Mindful Eating Changing Your Relationship with Food and Eating

A free offering from the Loran Smith Center, Piedmont Athens Regional

“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 Overview

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 class introduces how we can 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 food but also 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. And from this “space” conscious, creative options can arise. You have the freedom to make a healthy choice; cultivating what is healthy, while moving away from what is unhealthy.

Rather than dieting, Mindful Eating calls on your intuitive knowing as your discernment and wisdom deepens through mindfulness. Mindful eating brings a compassionate attention to the present moment; exploring your relationship with food and eating, experientially – using your five senses and mind (thoughts and emotions); bringing your whole self to the experience of eating. Too often we are on “automatic pilot,” making unconscious choices whereas mindfulness allows us to be more present, moment-to-moment.

Exploring your relationship with food and eating mindfully involves first recognizing and identifying and then exploring our experiences in areas of our relationship with food and eating:

  • Eating triggers (i.e., foods, smells, places, holidays and traditions, media, and people)
  • Types of hunger (i.e., eye, nose, ear, mouth, body, and thinking)
  • Emotional hunger
  • Stress-related eating
  • Eating habits and patterns
  • Recognizing “real” hunger, that is, when the body needs nutrition.

Remember, it is important to enjoy the pleasures of eating and food, which can be done while realizing and maintaining a 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; however, this approach is available to most everyone; it works! Mindful eating can become a way of being, a healthy lifestyle change guided by awareness, compassion, appreciation, and your inner wisdom and knowledge.

Mindfulness — the heart of the Mindful Eating Workshop involves training in – Attention, Concentration, and Awareness with Compassion

Mindfulness is awareness that arises by paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally (that is, suspending judgment). Another way to define mindfulness is to look at its components – Attention, Concentration, Awareness, and Compassion and its benefits.

Key Aspects – Mindfulness involves training in attention, awareness, concentration, and compassion: Attention – where you focus your mind; 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 that is, not being caught-up in thoughts of the future or thoughts of the past. To “be here, now.” Mindfulness brings 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. You come to know and understand yourself in a deeper, experiential way. Compassion deepens as you come to understand the conditions of the present moment and as that understanding and compassion deepens for yourself, it is easier to extend compassion to others. Keep in mind, as with developing any art or skill, mindfulness requires practice and patience.

Mindfulness practice allows you to respond rather than react to stressful situations. Reactions are often automatic, unconscious, and habitual. Whereas responses are conscious choices arising from mindfulness – perception, appraisal, awareness of what is actually happening in the moment. This process results in not identifying as closely with your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations, which in-turn loosens attachment to them, allowing space for conscious, often creative options or choices to be made.

With mindfulness practice, choices are made based on the discernment and wisdom developed through mindful “investigations” or inquiries that change your relationship to food and eating.

Research on Mindfulness – MBSR is the “gold standard” for mindfulness and related studies. For peer reviewed journal articles on mindfulness researchvisit for the American Mindfulness Research Association.

Mindfulness Practice Evening is a Free Offering for the Community – that meets the second Friday of each month from 5:30 – 7:00 p.m. We explore different aspects of mindfulness through discussions and practices. There is no charge and parking is free. All are welcome – whether you are just curious about mindfulness and its benefits or have a regular practice. Held at the Healing Lodge, see below for address and contact details.

The Dedicated Mindfulness Practitioners Group meets each Saturday from 8:30 – 9:30 a.m. This is an opportunity to practice and discuss your mindfulness practice. There is no charge and parking is free. For information please contact Jasey Jones at jaseyjones@gmail.com.

These mindfulness practice opportunities and the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction workshop (details below) are held at the Healing Lodge, next to the Loran Smith Center, Piedmont Athens Regional, at 240 Talmadge Dr., Athens, GA 30606

To register for the next Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction workshop please go to: https://www.piedmont.org/locations/piedmont-athens/loran-smith-cancer-centeror call 877-527-3712. For questions about the workshop visit MindfuLiving.Org , or email mfhealy@bellsouth.net. Next workshop starts September 9th, 2019.

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 on mindfulness or yoga classes, please contact: www.MindfuLiving.org, mfhealy@bellsouth.net or call 706-543-0162

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.