epidiolex%C2%AE-philip-m-gattone-president. Accessed April 22, 2019.
6.         Shannon S, Opila-Lehman J. Effectiveness of Cannabidiol Oil for Pediatric Anxiety and Insomnia as Part of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Case Report. Perm J. 2016;20(4). doi:10.7812/TPP/16-005
7.         Hazekamp A. The Trouble with CBD Oil. Med Cannabis Cannabinoids. 2018;1(1):65-72. doi:10.1159/000489287
8.         Baird JB. Test the potency of your homegrown VT weed. Burlington Free Press. https://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/news/2018/06/12/vermonters-can-legally-test-cannabis-potency/659507002/. Published June 12, 2018. Accessed April 22, 2019.
9.         Lab Analysis of CBD Content - Green Mountain Hemp Company. Vermont CBD Hemp Products: Green Mountain Hemp Company. https://www.greenmountainhempcompany.com/lab-analysis/. Accessed April 22, 2019.