As a nutritionist and health coach, I support people in conquering their bad habits; seeing their blind spots; and pleasurably creating their ideal bodies so they have more energy, bliss and are able to live incredible lives…without deprivation.
Something I’ve realized on my 10 year journey of embarking on a health and life transformation, including LOTS of personal work, professional training, conducting a research study on eating behaviors, writing and publishing a thesis, a Master’s degree, working with people intimately and getting coaching of my own, I’ve come to realize that the “Secret” to abundant health as well as transformation with food issues is something that been talked about for eons. It’s talked about now by the top psychologists, doctors, CEO’s, and prominent thought leaders (even Oprah).
It’s crazy to think that the most powerful catalyst for change comes down to one “secret”. In fact, this “secret” is no longer a secret, really. It’s been so powerful for people, that it’s become highly researched so the science nerds in all of us can have the peace of mind that it “works”. This “secret for change” has been researched and shown beneficial for chronic pain, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, IBS, symptoms with cancer, as well as psychological things like depression and anxiety as well as decreasing emotional eating and binge eating.
Here’s the secret:
Paying attention is enough.
Paying attention on PURPOSE and being deeply compassionate and curious in how we respond to and treat ourselves and others––I’ve come to understand this as the key to a truly happy and successful life, and to a healthy relationship with food.
That, and never stuffing an emotion.
All feelings need to be acknowledged, felt and validated in order for them to move on through versus numbing out the emotions or engaging in maladaptive coping or in limiting self-sabotage and destructive behaviors.
Different experts, religions, psychologists and self-development coaches have different words and language to describe this thing of paying full attention, which I refer to as mindfulness, and while it’s more inherent in some of us than others, it’s a skill we have to learn and cultivate.
Just like the muscles in our bodies, our mindfulness muscle must be strengthened deliberately and repeatedly.
Jon Kabatt-Zinn, who developed a standardized mindfulness course in hospitals that teaches the skill of mindfulness, defines it as
Paying attention on purpose, nonjudgmentally, moment-by-moment.
So what makes that so special and important? How could it help with your relationship to food?
Let’s check it out.
Picture yourself at the end of a tiring and stressful day where you’re headed to the kitchen to find some comfort food (perhaps even standing with the refrigerator door open at the counter). You aren’t actually hungry.
First, see yourself WITHOUT mindfulness (clear, nonjudgmental attention).
Reactivity. Guilt. Shame. Disappointment. Loss of control.
Or maybe in the moment it feels great because it’s a pleasant experience (you’re stuffing your emotion). But then afterwards comes guilt. Which then leads to some other self-sabotaging behavior, or even more eating.
Then regret. And confusion how you let this happen.
The focus is distracting versus being connected.
That’s what happens by default when dealing with uncomfortable emotions––when we aren’t in practice with slowing down enough to really pay objective attention.
Primal brain takes over. Survival mode kicks in. Then comes the fear based thinking.
This can also be true outside the realm of eating—in our communication with co-workers, arguments with our significant others—we focus then on being right versus being connected.
Without a true sense of presence and curiosity (think open fist vs. closed fist), the whole experience will just SUCK. And often live with you for several days afterwards. And it surely won’t be productive.
Now picture yourself WITH mindfulness.
You feel the stress and the discomfort. Probably a lot. Instead of immediately running to numb, you pay attention to where it’s showing up in your body: perhaps it’s swirling in your belly. A tightness in your throat. A clamping on your chest.
If you’re being both the watcher AND the doer, automatically…
There is more space, a broader perspective and a greater capacity to make decisions you can be proud of
When we can remain this grounded, and yet wide open in our consciousness (again: open fist vs. closed fist), we find solutions much easier.
Even if you start to turn to your automatic pilot behavior of eating, you’re also simultaneously watching yourself as the doer and the thinker…bringing full awareness to what and how you’re eating… breathing… and being breathed…..and the urge softens.
And more importantly, we simply stop wasting our precious energy on things that aren’t really working for us. Instead, we start using our precious energy to do things that will make us feel GOOD. Sidenote: brain imaging studies show that after practicing mindfulness in a group setting for 8 weeks, the parts of the brain that control our sense of wellbeing and joy are more activated! It enhances focus, memory and learning. It LITERALLY CHANGES THE BRAIN. I think that is so cool.)
If we have a strong capacity for mindfulness (breathing and feeling and paying attention without judgment or painful meaning making), then we can stand in the center of the emotional storm and still have access to what is needed (be it patience, love, humility, courage, discernment or whatever) in order to take right action and move ahead with grace.
The benefits of mindfulness go on and on, but the biggest place we’ll see and notice them is in our relationships and in how we deal with uncertainty. This includes the relationship to yourself.
We become the kind of person that is confident in their own skin…
And that creates tremendous opportunity. Opportunity for greater fitness, more passion, bliss, fulfilling relationships, career, better parenting.
So are you ready for that? (Or for a REcommitment to that?)
Here’s an invitation:
Join me on a 6-week journey towards cultivating more mindfulness and successfully dealing with all of the triggers and stresses that are no longer working for you.
With it, receive a free private coaching session with me. As well as bonus workbook materials, mindfulness CD’s/mp3’s to listen to on your own time and mindful eating practice practice each week.
Space is limited! Register here: http://eatingmindful.com/intuitive-eating/
I guarantee this is an investment that you will be so grateful you made. The tools and exercises you will learn, the way your brain will change (literally) will be a life-changing, game-changing experience. I have experienced this firsthand and both have seen it with countless clients. It is, afterall, the “secret” to health and happiness. I would be honored to be part of this experience for you.
To our collective mindfulness,