Mindful Eating – How to Change Your Relationship to Food

It’s another new year and if you’re like most people your resolutions include some form of diet, a new commitment to exercise and possibly other changes intended to allow you to enjoy renewed vitality, better health, and ideally a new – smaller pant size.  Or, perhaps, having made New Year’s resolutions in the past that you failed to keep, decided this year to forgo the well-intentioned promises for a “let’s just see how it goes” attitude, or maybe, “what’s the use?”  The determination to lose weight, in fact, could be the reason for weight gain.  Long term studies have shown that people who diet are more likely to gain weight in two to fifteen years than people who don’t diet.Fruit Bowl

If diets worked, we’d all be thin by now.  Instead, we have enlisted hundreds of people into a war we can’t win. ”  Why Diets Make Us Fat, Sandra Aamodt, Ph.D.

Most attempts at dieting fail not because people aren’t dedicated or serious about the attempt.  There are many reasons that people have a hard time losing weight.  It’s worth the effort to find out if there is a physical reason for the inability to lose weight and address that first. For example, your genes and your gut bacteria, in part. determine the number of calories you absorb from certain foods. The proper functioning of the thyroid is another and the way your brain manages your metabolism is one more piece of the weight balancing pie (so to speak).

True behavior modification entails looking deeply at habit patterns and interrupting them in favor of a new healthier response. Emotional eating (and other addictions) can be managed by learning about your own habit loops. Most diet programs don’t deal with the “why, what and how” of eating – only the “what” and possibly “how much”, as if everyone in the world could be thinner if only they ate the right food in minuscule portions without addressing the triggers that precipitate eating things that aren’t good for us.

Mindful eating is not a diet.  It is a way to relate differently to the food that goes into your body, helps you recognize unproductive habitual patterns related to eating, and provides helpful tools to help you ride out cravings.  You may in fact lose weight as your habits are changed, but you won’t be restricted to a daily calorie allowance, specific food groupings, or weigh ins.  Imagine that!

Mindful eating also emphasizes self compassion while you’re learning about your own patterns of eating.  We know that beating yourself up when you mess up is counterproductive. Mindful Eating is to be undertaken with the understanding that it takes time and effort to undo all the years of habitual and reactive behavior regarding food and learn to make positive changes and choices.

Mindful eating is about just how it sounds – eating mindfully.  Mindful eating is about being healthy.  It’s about paying close attention.  It’s about learning about and listening to your own body and what it needs to run at optimum levels so you can feel good and move toward vibrant health.  And with this program you don’t do it alone.

Try this experiment in mindful eating:  At your next meal if you are eating at home, or in a restaurant, pause before deciding what to eat. Check in with how your body feels and what it is hungry for – and whether you are actually hungry, or not.  Notice if there are intense emotions or thoughts present that may influence your choices.  Did you just have a fight?  Are you sad?  Are you bored?, etc.  Pay attention to what is going on for you right now.  Then order or prepare something that is good for you as opposed to reacting to how you might be feeling at the moment. Perhaps offer a note of gratitude to everyone who was involved in bringing that food to your table, from the farmer, to the truck driver, to the cook (even if it’s you).  When you start to eat – proceed slowly.  Notice and appreciate the sight and smell of the food before taking the first bite.  When you do decide to take a bite, notice the feel of the utensils in your hands, how your arm moves to bring the food to your mouth, and notice what happens before you take the bite – does your mouth begin to water?  Notice your mouth opening to receive the food. Take the bite. Chew slowly appreciating all the flavors that are in it before swallowing.  Repeat with each bite checking in with your stomach after each one to determine if you are satisfied.  When you’ve had enough – stop. Contrary to the belief I was raised with, you don’t get an award for belonging the “Clean Plate Club,” and those starving children in Africa will never get your leftovers.  If you want to feed them, send a check to a charity that does that work.  Giving in that way is it’s own reward.  Note after the meal how it feels to have really paid attention and to how you feel physically and emotionally.

About the Program – Eat Right Now

Eat Right Now is a Mindful Eating program, supported by a robust mobile app that helps keep you on track, developed by addiction psychiatrist, Dr. Judson Brewer.  Judson Brewer MD PhD is the Director of Research at the Center for Mindfulness and associate professor in medicine and psychiatry at UMass Medical School. A psychiatrist and internationally known expert in mindfulness training for addictions, Brewer has developed and tested novel mindfulness programs for addictions, including both in-person and app-based treatments. He has published numerous peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, spoken at international conferences, presented to the US President’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, been featured at TED, TEDMED, TEDx, Time magazine (top 100 new health discoveries of 2013), Forbes, Businessweek, NPR and the BBC among others. He writes a blog for The Huffington Post.

This training will teach you the scientific basis of how we form eating habits, and how we can use this knowledge to change them. You will also learn concrete mindfulness skills to help you become more aware of and gain control over your eating.

App-based training:

Dr. Brewer developed Eat Right Now, an app that will deliver mindfulness training right at your fingertips. Learn the mindfulness skills you need in your own home, at your own pace. The digital therapeutic delivers 30+ short video modules that build your skills one moment at a time. Take 10 minutes each day to learn a new lesson, and put it into practice throughout the day in manageable, bite-sized pieces.

Group-based support:

Studies have shown that group-based support helps change habits. Each session provides hands on mindfulness practices, as well as expert and peer support as you go through the process of changing your relationship to eating.

Led by Cheryl Mills, a Qualified Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Teacher, the Eat Right Now mindful eating group meets weekly at a location to be determined.  ERN Mindful Eating classes start on February 1, 2017.  If you’re interested in attending a Mindful Eating class you can find out more and register by clicking on the button below, or go to: www.Haelan-House.com/register.



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