This study examined the association of food-specific decentering experiences with food cravings in a sample of meditators. Decentering refers to viewing one's thoughts as transient mental events and thus experiencing them as less subjectively real. This process has been suggested to be a key mechanism underlying the effects of mindfulness and many contemplative practices. Although most earlier studies have focused on the effects of decentering with regard to negative affect, some studies have shown that brief inductions of decentering among non-meditators reduce food cravings as well as unhealthy food choices. Here, we report a preliminary investigation of whether the food-specific decentering experiences that meditators have in daily life are associated with fewer food cravings. A small sample of meditators (N = 33, female = 15) answered a number of questions about decentering experiences with regard to thoughts about food, and they completed the short version of the Food Cravings Questionnaire-Trait and a measure of meditation experience. Results confirmed that both more meditation experience and more food-specific decentering experiences were associated with fewer food cravings in daily life. In addition, results suggested that when participants had stronger decentering experiences, they experienced fewer food cravings, regardless of their level of meditation experience. Exploratory analyses further revealed that decentering was more strongly associated with reduced cravings in women than in men. These preliminary findings suggest that food-specific decentering experiences indeed help meditators deal with food desires, and thus extend the evidence for decentering effects into the domain of reward. Future research might investigate this in larger samples, validate a food-specific measure of decentering, and consider the broader implications of decentering experiences in daily life.
Keywords: Craving; Decentering; Desire; Food; Meditation; Mindful attention; Mindfulness; Self-regulation; Vipassana.