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.