Major

Psychology

Faculty Mentor

Whitney Heppner

Keywords

Psychology, Mindfullness, Impulsivity, Health

Abstract

Mindfulness is increasingly linked to effective self-regulation including regulation of health behaviors. Eating is an important behavior for health, and mindfulness has been linked to healthier eating choices in self-report, cross-sectional studies, and in laboratory eating paradigms (e.g., Jordan et al., 2014). In contrast, impulsivity is linked to poor self-regulation such as purchasing behavior (Baumeister, 2002), and impulsivity scores have been shown to be related to weight (Price, Lee, & Higgs, 2013). Along these lines, we sought to examine the links between trait mindfulness and impulsivity and eating behaviors. However, instead of examining eating behaviors through global self-report or forced choice in the lab, we asked students to submit photographs of the food they were actually eating twice per day over the course of three day (which we called “food selfies”). We then coded their food selfies for their health content, the amount of food, and the food’s aesthetic appeal. We hypothesized that individuals with high levels of trait mindfulness and low levels of trait impulsivity would display healthier eating habits through their own submitted photographs. Undergraduate students (N=140) from a small southeastern university completed this study in two phases. Overall, our primary hypotheses were not supported, as mindfulness and impulsivity were not related to food selfie health or amount of food. However, for aesthetic appeal, in line with our expectations, mindfulness was somewhat positively correlated and impulsivity was somewhat negatively correlated. Discussion centers on the viability of the “food selfie” method for examining eating behaviors and future research directions.

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Mindfulness and Food Selfies: A Naturalistic Investigation of Healthy Eating

Mindfulness is increasingly linked to effective self-regulation including regulation of health behaviors. Eating is an important behavior for health, and mindfulness has been linked to healthier eating choices in self-report, cross-sectional studies, and in laboratory eating paradigms (e.g., Jordan et al., 2014). In contrast, impulsivity is linked to poor self-regulation such as purchasing behavior (Baumeister, 2002), and impulsivity scores have been shown to be related to weight (Price, Lee, & Higgs, 2013). Along these lines, we sought to examine the links between trait mindfulness and impulsivity and eating behaviors. However, instead of examining eating behaviors through global self-report or forced choice in the lab, we asked students to submit photographs of the food they were actually eating twice per day over the course of three day (which we called “food selfies”). We then coded their food selfies for their health content, the amount of food, and the food’s aesthetic appeal. We hypothesized that individuals with high levels of trait mindfulness and low levels of trait impulsivity would display healthier eating habits through their own submitted photographs. Undergraduate students (N=140) from a small southeastern university completed this study in two phases. Overall, our primary hypotheses were not supported, as mindfulness and impulsivity were not related to food selfie health or amount of food. However, for aesthetic appeal, in line with our expectations, mindfulness was somewhat positively correlated and impulsivity was somewhat negatively correlated. Discussion centers on the viability of the “food selfie” method for examining eating behaviors and future research directions.