Mindful Eating Changing Your Relationship with Food and Eating

Mindful Eating: Changing Your Relationship with Food and Eating

Friday, April 14, 2017 from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m.

(This is a free offering from the Loran Smith Center, Piedmont Athens Regional, Athens, GA 30606)

“When hungry – just eat.”This is wonderful advice found in eastern philosophy/psychology. And Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch speak of “intuitive eating” and “awakening the intuitive eater” in their book “Intuitive Eating” (1995). But how do we follow this sage advice to – just eat when hungry? Mindful Eating can change your relationship to eating. 

Food and eating play a major and important role in our everyday life. Mindfulness practice informs us when making healthy choices including: improving over-all health, weight management, over- or under-eating, emotional eating, body and self-image, stress-related eating and with chronic illness such as cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes and heart problems.

This session introduces areas where we may mindfully explore our relationship to food and eating. Mindfulness allows us to relate in healthy ways, making skillful/wholesome choices with greater compassion, appreciation, and gratitude, enabling you to more fully savor your life.

Mindful Eating is not about dieting, but is a change in lifestyle, a way of being in your life. Mindfulness involves learning and remembering to greet each moment with openness, a gentle curiosity, and to be with whatever arises with equanimity. We learn to acknowledge the way things are at the crossroads of right here and now; learning about “being” rather than becoming; investigating what’s here now experientially (non-cognitively). Mindful presence or awareness “creates space” to make conscious choices in the moment. In other words, mindfulness allows us to not identify as closely with our thoughts, emotions, and body sensations. And from this “space” conscious, creative options may arise. You have the freedom to make a healthy choice; cultivating what is healthy, while moving away from what is unhealthy.

Mindful eating brings a compassionate attention to the present moment; exploring your relationship with food and eating, experientially – using your five senses and the mind. We bring your whole self to the experience of eating.

Rather than being on “automatic pilot,” often making unconscious choices, mindfulness allows us to be more present, moment-to-moment. “Listening” deeply, paying close attention to your body, as well as your thoughts and emotions, enables you to come to know yourself on a different level, using a different way of knowing – a non-cognitive, experiential way of knowing.

Exploring your relationship with food and eating involves first identifying/recognizing and then exploring eating triggers (i.e., foods, environments, the media, and people); types of hunger (i.e., eye, nose, ear, mouth, body, and thinking), including emotional hunger; stress-related eating; and eating habits and patterns. And we learn to recognize “real” hunger, when the body needs nutrition.

Remember, it is important to enjoy the pleasures of eating, which can be done while realizing and maintaining this healthy relationship; learning to “listen” to your inner wisdom and trusting yourself to make healthy food and eating choices.

Developing a healthy relationship with food and eating is not quick and easy; it is not a diet, but this approach is available to most everyone. Mindful eating however, can become a way of being, a healthy lifestyle change guided by awareness, compassion, appreciation, and your inner wisdom and knowledge.

The heart of Mindful Eating is Mindfulness – Attention, Concentration, and Awareness, with Compassion

            Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way allowing awareness to arise, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally. Mindfulness involves training in attention, awareness, concentration, and compassion; coming to know and understand yourself in a deeper, experiential way.

Key aspects of mindfulness: Concentration – the ability to stay focused on one object, one-pointedness. Awareness – another way of knowing that is non-cognitive, experiential, in the present moment – now (“Be Here Now”), not being caught-up in the future or in the past. The heart of mindfulness is a gentle, curious attention to whatever arises in mind and body (resting in awareness). Just observing the sensations themselves, as the moment unfolds, with nothing added. Keep in mind, as with developing any art or skill, mindfulness requires practice and patience.

Mindfulness practice allows you to respond rather than react. Reactions are often automatic, unconscious, and habitual. Responses are conscious choices arising from mindfulness – perception, appraisal, awareness of what’s actually happening in the moment, resulting in not identifying as closely with our thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. This loosens your attachment to them, allowing “space” for creative, conscious choices to be made.

Mindful Eating is about bringing mindfulness to the whole range of your relationship to food and eating.

References and Resources

Albers, S. (2008). Eat, Drink, and Be Mindful. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.

Albers, S. (2009). 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.

American Mindfulness Research Association http://www.goamra.org

Bays, J.C. (2009). Mindful Eating. Boston: Shambhala Publications.

Kabatznick, R. (1998). The Zen of Eating. New York: A Perigee Book.

Kristeller, J., Hallett, B., Quillina-Wolever, R. & Loring, S. (2005). Mindfulness-Based Eating Awareness Training. Indiana State University. Indiana.

Hanh, T. N. and Cheung, L. (2010). Mindful Eating, Mindful Life. New York: HarperCollins.

Pollan, Michael. (2009). Food Rules: An Eater’s Manuel. New York: Penguin Books.

 Local Mindfulness Practice Opportunities

  • “Mindfulness Practice Evening” talk is a Free Offering for the Community – that meets the second Friday of each month from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. These mindfulness meditation instruction sessions are free. Any level of experience is welcome. Free parking. The Dedicated Mindfulness Practitioners Group meets, 1st and 3rd Saturday, 8:30 – 9:30a.m. MBSR and mindfulness practice opportunities are held at the Healing Lodge. Call 706-4900 or email LoranSmithCenter@athenshealth.org
  • UGA Museum of Art – free meditation, every other Friday from 9:30 – 10:30 a.m. (during Fall and Winter semesters) Call for details
  • Athens Zen Group – www.athenszen.org/ ; they request that you contact them before your first visit

The Mindfulness Practice Evening is facilitated by Mike Healy, Ed.D., certified to teach Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction by the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and is a certified Integral Hatha Yoga instructor, RYT 200. For more information, please contact: www.MindfuLiving.org, mfhealy@bellsouth.net or call 706-543-0162.

What is Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction?

Mindfulness Meditation – Concentration, Awareness, with Compassion

 Mindfulness is awareness that arises by paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally (that is, suspending judgment). Mindfulness involves training in attention, awareness, concentration, and compassion; coming to know and understand yourself in a deeper, experiential way.

Key aspects of mindfulness: Concentration – the ability to stay focused on one object, one-pointedness. Awareness – another way of knowing that is non-cognitive, experiential, in the present moment – now (“Be Here Now”), not being caught-up in the future or in the past. The heart of mindfulness is a gentle, curious attention to whatever arises in mind and body (resting in awareness). Just observing, directly the sensations themselves, as the moment unfolds, with nothing added. Keep in mind, as with developing any art or skill, mindfulness requires practice and patience.

Mindfulness practice allows you to respond rather to react to stressful situations. Reactions are often automatic, unconscious, and habitual. Responses are conscious choices arising from mindfulness – perception, appraisal, awareness of what’s actually happening in the moment, resulting in not identifying as closely with our thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. This loosens your attachment to them, allowing space for creative conscious choices to be made.

 Benefits of Mindfulness Practicepaying attention, both through formal and informal mindfulness allows you to:

  • See more clearly – with fewer perceptual filers
  • Be less reactive and more responsive – allowing space/time for conscious and creative choices
  • Change your relationship to stress, anxiety, anger, fear, sadness, grief, etc.
  • Gain insights- identifying skillful and unskillful patterns of behavior, speech, etc.,
  • Know yourself more deeply, fully
  • Open the door to inner wisdom
  • Develop a calm peacefulness/ a reservoir of peace and energy
  • Be more compassionate with self and others
  • Realize greater health and happiness

The Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction workshop provides guidelines and practices for bringing mindfulness to stress/suffering that we all experience in life. This workshop was developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the Center for Mindfulness, University of Massachusetts in 1979. It is one of the most effective and researched stress reduction workshops available today. MBSR is taught and researched at US medical centers, universities, and elsewhere throughout the world, and is available through the Loran Smith Center at Athens Regional Health System, 240 Talmadge Drive, Athens, GA 30606

 Mindfulness Practice Evening is a Free Offering for the Community – that meets the second Friday of each month from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. These mindfulness meditation instruction sessions are free. Anyone who may be just interested in mindfulness and/or stress reduction to those who are experienced meditators are welcome.

The Mindfulness Practice Evening is facilitated by Mike Healy, Ed.D., certified to teach Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction by the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and is a certified Integral Hatha Yoga instructor, RYT 200. For more information, please contact: www.mindfuliving.org, mfhealy@bellsouth.net or call 706-543-0162

For information or to register for a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction workshop please visit or contact:  LoranSmithCenter@athenshealth.org   www.athenshealth.org/loransmithcenter   706-475-4900 or www.mindfuliving.org or mfhealy@bellsouth.net. Next class starts Monday, February 20, 2017, from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m., for eight weeks, plus a day of mindfulness, Saturday, March 25th.

Why “Befriending” Cancer Mindfully – What Does This Mean Anyway?

What does it mean to “befriend” cancer or any other form of suffering – cancer treatments, uncertainty, impatience, pain, anger, surgery, transplantation of a new liver or other organ, and or life-style adjustments to new circumstances beyond your control?
Befriending cancer or other forms of suffering has to do with acknowledging what you are truly experiencing. It means:
• Seeing clearly what the situation is, as well as what the situation is not
• Acknowledging what is in the present moment, right here, now

Relating to your suffering in this way allows for a deeper understanding of the situation, enabling you to make conscious, skillful choices about your health. Like getting to know a friend through our experiences with them, we come to appreciate who and what they are and what they are not.

Developing a deeper understanding and making conscious and perhaps creative choices, changes our relationship to our suffering. We are able to be more responsive rather than reactive when stress, anxiety, depression, difficult emotions, and important decisions must be made. Too often we just react to difficult situations, based on our habitual way of dealing with them, and at times, this may be an unconscious reaction. This acknowledging and deepening of our understanding of our experiences – what I call befriending cancer or befriending our suffering, allows us to make conscious choices.

We also learn how not to identify with the suffering. Those with cancer know they are experiencing cancer and its effects, but realize they are not the cancer, they are not the illness. This seemingly slight shift from identifying closely with the cancer or suffering, to a mindful awareness of the experience of having cancer is immensely significant. This is where the space or time for conscious, creative choices is found. Inner wisdom can be drawn upon, rather than reacting out of fear, regret, or resignation.

Mindfulness practices are a way of seeing our suffering for what it is more clearly, changing our relationship to that suffering, and realizing greater healing, freedom from suffering. When I speak of healing, I’m talking about a dramatic change of perspective, “a profound transformation of view,” to quote Jon Kabat-Zinn. This perceptual shift is both attitudinal and emotional. Zinn writes in Full Catastrophe Living, “With this change of perspective comes a shift from feeling out of control and beyond help (helpless and pessimistic) to a sense of the possible, a sense of acceptance and inner peace and control” (Zinn, 1995, p. 168). Just to be clear, healing is not the same as curing. Healing involves a positive change in your relationship to cancer and other forms of suffering (i.e., chronic illnesses, stress, aging, even death). Mounting research does suggest however, that this mindfulness way of being, a sense of wholeness, integrating mind and body, may positively influence disease. For more information about mindfulness and peer reviewed scientific research, visit the American Mindfulness Research Association and see the Resources.

Subsequent postings to this blog will describe how mindfulness enabled me to befriend cancer, cancer treatments, a liver transplant, and recovery. This journey would not have been possible without the help of a wonderful team of support from my wife, daughter, friends, mindfulness and yoga instructors, doctors, nurses, and their staffs.

This journey was traveled with considerably less suffering than if I had considered cancer an enemy. Rather than demonizing and living with the concept of fighting cancer, mindful awareness has allowed me to see my health situation more clearly, to research, brainstorm, and identify many options. Opening to, acknowledging, and understanding what was true for me in this situation helped to save my life. Being able to bring my whole self to this disease and its challenges, rather than being caught-up in fear and “awfulizing” the cancer, truly sustained me on this on-going journey. You can start your own journey to realizing greater health and happiness with your own mindfulness practice.

Mindfulness – Befriending Cancer with Mindfulness: A Journey Through, Cirrhosis, Liver Cancer & Treatments, Liver Transplant and Recovery

Mindfulness – Befriending Cancer with Mindfulness: A Journey Through, Cirrhosis, Liver Cancer & Treatments, Liver Transplant and Recovery

Befriending Cancer with Mindfulness focuses on a mindfulness journey from cirrhosis to liver cancer and then treatments, a liver transplant and recovery. I will share how mindfulness, largely based on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) was an essential part of this successful (so far) journey. Befriending cancer, treatments, and having a liver transplant will illustrate how I changed my relationship to challenges that came with them. A Mindfulness approach towards any form of suffering – cancer, fear, anger, impatience, sadness, and even death, is a path to healing that anyone can learn and practice. Although often counter-intuitive, I found this path is more effective than “fighting” cancer and other challenges.

Periodically, I will describe/post parts of this journey, focusing on how mindfulness lead me back to greater health and even happiness.