Eating – Some of us enjoy it looking for the greatest combination of ingredients to tantalize our taste buds, while others wish there was a food pill to just get it over with. Sometimes we can eat too much food out of stress or habit and at other times we have periods of eating well, being mindful of our food habits and caring about the body. No matter what your relationship to food, everyone has to eat. The question I continue to come back to again and again is how can we develop a more mindful relationship to food in order to cultivate better eating habits? My friend and mindful colleague Beth Mulligan who is founder of The Mindful Way has been working on this for years and enlightens us with an answer today.
Beth is also teaching an 8-week series on Mindful Eating for Vibrant Living at InsightLA in Los Angeles starting September 23rd.
Elisha: How does Mindful Eating help us create better eating habits?
One of most essential relationships in life is with the food we eat. What we bring into our bodies affects our level of energy, ability to pay attention, and general well-being. That is why being mindful in our lives has to integrate the food we eat. Brandt Passalacqua, author of the audio program Being At Peace With Food, is also a speaker who discovered yoga and meditation after struggling with his weight, food and substance addiction, and serious illness. Since founding Peaceful Weight Loss™ Through Yoga, his personal journey has served as an inspiration to countless others looking to make peace with food. You can also check out his webinar here.
Today, Brandt talks to us about what our most impactful bad eating habits are, how he developed a healthy relationship to food, a meditation to get us started and a little advice at the end.
Elisha: Hi Brandt, to get us started tell us what some of the most impactful negative eating habits are that affect us today?
All of us have an innate desire to heal our suffering and step into a wiser and happier life. Today it is my great pleasure to bring a favorite author, teacher and psychologist of mine who is at the forefront of integrating mindfulness into psychotherapy and our lives. Tara Brach, PhD is author of the recently released and the soon-to-be-a-classic True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart, bestselling book Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha, and many more. Tara has weekly podcasts from her Wednesday night sitting groups and is senior teacher and founder of the Insight Meditation Communityof Washington. She embodies and emphasizes that beneath the turbulence of our minds and hearts is a loving awareness that as we learn to tap into over and again can reveal a source of resiliency, peace and genuine happiness.
Today, Tara will talk to us about her own journey through suffering that led to true refuge, the differences between true and false refuges, key practices to begin with this in our lives, how this applies to anxiety and depression and a final message for us to walk away with.
Elisha: One of the aspects of your book that I deeply appreciated was your personal journey from suffering to find your true refuge. Can you share a little of that with us here?
Eating is something that is a part of all of our lives, and for some of us, it’s a source of please and pain. Try as we might to avoid it, we get caught in unhealthy styles of eating in attempts to soothe discomfort. Unfortunately, this is followed by self-judgment, which takes all the joy out of eating.
This is why I am thrilled to bring to you a true expert on the topic, Susan Albers, Psy.D., who has authored the latest book “But I Deserve This Chocolate!: The Fifty Most Common Diet-Derailing Excuses and How to Outwit Them,” along with “50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food,” and the classic, now in its second edition, “Eating Mindfully: How to End Mindless Eating and Enjoy a Balanced Relationship with Food.”
Today, Susan will talk to us about why we sabotage healthy eating, the mind traps involved and give us some tips to get started on a healthier mindful eating.
Elisha: What’s behind our subtle drive to sabotage healthy eating?
There’s a funny cartoon out there of some cows in a pasture eating grass. One cow’s head is lifted up with a sense of horror on his face and the caption reads “Hey wait a minute! This is grass! We’ve been eating grass!” If I asked you, have you ever been sitting at a meal with someone or even by yourself and been halfway through the meal without having tasted the food? In my experience, the odds are likely that you’ll be nodding your head up and down. Our heads are often simply somewhere else, worrying about where we need to be, watching television, or engrossed in conversation.
This unawareness is the seed for making poor food choices, not to mention missing out on enjoying the food. This unawareness can also drive people to overeat as a way to cope with unacknowledged feelings and emotions. You may be in search of a “quick fix” that consists of caffeinated beverages and highly refined foods that burn very quickly and spike up the metabolism. Many people have learned to comfort and sedate themselves with food. Sadly our “super-size” culture not only supports these tactics but also capitalizes on it.
Since preparing and eating food is such an essential component of our lives, why not bring mindful awareness to this?
A couple weeks ago I highlighted a therapist in Los Angeles named Stan Friedman who had a story of how he broke free from the auto-pilot of negative thinking and into a space of choice and possibility. I want to open this up as an opportunity for people to send me stories of mindfulness that can show the rest of us how it has had a practical impact on a particular event or their lives.
I will choose from them from time to time to post on Mindfulness and Psychotherapy to help give insight to the rest of us of how mindfulness can be practically applied for our health and well-being.
Of course those that get chosen can also send me a link that I’ll include in the post where people can learn more about them.
Recently, a new report came out in the Monday’s Archives of Internal Medicine that stated that engaging in bad habits such as excessive drinking (more than 3 drinks/day), smoking, not exercising (2 hours/week) or eating our veggies and fruit can age us by 12 years. Well, it’s not really news that being unkind to our bodies over time can lead to an unhealthy state. However, here is a little anecdote that is interesting and might explain how it we can seem aged by 12 years.
Read over the following progression from A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook a couple of times and take a moment to reflect on it:
1. Intention shapes our thoughts and words.
There is a tradition on the Mindfulness and Psychotherapy blog. Every Monday, I cite a quote or a poem that is related to mindfulness and psychotherapy in some way and then explore it a bit and how it is relevant to our lives. For me, quotes and poetry can often sink me into a state of greater understanding.
This is a special day as it marks the release of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook. So, I’m going to begin with something from the book. We open up A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook with a very appropriate poem by Mary Oliver, entitled “The Journey”:
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
their bad advice—
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
There is no question about it, the interest in Mindfulness-Based Interventions to work with people experiencing a variety of “disorders” and also in healthy individuals is growing at a rapid pace. There has been research with psychological issues such as stress, anxiety, depression, bipolar, addiction, eating disorders, ADHD, OCD, Parenting and others. There has also been plenty of research with medical diagnoses such as Chronic Pain, HIV/AIDS, Cancer, Sleep disorders, heart disease, epilepsy and others.
The most well-known of these are Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), Dialectal Behavior Therapy (DBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and a growing interest in Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) for addictive relapse.
In her book The Art and Science of Mindfulness: Integrating Mindfulness into Psychology and the Helping Professions, Shauna Shapiro shows a variety of research with mindfulness-based interventions and says,
As it stands, there is solid evidence that mindfulness-based treatments can be successfully applied to the treatment of symptoms of anxiety and depression, whether MBSR, MBCT or ACT is applied. Mixed-modality intensive treatments like DBT that incorporate mindfulness training are also useful for treating more complex personality disorders, which often include substance abuse and self-harming behaviors.
Yet, it’s amazing that there has been this much positive research in only 30 years, most of it coming in the last 10 years. This is an exciting time in the field of mindfulness as a modality for medical and psychological distress.
The research is clearly pointing out that mindfulness as an approach has been and can continue to be translated into the mainstream and is indeed helpful as an intervention.
In a previous interview with Shauna, I asked her what she felt was the most exciting research out there in connection with mindfulness and she said:
Neuroplasticity. I believe this single word gives people hope; hope that change is possible. For example, we used to think that we all had a “happiness set point” much like with weight, and that no matter what our circumstances, we would always end up back at baseline. Good scientific evidence substantiates this theory, for example, people who win the lotto or those who are in a …
In some past posts I’ve inquired if mindful eating can change our lives and also written about rethinking our relationship to food. However, I think it would be good to share a personal example of what this has looked like in my life. In my upcoming book, A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook (March, 2010), co-authored with Bob Stahl, Ph.D, I discuss an experience that I have with mindful eating and how it shifted me from a state of distress and frustration to calm and ease:
Back in my midtwenties, when my life felt out of control and I went on a one-month retreat, each time we sat down to eat we were instructed to be aware of what we were eating, where it came from, and the people who prepared it and to be thankful for it and eat it mindfully. Since I was resistant to being there in the first place, I dug in my heels on this issue and just continued eating as I always had. Often my mind would be swimming with doubts, questioning my decision to even come to this place, thinking I had more important things to be doing, and worrying about whether I really fit in. Most of the time I would be halfway through the meal before I even really tasted the food.
One day, as another participant in the program was talking to me about the importance of being intentional and present in all the activities we do, I immediately thought of the eating and asked him, “Doesn’t it annoy you that they make such a big deal about eating here?” He gently smiled at me, brought out an orange from his knapsack, and said, “Treat this as an experiment. Take this orange and really think about where it came from, how it started from a seed in the ground, how real people cared for the tree to make it healthy and then plucked the fruit from that tree. Think about how this orange was carried from there by many different people before it came to me, and …