Resisting Temptation: The Effects of Mindfulness Training on Overcoming the Food Approach Bias Open Access

Martinez, Margaret Ann (2014)

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Resisting Temptation:

The Effects of Mindfulness Training in Overcoming the Food Approach Bias

By Margaret Ann Martinez

Maintaining a healthy weight is a struggle for many individuals in our current obseogenic environment. It has been suggested that an approach bias towards food stimuli - defined as a tendency to have a faster reaction time in response to attractive stimuli - may contribute to instances of overeating and mindless eating that interfere with successful weight loss and maintenance. A recent study by Papies and colleagues (2012) demonstrated the efficacy of a brief training in mindful attention (MA) in eliminating the approach bias towards attractive food stimuli, which is consistent with the growing popularity of mindfulness-based interventions in clinical eating disordered populations. The present study aimed to replicate the findings of Papies and colleagues (2012) and to systematically investigate the effects of dietary restraint on response to MA training. Participants were college-aged women with varying levels of dietary restraint who completed either MA training or one of two control trainings followed by an approach-avoidance task. Contrary to predictions, the current findings indicated that in the absence of specific training individuals lower in dietary restraint demonstrate an approach bias to neutral foods rather than to more attractive foods. However, MA training did successfully eliminate this approach bias, which supports prior research indicating that MA can reduce an approach bias. Individuals higher in dietary restraint did not demonstrate a significant approach bias towards either type of food. These findings suggest that in the absence of MA training, individuals low in dietary restraint exhibit a tendency to approach healthier-looking foods; therefore MA training is not needed. By contrast, individuals high in dietary restraint were not differentially drawn to attractive versus neutral foods and the brief MA training provided was not beneficial. Further research is needed to understand the way highly restrained individuals respond to food stimuli. Mindful eating has significant clinical support as a therapeutic intervention for individuals who binge or overeat so it will be important to understand how highly restrained individuals may be benefiting from those longer, more intensive mindful eating interventions.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Introduction...1 Externality Theory and Dietary Restraint...2
Combating External Eating and the Approach Bias...4
The Present Study...8 Methods...9 Participants...9
Measures...12 Results...13

Data Analyses...13
Participant Demographics...14
Approach-Avoidance Task...16


Conclusions and Future Directions...24


Table 1...26
Figure 1...27
Figure 2...28
Figure 3...29


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