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How to Practice Mindful Eating

Join Melli and Susan as they explore the theory and practice of mindful eating and the five simple steps to support this in daily life.

I'm your host Melli O'Brien. And I'm really excited to introduce you today to Dr. Susan Albers. And she is a clinical psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic, but she's also an internationally renowned expert on mindful eating, which is what we're going to be exploring today. Susan has six books out on the topic of mindful eating including titles, like, just simply Eating Mindfully, Mindful Eating 101, and many more.

So she is very, very much the expert on the topic. So I'm really excited, Susan, to explore mindful eating with you today. Thank you for sharing your time and being part of this Summit. Well, thank you. The summit looks excellent and I'm so excited to be a part of it as well.

Yeah. So I'm really curious about your journey to this point, because you're really, this is really a niche that you've found yourself in being an expert on mindful eating. So could you tell us a little bit about your journey? Why did you get so involved in this topic? Sure. Well, first of all, of course, I love food like everyone else. It's very important to me.

But growing up, it was a very important piece of my family. Early on my, I have an Italian mother, so I grew up with food being such a part of our home and really linked with a lot of emotion, you know, food with love and care. My mom to this day never shows up at my house without a bag full of groceries. Right. And then on my father's side, he, his family grew up on a farm and introduced me very early on to organic foods and the importance of food for both nutrients and also energy, in powering your day working hard.

So it's been a part of my life for a long time and then fast forwarding to today, mindful eating in particular. I was studying in Japan and came across the concept of mindfulness. And it was one of the first times I had ever, ever heard the word mindfulness and began learning about how to apply that to eating. What I found with my clinical clients here and readers and people that I've been working with is how much they love the concept of mindful eating. It's a wellness approach.

Everyone wants to eat more mindfully. And it's something that no matter what type of eater you are, whether you have a special diet, your vegetarian, your gluten-free, kosher, whatever it is, you can use these skills of mindfulness to be healing and nourishing. Mmm and so there might be, there might be many viewers watching this who've never really heard of the concept of mindful eating before. This might be their first exposure. So could you, could you explain what mindful eating is and why you really think it's important? Absolutely.

And so if you haven't heard of the concept yet, that's okay, because we're going to learn about it today. Mindful eating is not a diet. So if you're somebody who's tried dieting before, this is good news, because probably if you hear that word diet and you just either shut down or you feel frustrated. It's not about dieting and there's really no menus or recipes. As a psychologist, what I focus on is the how we eat.

Oftentimes clients will come into my office and they'll say, "You know what? I know that a candy bar is more unhealthy than an apple. I know that, but what I struggle with is making that choice in that moment. And that's where it's really exciting, is that we can bring mindfulness to those decisions and it can be incredibly helpful and transforming. So what mindful eating is basically is being more attentive of the how you eat. And it sounds deceptively simple, you know, but it takes some practice.

And what we can do today is I can outline five different aspects of mindful eating to get people started to learning this process of being more attentive when they eat. I always say that we can eat an entire plate of food and not taste one single bite. Right. But when we bring mindfulness to it, we enjoy it. We savor it.

We really tune into our body so that we're not overeating. Because that's a trap that we often get into, is that we're not really tuned into our bodies to know when to stop eating and when to start eating. It's really, really confusing. Yeah. The other benefit of mindful eating is, you know, as I said, it's not a diet.

The other benefit is that I see it being helpful, and this is the part that just has been amazing to me, to people all over the spectrum in terms of their eating, people who want to lose weight, or just simply want to eat healthier, make healthier choices all the way to the other end of the spectrum in people who really struggle with their eating, chronic eating issues, such as anorexia, bolemia, binge eating. So I think that is just such an amazing concept that it can be helpful all the way across the board. Yeah. And so you said that you can, you can break mindfulness down, the mindful eating process down into five steps. Five steps.

If you're somebody who wants to get started with it, these are some simple steps to just kind of get you going and oriented to mindful eating, because we have a lot of mindless eating habits. Yeah. You know, whether it's sitting on the couch mindlessly popping food into our mouth as we're watching TV or we're sitting at our desk and snacking and looking at our computer at the same time and not really focused on what it is... And before, you know, it, you put your head back into the packet of chips and there's nothing left and you're like, oh, where did they go? I know. And that's actually when you go for more, because we eat partly for enjoyment and if we don't really taste it and enjoy it, then we go for more.

You know, maybe it's eating at 12, o'clock on the dot, whether they're hungry or not just because or the food is just there. I mean, that often happens as well. So we have lots of mindless eating habits. But mindful eating and number one, step number one, again, sounds very simple, is to sit down. And these, I call these the five S's of mindful eating.

So number one is to sit down when you eat. Think about how often we're standing in front of our refrigerator picking food from the refrigerator or walking and eating, or sitting in your car and driving at the same time. So my motto is always only eat off your feet as a sort of a reminder that you're putting your food on the plate. And what this is going to do in terms of mindfulness is to cut down on your distractions and focus your attention. So when you're sitting and you're thinking about that practice of sitting, it just really shifts your attention in a much different way.

So number one is sit down. Number two is to slowly chew. And that's something that we probably all have thought about at one time or another. And here is a very basic trick that you can use to help you to slow down. Yeah.

And that's putting your hand, and this may be different where you live, but particularly the United States it's eating with your non-dominant hand or your opposite hand, whatever hand that you tend to eat with. Yeah. And what research indicates is that that slows you down by about 30%. Aah, interesting. And the reason that is, is because it's a little bit like writing with your opposite hand.

You can do it, but you really have to focus in a new way. And so it naturally slows you down. So I would encourage people to try that today. My motto for this is: pace don't race. Right.

I love that. Don't race through your meal which is sometimes hard. Also I find is that, and what research backs up, is that we tend to mirror exactly the pace of the people that we're eating with. So if you have a significant other who eats really quickly, you know, often we do, unconsciously, we tend to mirror that. And so we can bring mindfulness to that practice of when you sit down, pay attention to your own rate of eating and then also the person that you're with, tuning into that.

And not being judgmental as we're using those principles of mindfulness. No judgement, but simply noticing and being present with that. Yeah. Great. So that's step number two.

Yeah. Number three, which we're going to learn more about at the end when we do our practice, is about savoring food. And just think about how often we're just mindlessly popping food into our mouth. Some of my clients will call it zombie eating, that they're eating just to eat. That seems like the correct name for it.

Yep. Doesn't it? It does. Because you don't really experience it. And then you have that moment. This is how you know, you're in zombie eating.

Yeah. Is that you have that wake up moment where you say to yourself, "Uh, why did I just eat that? I just didn't really want that." Or, "I eat too much." Or that, sort of that realization moment. And if we use mindfulness along the way, we kind of avoid that wake up moment. We're really present along the way. So savoring is about taking mindful bites, smelling food, tasting it, noticing each spoonful, turning off that TV, other distractions that are going to impede us from really focusing in.

And what research indicates is the first bite is actually the most flavorful and that's because it's a new sensation to our mouth right at that point. And so if you can make that first bite in mindful bite, it's actually going to take you a long way. So sometimes we're under the misperception that mindful eating has to take long periods of time. And it doesn't. It's just really a shift in attention and it can be at that first bite.

So that is number three. Oh, and my motto here is: when you eat, just eat. Right. Don't do anything else. Don't type.

Don't talk on the phone. Don't drive. Eat, just eat. And that's so hard to do. We're often eating and doing a million different things at the same.

Yeah. I love that. It's so simple, but it's not really hard. We just kind of I feel like we're in a habit of doing it, but it's actually really simple. That's actually really accessible and simple and powerful.

And often we're trying to grab our mindful eating skills in the moment when we're sort of in crisis of like, Oh, I'm eating too much. I'm really enjoying this. I need to stop. But if we practice in the times that are calm and with everyday foods, I think we can really, it becomes ingrained in us. And I'll tell you when people become mindful eaters, it's almost hard for them to turn off at later times because they're so attuned and so aware.

The next S is to simplify. And what I mean by this is to place healthy foods or foods that you enjoy in places that are easy for you to see. And what my motto or tagline about this is that: In sight, in mind, out of sight, out of mind. What we know with mindfulness, of course, is that things could kind of be the out of our mind or in our minds. And we strategically place our attention in different places.

And food is one of those things that we see all over the place. And so where we place food is important. And so if you're listening, one thing you can do, if you're just trying to eat healthier is to place foods in a place where you'll see them. Maybe a nice bowl of apples or pears right on your counter. So that when you go by, you intentionally see them and you see the bright colors.

And not only is it a calm and peaceful moment, but you are more likely to eat things that are convenient and in your sight path. Right. You know, often when we have a cookie jar sitting right there on the counter, we reach for it very mindlessly, just because it's there. So we can create those mindful environments. And even at your desk or different places.

Places that you find that you tend to sink into mindless eating. I would encourage people today to go home or if they're at their office and really be mindful, tune in to their environment and see what is maybe triggering mindful eating or mindless eating. Right. Yep. That's a little bit reminiscent to me.

It brings to mind, you know, how a lot of mindfulness teachers will really emphasize, you know, being aware of the community and the environment that you place yourself in, just because there are certain environments that are going to make it more difficult and certain environments that are really going to lend itself to you being more mindful, certain people, certain communities. And it's sort of like your community of food that you put around you, you know, can be helpful or it can be more challenging for your practice. Yeah. Exactly. And our environment does matter.

If it's cluttered, sometimes you walk into a place and you just automatically, even unconsciously, feel overwhelmed. So making that mindful environment is important. And the last S is to smile. Oh, that's one of my favorites. And it's to smile between each bite.

And I kind of like to think of it as sort of the Buddha's smile. You know, creating a little smile between each bite. And what that does is it gives you that pause moment or that mindful moment between the next bite to say, "Is this something that I really want? Am I full?" That moment to tune in for just a moment. Also smile, as we know, creates those positive feel-good chemicals in our brains. And so that helps as well.

But mostly it helps us to take that pause. And my tagline is:Take a breath to manage stress. Right. Too often, we are stress eating and mindlessly eating because of our physiology and how we're feeling, so smiling and taking that breath before the next bite can help. Yeah.

Right. I love this. This is so simple and practical. Yeah, I love that. Thank you so much for sharing that.

I'm sure that's very, very handy practical stuff for our viewers and for me. Yes, if you want this, I have this outlined on a handout. And if this is something that people want, they can email me or go to my website and it's all sort of outlined for them. So they can hang this on the refrigerator. And have it really handy and a great reminder of the these five steps.

Great. Well, I will link to that underneath this video so people can just click right through to it, so to make it super easy. So I really, I'm curious also about this topic of comfort eating because you have a book, don't you called, Quit Comfort Eating. So could you define, could you define exactly what comfort eating is and why we do it? Sure. Yes.

And it's interesting because in the UK and in Australia, it is called quick comfort eating. In the United States it's called Eat Q, which is emotional intelligence to help with comforting eating. But same book, just to clarify that. Yeah. But comfort eating is the eating that we do to help to manage our emotions.

So when we're feeling stressed or anxious or overwhelmed, and also this is a myth that it is just negative feelings, but also positive feelings, encourage us to eat, to regulate our feelings. Okay. And again, that's where the mindfulness is helpful because it's a different strategy for regulating your feelings. Instead of stuffing down your feelings with food or pushing them away or escaping our feelings, we can bring mindfulness as a calming and soothing and replace that. My new book that's coming up, 50 More Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food, it comes out in December.

It uses many of these mindfulness concepts to replace comfort eating with things that, with strategies that are healthier, long-term, ongoing. And the nice thing about mindfulness, it's free. Yeah. You know, it's not fancy. You know, it doesn't cost a lot.

You can bring it with you anywhere. And so could you give us, could you maybe give us a few of those tips on how we can skillfully, more skillfully handle those moments of, you know, when we want to reach for the, you know, the sugar or the caffeine or the alcohol or whatever it is, what are some of those ways that we can do that? Well, there are so many. There are so many ways. Many of the strategies have used, as I said, use mindfulness. So they, it outlines in different steps of how to bring your mind back to the moment.

So if you're worrying about what you've eaten in the past or about the future, to bring your mind back to the moment. There's other techniques like self massage. So taking a tennis ball, putting it under your foot or behind your back against a wall to calm and soothe down your body. There's also some yoga moves and Tai Chi that are very simple. And also some chair yoga that you can do in your chair if you're kind of stuck in your office, instead of going to the vending machine down the hallway.

And also things like tea can be very soothing. There's lots of different, certain different types of tea are more soothing than others. So in this book, there's just a plethora of different ideas that, and walks people through them. But my main goal when I created it was to make sure that it was things that were anybody could obtain, didn't cost really any money, and were based in mindfulness. Do you have a favorite? Do you have a favorite or most popular thing that you see just seems to work for a lot of people? What do you do? What do you do when the moment of craving comes to you? You know, these days, you know, cause I'm sure it still comes.

You're still in a human body. It does. You know, it comes, but it's interesting that I no longer find food soothing. It has been rewired for me that my automatic go-to is now tea. Like I have this certain vanilla tea that I love, love.

And so it almost becomes rewarding and it's almost something I crave now. Food, it doesn't. Comfort eating just doesn't sort of work for me anymore, thankfully. Yeah. Also use mindfulness, here's my favorite one that is so, so super simple, is I think about what's called a squeegee breath.

The squeegee breath. And you think about a window washer and that squeegee that squeezes the water down and out. And so when I take a breath, I imagine that squeegee starting at the top of my head and taking that breath and it just pushing all of that sort of negative energy down and that stress, in, out. So that one is really simple that people can try and do right now. I also, the second one that I liked that these is very easy and I talk about my book, 50 More Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food is about the concept of sit.

And when there's, when you have any, you have probably heard this metaphor before, when we think about a new, if you have a new puppy at home, oftentimes they have that mind of, you know, the puppy's all over the place. I have a new puppy, his name is Max and he's all over the place. He'lll hear a noise over here and then go over here. And it's very much like our minds. Our minds are like that bouncy puppy going from one thing to another.

But you teach a puppy how to sit, that command of sit. And so sometimes I'll use that with my own mind if it's all over the place, thinking about what I'm going to make for dinner and clients and meetings and things like that. I'll use that same command and say, sit. And this sort of brings my mind back to the center for a moment. And then it will go on.

Ah, interesting. Is there anything else that you'd like to tell us about mindful eating before we move into a practice? Yes. Yeah. Well, I have two different foods that I want to share with you that I think illustrate kind of nicely the simplicity of mindful eating and are great snacks as well. Okay.

So this one right here is a pistachio. This is one of my very favorite snacks for mindful eating and in part, because it's got great nutrients in it. But again, you know, I'm more focused on the how we eat versus what we're eating. But what I love about this and what's called the pistachio effect is that, and what the pistachio effect is, is that simple changes can make a big difference to your eating. And so a particular researcher in the Journal of Appetite looked at pistachios and they investigated either shelled pistachios that had already been de-shelled or people who had been given in the shell.

And what they found was that people ate significantly less when they were actually in the shell. And how that relates to mindfulness is think about how you open this, the shell, you have to sort of slow down and open it up. You look at it and you hear the crackle of an opening. Significantly slows you down. Instead of mindlessly scooping up the nuts and putting them in your mouth.

The second part how it's helpful is that it creates this little pile, this visual pile in front of you, sort of a gauge of how many did you eat. When you're just scooping them out, you have no idea. Yeah. You have no idea. So it's something to think about in terms of when you're choosing foods.

You can use that same principle for if you have a snack of saving the wrapper and keeping it on your desk, because we have terrible memories when it comes to food. We're really not paying attention to what it is we're eating and just mindless eating. So, and I love pistachios too, because they're great for managing stress, they're great to help regulate your blood sugar. But also, as I said, \you can eat them in a mindful way. Yep.

The second one, of course, is in, this is actually a very large. This is a Mandarin orange, but this is like the largest one I've ever seen. And what I love about them is that you can create this meditative moment with unpeeling the orange, you know. And here I have a slice. I love how they're perfectly portioned.

So you can close your eyes if you're feeling stressed and take one of these, you know, smell it. The citrus smell is naturally calming, according to research. Interesting. And it has about 80 calories. So it's a low calorie snack.

It's sweet. So you can really savor it. I mean, you can really get into it and it will only take you a minute or two to eat it. So it's something that will be very quick. But you can bring that mindfulness to that snack.

So if you're a stress eater, it's the perfect, perfect snack for you. Great. So if maybe, if we're going to lead now into a practice, maybe we'll just give this moment right now if anyone wants to pause the video and to go and get something, you can do that now. And then otherwise, I'm all ready to go. I am really excited about this practice because it's 6:30 AM in Byron Bay, Australia, and I get to eat chocolate first thing in the morning.

That's fantastic. In fact, I'm going to reach for my chocolate because I keep mine in terms of that S of simplify, I keep mine across the room. In a closed cabinet? In a closed cabinet so that it does not in sight my cravings. I will be back in a moment. Okay? Okay.

What do you have there? I have a dark piece of chocolate. Wow. And I chose chocolate intentionally. If you've ever done a mindful eating exercise, my guess is, is that you've used raisins. Have you used raisins? Many a raisin have I eaten mindfully.

I bet. I choose chocolate very intentionally because chocolate is one of those foods that we have so many conflicted feelings about. We love and crave it, yet we often feel guilty about it. And almost never, we wake up in the morning and say, okay, Ino raisins for me today. No raisins, but chocolate! We kind of say that to ourselves.

So I like that you can practice with a food that you love and crave. And in fact, I would encourage that because that's exactly what we need. To eat the foods that we love, but in a mindful way. We can do that with chocolate. And so I have chocolate today, but you can use whatever food you want.

And as people, you know, left for a moment and got food, they can choose whatever is meaningful to them. Also, if this creates too much anxiety for you, as you're, as you're watching, you can use your imagination. You don't have to use an actual food. You can actually start with that of just imagining a food like chocolate that you love and walk through it in that way. Okay? All right.

So if you're holding your piece of chocolate, please put it in your hands. And you can close your eyes if you want to, or not. And what we're going to do is start with feeling the weight of the chocolate in your hands. Just noticing how it feels to you. Does it feel heavy? Does it feel light? And just sit with that for a moment of how it feels sitting in your hands.

Let's take that with just a little glance at it. And look at the piece of chocolate or the piece of food in your hand and describe it to yourself. What does it look like? Notice the color. Notice the shape. Most importantly, notice any thoughts or feelings or emotions that pop up into your mind.

And just sit with them. Don't judge them. Just notice whatever may be floating into your mind about this food. If you're holding chocolate, it may be a craving or thought like, I want that, or maybe a guilty thought or even a memory of the past. But whatever it is, just sit with it, hold it.

And, and for me, I have a piece of chocolate that's wrapped. So what I'm going to do is listen to the sound of opening up this chocolate and just really tune into that. Next, bring your piece of food or chocolate up to your nose and take a nice deep breath. And just inhale. Three nice deep breaths.

And as your inhaling, again notice any thoughts or feelings or memories that may come to mind. We're just going to hold that and sit with that for just a moment. And when you're ready, place the piece of chocolate into your mouth. Mine is a very big one. I'll have to chew some.

You can chew it. And notice as you bite into it, I heard that... Mmmm. Yes. So whatever sound your food make, tune into it.

If you're eating a pretzel, the crunch. How it sounds as you begin to chew. And here you have that first bite, that first taste. Describe it to yourself. Do you like it? Do you not like it? Do you, what flavors are happening in your mouth? Maybe there's some intensity to that piece of chocolate.

Or smoothness or richness. We're just going to give you moment to be quiet with that and notice everything that is happening. It's likely to take a different form or changing texture as you're rolling it around in your mouth. And as you're ready, when you're ready to swallow, follow it to the back of your mouth and imagine it traveling down into your stomach. And when you're ready, you can open your eyes.

Mmm. Tell me, what is your, what was your reaction? I know you've done mindful eating exercises before. And I actually call this the mindful bite instead of a mindful eating exercise, because it's shortened it for obviously for time purposes. So it's kind of the mindful bite. Well, Yeah, I have to say, you know, I have here, you know, a piece of Lindt chocolate.

And, you know, as I was holding it, I realized, you know, it's like a piece of art. The way that they make this chocolate, it's just... like it has these lines and these pattens and I was just going, wow. I just, I don't think I ever realized how much effort. You know, these are made by Swiss people.

There's just all these beautiful, delicate detail. And I was like, wow, it's like a little work of art that I'm eating. How beautiful. It's been interesting as I do this exercise with different people, how opinionated people become about their chocolate. I'll experiment with it.

I'll bring different types, you know, very fine pieces of chocolate or what I would call sort of more mass produced and what comes up for people in terms of their taste. And sometimes they're surprised that, you know, they thought they didn't like dark chocolate and they fall in love with it. Right. Or, you know, I bring a piece of, at sometime I bring two pieces of chocolate, a fine piece and a more, a cheaper piece. And it's interesting how people will say, gosh, I wasn't aware when I started to savor and taste it, the difference between these two types of chocolate.

And made them real fans of, you know, buying quality chocolate. Yeah. And I, you know, the other thing that I, that I often talk to people about when they ask me what, you know, what kinds of things has mindfulness sort of, how has that unfolded in your life? And actually the very first thing that I noticed, the very first switch in my life was that I stopped overeating. And I didn't realize that I was doing it at the time. It was something that I reflected on months afterwards.

I was like, oh, I don't overeat anymore. And I think it was because, and I felt it just then again, even with the tiniest bit of food, it's the awareness of satiation. Doesn't actually, even the smallest, one raisin sometimes when you do those raisin activities, you're like that actually made a difference in how satiated I feel. Yeah. Definitely.

Often times people are thinking about the next piece of chocolate before they finished the one that they have. And when you turn mindfulness on, you're really finishing this entire piece and noticing that. I think you said that beautifully, that people are often surprised that it helps them to stop overeating. They think, okay, I've got a diet, I have to be strict. And it just kind of naturally happens over time.

It's not painful. But often people lose weight kind of unknowingly because they become more mindful. I've also noticed that when people are learning mindful eating skills that they come back and they say, you know what? I kind of noticed that I was more mindful in general, as I started practicing mindful eating in - my relationships, at work - that it's almost like there's a ripple effect across the board. So that's another benefit. If you want to start practicing mindful eating, you're going to notice all kinds of benefits in your life, all over the place.

Is there anything else you'd like to share before we close? Well, I again want to thank you and tell people that if they want to learn more about kind of these basics of mindful eating, my goal is to make it really simple and accessible to people and in practical ways. I know they're busy. I know that they're stressed out and they don't have a lot of resources. So everything I do is tailored to bringing mindfulness to eating in a way that is easy and practical. So they can learn more about it on my website, which is EatingMindfully.com.

Yep. And as you said, I have six books, all about mindful eating. They're all about mindful eating, so they can give you some really hands-on strategies as well. Great. And I'm going to link to your website under here and provide, you know, make it really easy for people to go and explore some more about mindful eating, because it's such a, you know what, it's such a joy.

You know, eating is such a joyful thing that we get to do. And like you said, because we do it so often, you intersperse these really wonderful moments of mindfulness throughout the day. So it's just a really practical way to start being mindful without really changing anything much in your life. You know, if you don't want to start a meditation practice, you can just savor your food and enjoy it more and reap the benefits. Absolutely.

I totally agree with that. It's something that we do. We eat at least three times a day and it gives us at least three opportunities to be mindful. Yeah. And I just have one last question to ask you, which is the, it's the same question that I'm asking every single person that takes part in the Summit.

And you know, it's, so it's been said that mindfulness has the capacity to change the world from the inside out, one person at a time. And so my question to you is, you know, if mindfulness were to truly go mainstream, I'm talking, you know, it hit critical mass in the population. How do you think that would change things? What kind of a world could that create? I like the sound of that. I'm voting for that. I think the world would be so much calmer and that we would experience an environment that would be, people, I, you know, I think one of the benefits is that with mindfulness, you respond instead of react.

So if we were able to be a society across the board that tuned in, thought about our feelings and slowed down and responded to what was going on in the inside, instead of that knee jerk, automatic reaction, wow. It would be such a different place. And in regards to food, the same thing. We have so many knee jerk reactions and habits around food. I think that we would be making decisions in a calm way around food instead of in a stressful way.

Yeah. Beautiful. Thank you so much, Susan. I really appreciate you taking the time out for the Summit and I wish you all the best in your continued journey. You too.

And remember to eat, drink and be mindful. Will do. Thanks for tuning in and we'll see you next time.

Talk

4.5

How to Practice Mindful Eating

Join Melli and Susan as they explore the theory and practice of mindful eating and the five simple steps to support this in daily life.

Duration

Your default time is based on your progress and is changed automatically as you practice.

I'm your host Melli O'Brien. And I'm really excited to introduce you today to Dr. Susan Albers. And she is a clinical psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic, but she's also an internationally renowned expert on mindful eating, which is what we're going to be exploring today. Susan has six books out on the topic of mindful eating including titles, like, just simply Eating Mindfully, Mindful Eating 101, and many more.

So she is very, very much the expert on the topic. So I'm really excited, Susan, to explore mindful eating with you today. Thank you for sharing your time and being part of this Summit. Well, thank you. The summit looks excellent and I'm so excited to be a part of it as well.

Yeah. So I'm really curious about your journey to this point, because you're really, this is really a niche that you've found yourself in being an expert on mindful eating. So could you tell us a little bit about your journey? Why did you get so involved in this topic? Sure. Well, first of all, of course, I love food like everyone else. It's very important to me.

But growing up, it was a very important piece of my family. Early on my, I have an Italian mother, so I grew up with food being such a part of our home and really linked with a lot of emotion, you know, food with love and care. My mom to this day never shows up at my house without a bag full of groceries. Right. And then on my father's side, he, his family grew up on a farm and introduced me very early on to organic foods and the importance of food for both nutrients and also energy, in powering your day working hard.

So it's been a part of my life for a long time and then fast forwarding to today, mindful eating in particular. I was studying in Japan and came across the concept of mindfulness. And it was one of the first times I had ever, ever heard the word mindfulness and began learning about how to apply that to eating. What I found with my clinical clients here and readers and people that I've been working with is how much they love the concept of mindful eating. It's a wellness approach.

Everyone wants to eat more mindfully. And it's something that no matter what type of eater you are, whether you have a special diet, your vegetarian, your gluten-free, kosher, whatever it is, you can use these skills of mindfulness to be healing and nourishing. Mmm and so there might be, there might be many viewers watching this who've never really heard of the concept of mindful eating before. This might be their first exposure. So could you, could you explain what mindful eating is and why you really think it's important? Absolutely.

And so if you haven't heard of the concept yet, that's okay, because we're going to learn about it today. Mindful eating is not a diet. So if you're somebody who's tried dieting before, this is good news, because probably if you hear that word diet and you just either shut down or you feel frustrated. It's not about dieting and there's really no menus or recipes. As a psychologist, what I focus on is the how we eat.

Oftentimes clients will come into my office and they'll say, "You know what? I know that a candy bar is more unhealthy than an apple. I know that, but what I struggle with is making that choice in that moment. And that's where it's really exciting, is that we can bring mindfulness to those decisions and it can be incredibly helpful and transforming. So what mindful eating is basically is being more attentive of the how you eat. And it sounds deceptively simple, you know, but it takes some practice.

And what we can do today is I can outline five different aspects of mindful eating to get people started to learning this process of being more attentive when they eat. I always say that we can eat an entire plate of food and not taste one single bite. Right. But when we bring mindfulness to it, we enjoy it. We savor it.

We really tune into our body so that we're not overeating. Because that's a trap that we often get into, is that we're not really tuned into our bodies to know when to stop eating and when to start eating. It's really, really confusing. Yeah. The other benefit of mindful eating is, you know, as I said, it's not a diet.

The other benefit is that I see it being helpful, and this is the part that just has been amazing to me, to people all over the spectrum in terms of their eating, people who want to lose weight, or just simply want to eat healthier, make healthier choices all the way to the other end of the spectrum in people who really struggle with their eating, chronic eating issues, such as anorexia, bolemia, binge eating. So I think that is just such an amazing concept that it can be helpful all the way across the board. Yeah. And so you said that you can, you can break mindfulness down, the mindful eating process down into five steps. Five steps.

If you're somebody who wants to get started with it, these are some simple steps to just kind of get you going and oriented to mindful eating, because we have a lot of mindless eating habits. Yeah. You know, whether it's sitting on the couch mindlessly popping food into our mouth as we're watching TV or we're sitting at our desk and snacking and looking at our computer at the same time and not really focused on what it is... And before, you know, it, you put your head back into the packet of chips and there's nothing left and you're like, oh, where did they go? I know. And that's actually when you go for more, because we eat partly for enjoyment and if we don't really taste it and enjoy it, then we go for more.

You know, maybe it's eating at 12, o'clock on the dot, whether they're hungry or not just because or the food is just there. I mean, that often happens as well. So we have lots of mindless eating habits. But mindful eating and number one, step number one, again, sounds very simple, is to sit down. And these, I call these the five S's of mindful eating.

So number one is to sit down when you eat. Think about how often we're standing in front of our refrigerator picking food from the refrigerator or walking and eating, or sitting in your car and driving at the same time. So my motto is always only eat off your feet as a sort of a reminder that you're putting your food on the plate. And what this is going to do in terms of mindfulness is to cut down on your distractions and focus your attention. So when you're sitting and you're thinking about that practice of sitting, it just really shifts your attention in a much different way.

So number one is sit down. Number two is to slowly chew. And that's something that we probably all have thought about at one time or another. And here is a very basic trick that you can use to help you to slow down. Yeah.

And that's putting your hand, and this may be different where you live, but particularly the United States it's eating with your non-dominant hand or your opposite hand, whatever hand that you tend to eat with. Yeah. And what research indicates is that that slows you down by about 30%. Aah, interesting. And the reason that is, is because it's a little bit like writing with your opposite hand.

You can do it, but you really have to focus in a new way. And so it naturally slows you down. So I would encourage people to try that today. My motto for this is: pace don't race. Right.

I love that. Don't race through your meal which is sometimes hard. Also I find is that, and what research backs up, is that we tend to mirror exactly the pace of the people that we're eating with. So if you have a significant other who eats really quickly, you know, often we do, unconsciously, we tend to mirror that. And so we can bring mindfulness to that practice of when you sit down, pay attention to your own rate of eating and then also the person that you're with, tuning into that.

And not being judgmental as we're using those principles of mindfulness. No judgement, but simply noticing and being present with that. Yeah. Great. So that's step number two.

Yeah. Number three, which we're going to learn more about at the end when we do our practice, is about savoring food. And just think about how often we're just mindlessly popping food into our mouth. Some of my clients will call it zombie eating, that they're eating just to eat. That seems like the correct name for it.

Yep. Doesn't it? It does. Because you don't really experience it. And then you have that moment. This is how you know, you're in zombie eating.

Yeah. Is that you have that wake up moment where you say to yourself, "Uh, why did I just eat that? I just didn't really want that." Or, "I eat too much." Or that, sort of that realization moment. And if we use mindfulness along the way, we kind of avoid that wake up moment. We're really present along the way. So savoring is about taking mindful bites, smelling food, tasting it, noticing each spoonful, turning off that TV, other distractions that are going to impede us from really focusing in.

And what research indicates is the first bite is actually the most flavorful and that's because it's a new sensation to our mouth right at that point. And so if you can make that first bite in mindful bite, it's actually going to take you a long way. So sometimes we're under the misperception that mindful eating has to take long periods of time. And it doesn't. It's just really a shift in attention and it can be at that first bite.

So that is number three. Oh, and my motto here is: when you eat, just eat. Right. Don't do anything else. Don't type.

Don't talk on the phone. Don't drive. Eat, just eat. And that's so hard to do. We're often eating and doing a million different things at the same.

Yeah. I love that. It's so simple, but it's not really hard. We just kind of I feel like we're in a habit of doing it, but it's actually really simple. That's actually really accessible and simple and powerful.

And often we're trying to grab our mindful eating skills in the moment when we're sort of in crisis of like, Oh, I'm eating too much. I'm really enjoying this. I need to stop. But if we practice in the times that are calm and with everyday foods, I think we can really, it becomes ingrained in us. And I'll tell you when people become mindful eaters, it's almost hard for them to turn off at later times because they're so attuned and so aware.

The next S is to simplify. And what I mean by this is to place healthy foods or foods that you enjoy in places that are easy for you to see. And what my motto or tagline about this is that: In sight, in mind, out of sight, out of mind. What we know with mindfulness, of course, is that things could kind of be the out of our mind or in our minds. And we strategically place our attention in different places.

And food is one of those things that we see all over the place. And so where we place food is important. And so if you're listening, one thing you can do, if you're just trying to eat healthier is to place foods in a place where you'll see them. Maybe a nice bowl of apples or pears right on your counter. So that when you go by, you intentionally see them and you see the bright colors.

And not only is it a calm and peaceful moment, but you are more likely to eat things that are convenient and in your sight path. Right. You know, often when we have a cookie jar sitting right there on the counter, we reach for it very mindlessly, just because it's there. So we can create those mindful environments. And even at your desk or different places.

Places that you find that you tend to sink into mindless eating. I would encourage people today to go home or if they're at their office and really be mindful, tune in to their environment and see what is maybe triggering mindful eating or mindless eating. Right. Yep. That's a little bit reminiscent to me.

It brings to mind, you know, how a lot of mindfulness teachers will really emphasize, you know, being aware of the community and the environment that you place yourself in, just because there are certain environments that are going to make it more difficult and certain environments that are really going to lend itself to you being more mindful, certain people, certain communities. And it's sort of like your community of food that you put around you, you know, can be helpful or it can be more challenging for your practice. Yeah. Exactly. And our environment does matter.

If it's cluttered, sometimes you walk into a place and you just automatically, even unconsciously, feel overwhelmed. So making that mindful environment is important. And the last S is to smile. Oh, that's one of my favorites. And it's to smile between each bite.

And I kind of like to think of it as sort of the Buddha's smile. You know, creating a little smile between each bite. And what that does is it gives you that pause moment or that mindful moment between the next bite to say, "Is this something that I really want? Am I full?" That moment to tune in for just a moment. Also smile, as we know, creates those positive feel-good chemicals in our brains. And so that helps as well.

But mostly it helps us to take that pause. And my tagline is:Take a breath to manage stress. Right. Too often, we are stress eating and mindlessly eating because of our physiology and how we're feeling, so smiling and taking that breath before the next bite can help. Yeah.

Right. I love this. This is so simple and practical. Yeah, I love that. Thank you so much for sharing that.

I'm sure that's very, very handy practical stuff for our viewers and for me. Yes, if you want this, I have this outlined on a handout. And if this is something that people want, they can email me or go to my website and it's all sort of outlined for them. So they can hang this on the refrigerator. And have it really handy and a great reminder of the these five steps.

Great. Well, I will link to that underneath this video so people can just click right through to it, so to make it super easy. So I really, I'm curious also about this topic of comfort eating because you have a book, don't you called, Quit Comfort Eating. So could you define, could you define exactly what comfort eating is and why we do it? Sure. Yes.

And it's interesting because in the UK and in Australia, it is called quick comfort eating. In the United States it's called Eat Q, which is emotional intelligence to help with comforting eating. But same book, just to clarify that. Yeah. But comfort eating is the eating that we do to help to manage our emotions.

So when we're feeling stressed or anxious or overwhelmed, and also this is a myth that it is just negative feelings, but also positive feelings, encourage us to eat, to regulate our feelings. Okay. And again, that's where the mindfulness is helpful because it's a different strategy for regulating your feelings. Instead of stuffing down your feelings with food or pushing them away or escaping our feelings, we can bring mindfulness as a calming and soothing and replace that. My new book that's coming up, 50 More Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food, it comes out in December.

It uses many of these mindfulness concepts to replace comfort eating with things that, with strategies that are healthier, long-term, ongoing. And the nice thing about mindfulness, it's free. Yeah. You know, it's not fancy. You know, it doesn't cost a lot.

You can bring it with you anywhere. And so could you give us, could you maybe give us a few of those tips on how we can skillfully, more skillfully handle those moments of, you know, when we want to reach for the, you know, the sugar or the caffeine or the alcohol or whatever it is, what are some of those ways that we can do that? Well, there are so many. There are so many ways. Many of the strategies have used, as I said, use mindfulness. So they, it outlines in different steps of how to bring your mind back to the moment.

So if you're worrying about what you've eaten in the past or about the future, to bring your mind back to the moment. There's other techniques like self massage. So taking a tennis ball, putting it under your foot or behind your back against a wall to calm and soothe down your body. There's also some yoga moves and Tai Chi that are very simple. And also some chair yoga that you can do in your chair if you're kind of stuck in your office, instead of going to the vending machine down the hallway.

And also things like tea can be very soothing. There's lots of different, certain different types of tea are more soothing than others. So in this book, there's just a plethora of different ideas that, and walks people through them. But my main goal when I created it was to make sure that it was things that were anybody could obtain, didn't cost really any money, and were based in mindfulness. Do you have a favorite? Do you have a favorite or most popular thing that you see just seems to work for a lot of people? What do you do? What do you do when the moment of craving comes to you? You know, these days, you know, cause I'm sure it still comes.

You're still in a human body. It does. You know, it comes, but it's interesting that I no longer find food soothing. It has been rewired for me that my automatic go-to is now tea. Like I have this certain vanilla tea that I love, love.

And so it almost becomes rewarding and it's almost something I crave now. Food, it doesn't. Comfort eating just doesn't sort of work for me anymore, thankfully. Yeah. Also use mindfulness, here's my favorite one that is so, so super simple, is I think about what's called a squeegee breath.

The squeegee breath. And you think about a window washer and that squeegee that squeezes the water down and out. And so when I take a breath, I imagine that squeegee starting at the top of my head and taking that breath and it just pushing all of that sort of negative energy down and that stress, in, out. So that one is really simple that people can try and do right now. I also, the second one that I liked that these is very easy and I talk about my book, 50 More Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food is about the concept of sit.

And when there's, when you have any, you have probably heard this metaphor before, when we think about a new, if you have a new puppy at home, oftentimes they have that mind of, you know, the puppy's all over the place. I have a new puppy, his name is Max and he's all over the place. He'lll hear a noise over here and then go over here. And it's very much like our minds. Our minds are like that bouncy puppy going from one thing to another.

But you teach a puppy how to sit, that command of sit. And so sometimes I'll use that with my own mind if it's all over the place, thinking about what I'm going to make for dinner and clients and meetings and things like that. I'll use that same command and say, sit. And this sort of brings my mind back to the center for a moment. And then it will go on.

Ah, interesting. Is there anything else that you'd like to tell us about mindful eating before we move into a practice? Yes. Yeah. Well, I have two different foods that I want to share with you that I think illustrate kind of nicely the simplicity of mindful eating and are great snacks as well. Okay.

So this one right here is a pistachio. This is one of my very favorite snacks for mindful eating and in part, because it's got great nutrients in it. But again, you know, I'm more focused on the how we eat versus what we're eating. But what I love about this and what's called the pistachio effect is that, and what the pistachio effect is, is that simple changes can make a big difference to your eating. And so a particular researcher in the Journal of Appetite looked at pistachios and they investigated either shelled pistachios that had already been de-shelled or people who had been given in the shell.

And what they found was that people ate significantly less when they were actually in the shell. And how that relates to mindfulness is think about how you open this, the shell, you have to sort of slow down and open it up. You look at it and you hear the crackle of an opening. Significantly slows you down. Instead of mindlessly scooping up the nuts and putting them in your mouth.

The second part how it's helpful is that it creates this little pile, this visual pile in front of you, sort of a gauge of how many did you eat. When you're just scooping them out, you have no idea. Yeah. You have no idea. So it's something to think about in terms of when you're choosing foods.

You can use that same principle for if you have a snack of saving the wrapper and keeping it on your desk, because we have terrible memories when it comes to food. We're really not paying attention to what it is we're eating and just mindless eating. So, and I love pistachios too, because they're great for managing stress, they're great to help regulate your blood sugar. But also, as I said, \you can eat them in a mindful way. Yep.

The second one, of course, is in, this is actually a very large. This is a Mandarin orange, but this is like the largest one I've ever seen. And what I love about them is that you can create this meditative moment with unpeeling the orange, you know. And here I have a slice. I love how they're perfectly portioned.

So you can close your eyes if you're feeling stressed and take one of these, you know, smell it. The citrus smell is naturally calming, according to research. Interesting. And it has about 80 calories. So it's a low calorie snack.

It's sweet. So you can really savor it. I mean, you can really get into it and it will only take you a minute or two to eat it. So it's something that will be very quick. But you can bring that mindfulness to that snack.

So if you're a stress eater, it's the perfect, perfect snack for you. Great. So if maybe, if we're going to lead now into a practice, maybe we'll just give this moment right now if anyone wants to pause the video and to go and get something, you can do that now. And then otherwise, I'm all ready to go. I am really excited about this practice because it's 6:30 AM in Byron Bay, Australia, and I get to eat chocolate first thing in the morning.

That's fantastic. In fact, I'm going to reach for my chocolate because I keep mine in terms of that S of simplify, I keep mine across the room. In a closed cabinet? In a closed cabinet so that it does not in sight my cravings. I will be back in a moment. Okay? Okay.

What do you have there? I have a dark piece of chocolate. Wow. And I chose chocolate intentionally. If you've ever done a mindful eating exercise, my guess is, is that you've used raisins. Have you used raisins? Many a raisin have I eaten mindfully.

I bet. I choose chocolate very intentionally because chocolate is one of those foods that we have so many conflicted feelings about. We love and crave it, yet we often feel guilty about it. And almost never, we wake up in the morning and say, okay, Ino raisins for me today. No raisins, but chocolate! We kind of say that to ourselves.

So I like that you can practice with a food that you love and crave. And in fact, I would encourage that because that's exactly what we need. To eat the foods that we love, but in a mindful way. We can do that with chocolate. And so I have chocolate today, but you can use whatever food you want.

And as people, you know, left for a moment and got food, they can choose whatever is meaningful to them. Also, if this creates too much anxiety for you, as you're, as you're watching, you can use your imagination. You don't have to use an actual food. You can actually start with that of just imagining a food like chocolate that you love and walk through it in that way. Okay? All right.

So if you're holding your piece of chocolate, please put it in your hands. And you can close your eyes if you want to, or not. And what we're going to do is start with feeling the weight of the chocolate in your hands. Just noticing how it feels to you. Does it feel heavy? Does it feel light? And just sit with that for a moment of how it feels sitting in your hands.

Let's take that with just a little glance at it. And look at the piece of chocolate or the piece of food in your hand and describe it to yourself. What does it look like? Notice the color. Notice the shape. Most importantly, notice any thoughts or feelings or emotions that pop up into your mind.

And just sit with them. Don't judge them. Just notice whatever may be floating into your mind about this food. If you're holding chocolate, it may be a craving or thought like, I want that, or maybe a guilty thought or even a memory of the past. But whatever it is, just sit with it, hold it.

And, and for me, I have a piece of chocolate that's wrapped. So what I'm going to do is listen to the sound of opening up this chocolate and just really tune into that. Next, bring your piece of food or chocolate up to your nose and take a nice deep breath. And just inhale. Three nice deep breaths.

And as your inhaling, again notice any thoughts or feelings or memories that may come to mind. We're just going to hold that and sit with that for just a moment. And when you're ready, place the piece of chocolate into your mouth. Mine is a very big one. I'll have to chew some.

You can chew it. And notice as you bite into it, I heard that... Mmmm. Yes. So whatever sound your food make, tune into it.

If you're eating a pretzel, the crunch. How it sounds as you begin to chew. And here you have that first bite, that first taste. Describe it to yourself. Do you like it? Do you not like it? Do you, what flavors are happening in your mouth? Maybe there's some intensity to that piece of chocolate.

Or smoothness or richness. We're just going to give you moment to be quiet with that and notice everything that is happening. It's likely to take a different form or changing texture as you're rolling it around in your mouth. And as you're ready, when you're ready to swallow, follow it to the back of your mouth and imagine it traveling down into your stomach. And when you're ready, you can open your eyes.

Mmm. Tell me, what is your, what was your reaction? I know you've done mindful eating exercises before. And I actually call this the mindful bite instead of a mindful eating exercise, because it's shortened it for obviously for time purposes. So it's kind of the mindful bite. Well, Yeah, I have to say, you know, I have here, you know, a piece of Lindt chocolate.

And, you know, as I was holding it, I realized, you know, it's like a piece of art. The way that they make this chocolate, it's just... like it has these lines and these pattens and I was just going, wow. I just, I don't think I ever realized how much effort. You know, these are made by Swiss people.

There's just all these beautiful, delicate detail. And I was like, wow, it's like a little work of art that I'm eating. How beautiful. It's been interesting as I do this exercise with different people, how opinionated people become about their chocolate. I'll experiment with it.

I'll bring different types, you know, very fine pieces of chocolate or what I would call sort of more mass produced and what comes up for people in terms of their taste. And sometimes they're surprised that, you know, they thought they didn't like dark chocolate and they fall in love with it. Right. Or, you know, I bring a piece of, at sometime I bring two pieces of chocolate, a fine piece and a more, a cheaper piece. And it's interesting how people will say, gosh, I wasn't aware when I started to savor and taste it, the difference between these two types of chocolate.

And made them real fans of, you know, buying quality chocolate. Yeah. And I, you know, the other thing that I, that I often talk to people about when they ask me what, you know, what kinds of things has mindfulness sort of, how has that unfolded in your life? And actually the very first thing that I noticed, the very first switch in my life was that I stopped overeating. And I didn't realize that I was doing it at the time. It was something that I reflected on months afterwards.

I was like, oh, I don't overeat anymore. And I think it was because, and I felt it just then again, even with the tiniest bit of food, it's the awareness of satiation. Doesn't actually, even the smallest, one raisin sometimes when you do those raisin activities, you're like that actually made a difference in how satiated I feel. Yeah. Definitely.

Often times people are thinking about the next piece of chocolate before they finished the one that they have. And when you turn mindfulness on, you're really finishing this entire piece and noticing that. I think you said that beautifully, that people are often surprised that it helps them to stop overeating. They think, okay, I've got a diet, I have to be strict. And it just kind of naturally happens over time.

It's not painful. But often people lose weight kind of unknowingly because they become more mindful. I've also noticed that when people are learning mindful eating skills that they come back and they say, you know what? I kind of noticed that I was more mindful in general, as I started practicing mindful eating in - my relationships, at work - that it's almost like there's a ripple effect across the board. So that's another benefit. If you want to start practicing mindful eating, you're going to notice all kinds of benefits in your life, all over the place.

Is there anything else you'd like to share before we close? Well, I again want to thank you and tell people that if they want to learn more about kind of these basics of mindful eating, my goal is to make it really simple and accessible to people and in practical ways. I know they're busy. I know that they're stressed out and they don't have a lot of resources. So everything I do is tailored to bringing mindfulness to eating in a way that is easy and practical. So they can learn more about it on my website, which is EatingMindfully.com.

Yep. And as you said, I have six books, all about mindful eating. They're all about mindful eating, so they can give you some really hands-on strategies as well. Great. And I'm going to link to your website under here and provide, you know, make it really easy for people to go and explore some more about mindful eating, because it's such a, you know what, it's such a joy.

You know, eating is such a joyful thing that we get to do. And like you said, because we do it so often, you intersperse these really wonderful moments of mindfulness throughout the day. So it's just a really practical way to start being mindful without really changing anything much in your life. You know, if you don't want to start a meditation practice, you can just savor your food and enjoy it more and reap the benefits. Absolutely.

I totally agree with that. It's something that we do. We eat at least three times a day and it gives us at least three opportunities to be mindful. Yeah. And I just have one last question to ask you, which is the, it's the same question that I'm asking every single person that takes part in the Summit.

And you know, it's, so it's been said that mindfulness has the capacity to change the world from the inside out, one person at a time. And so my question to you is, you know, if mindfulness were to truly go mainstream, I'm talking, you know, it hit critical mass in the population. How do you think that would change things? What kind of a world could that create? I like the sound of that. I'm voting for that. I think the world would be so much calmer and that we would experience an environment that would be, people, I, you know, I think one of the benefits is that with mindfulness, you respond instead of react.

So if we were able to be a society across the board that tuned in, thought about our feelings and slowed down and responded to what was going on in the inside, instead of that knee jerk, automatic reaction, wow. It would be such a different place. And in regards to food, the same thing. We have so many knee jerk reactions and habits around food. I think that we would be making decisions in a calm way around food instead of in a stressful way.

Yeah. Beautiful. Thank you so much, Susan. I really appreciate you taking the time out for the Summit and I wish you all the best in your continued journey. You too.

And remember to eat, drink and be mindful. Will do. Thanks for tuning in and we'll see you next time.

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