Category Archives: BASICS of Mindful Eating

The Basics of Mindful Eating (Interview With Dr. Rossy)

I recently had the opportunity to be interviewed about mindful eating and thought you might enjoy reading the article at Slimkicker. Learn how I discovered mindful eating, how you do it, how you benefit from it, how to socialize and eat mindfully at the same time, how to incorporate mindfulness into your workday and more.

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Slow down, you move too fast, you got to make the moment last…

 So I couldn’t help thinking about the Simon and Garfunkel song when I read about the latest research coming out in the Journal of Consumer Research.  The research demonstrates the need to “slow down” if you want to get more pleasure out of your life, particularly during activities such as eating. 

As you know, we are all in such a big hurry these days. In fact, I would say the tyranny of busyness effects most people and never in a positive manner. People say to me all the time that they are so busy rushing from one activity to the next they either don’t have time to eat or they eat on the run, in the car, at their computer working, or during some other activity.   This way of eating strips all of the pleasure from it. By the way, it strips the pleasure out of most other things as well.

In the study by Jeff Golak, Justin Kruger, and George Loewenstein, test subjects picked the time they would wait in between eating six Hershey’s Kisses (from 10 seconds to 200 seconds) or the time was assigned to them of 200 seconds in between Kisses.

When given a choice, people spent 93 seconds in between each Kiss, which was more than twice as fast as the assigned group.  The people who ate the candies more quickly said that their pleasure dropped steeply from the first Kiss to the last. For the more leisurely group, enjoyment dropped only slightly.

Take home message:  The first bite is always the best (if you’re present for it) and the rest can be really good too if you slow down to enjoy it.  Do it slow!  And enjoy!

Note: I am aware the lyrics of the song by Simon and Garfunkel are “Slow down, you move too fast, you got to make the morning last” but moment worked better for the story.  Forgive me, Simon and Garfunkel.

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Sustainable Eating: Better for your Health, your Environment, and your World

I’ve mentioned the benefits of local eating in previous posts, such as by gardening and by frequenting the Farmer’s Market. Now I want to explain how seasonal eating relates to this idea, and why we should consider the sustainable alternative to the industrial food industry.

Eating sustainably includes eating locally because it’s a great way to support individual communities.  It connects communities to the source of their food, provides local farmers with financial support, and eliminates the need to truck in food from all over the country, or even from all over the world! This is where seasonal eating comes into play. Continue reading

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The “Eater’s Agreement” by Marc David

If you’ve needed an affirmation about eating, here it is.  The Eater’s Agreement (from the book, Nourshing Wisdom) goes like this:

“I recognize that at its deepest level, eating is an affirmative of life.  Each time I eat I agree somewhere to continue life on earth.  I acknowledge that this choice to eat is a fundamental act of love and nourishment, a true celebration of my existence as a human being.”

Try saying  that at McDonald’s and keeping a straight face.  Ha!

Seriously, though, I am inspired by the wisdom of this quote and think that it is important to remember that feeding ourselves is an act of love and commitment to ourselves as human beings.  While we might not always be as loving as we’d like to be, it’s always helpful to remember that what we eat is who we are at a very fundamental level.  What are you choosing to be today?

I recommend both of Marc David’s books, Nourishing Wisdom and The Slow Down Diet.

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New Year’s Resolution — I will NOT diet!

Yes, that’s right.  I would suggest that you make a New Year’s Resolution NOT to diet ever again.  Diets don’t work because they don’t help you develop a way of eating that is sustainable and enjoyable.  The diet might work to help you lose weight while you’re doing it (although frankly I never was able to stay on one more than a day or two).  Then, when you stop the diet, you go back to eating the way you did to begin with and you gain the weight back.  Right?  Be honest with yourself.  If you are contemplating dieting at all on the cusp of this New Year, ask yourself if it ever really worked before.  If it had, you wouldn’t be contemplating doing another one because you would have already reached your weight goal. 

To read an interview by the authors of The Diet Survivor’s Handbook go to the following website.   They also suggest that self-care is best accomplished by honoring your internal cues for physical hunger, moving the body, meditating, getting good rest, and NOT dieting!  These are all suggestions that I applaud with vigor.

If you want another New Year’s Resolution, how about deciding not to weigh yourself anymore?  I have rarely weighed myself since 2008 when I moved houses and threw out the scale.  Sometimes I’ll let the nurse weigh me on a visit to the doctor, but not always.  And, I never want to know the number.  Now this might sound a bit neurotic, but I’m much happier not knowing the number.  I was NEVER happy with the number, so what’s the point.  If I want to be unhappy, get on the scale.  If I want to be happy, don’t get on the scale. 

As the New Year approaches, I believe that we should all engage more in the activities that bring us joy and happiness and a feeling of “yes” inside and engage less in the activities that drain us, create a sense of burden, and make us unhappy.   My plan is to go on a weekend retreat over the New Year holiday and journal about those things.  Perhaps you might give it a little thought as well.  2012 can be a year in which you create the life you want to live instead of letting it live you.

Happy New Year!!!

NOTE:  If your doctor has prescribed a particular diet for you, this is different than “dieting.”  You should always work in conjunction with the recommendations of your primary care physician.

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Take the “craving” challenge!!

This is an addendum to an earlier post I wrote entitled “Riding the Urge.”  In the post I described Alan Marlatt’s metaphor of “urge surfing” as a way of staying present with the intensity of craving without needing to act on it.  He actually suggested that you picture the urge as an ocean wave and imagine yourself surfing, using the breath as a surfboard to ride the wave.  You can breath deeply as you feel the urge rising and falling, like a wave.  Imagine yourself riding the wave of the urge through its peak and its decline.  

I suggested that you pay attention to the cravings and urges you have for food as well as the urges and cravings you have for other things–shopping, gossiping,  arguing, drinking, watching TV, etc.  If you can pay attention to how you are being pulled into various activities or behaviors before you act on them, you have greater choices in life. 

This week in the Eat for Life class we were talking about how to cope with our emotions without using food.  Because, let’s face it, one of the reason why we have “urges” and “cravings” for some guilty pleasure or “fix” is often because we are trying to suppress or avoid an unpleasant emotion or situation.

 So, here’s the challenge!! (and it is the one I gave my class).   At least once this week, determine with all your might, that you will not give into at least one craving (whether it is for food, shopping, or whatever).    Determine ahead of time (like now) what regular craving you have that you will not give in to –at least once.  When that craving arises, check the time then go ahead and re-engage in whatever you were doing.  In the background, notice when the craving ends and how long did it take?  Maybe the craving ends and maybe it doesn’t.  It is all useful information.  Sometimes cravings pass and sometimes they are still there but you notice that you don’t have to act on them.   Both of these experiences are quite helpful to know for yourself. 

I’ll give you an example.  I don’t usually have what I call “cravings” for food anymore.  When I want food, I eat it and I eat it from a calm and centered place so that I don’t “act out” around food and it is not a problem.  However, I do have “urges” and “cravings” around shopping.  I am particularly attracted to sales (never want to pass up a bargain) and boots (there are two pairs in particular that I am currently lusting after).   I say this to point out that we ALL have cravings and food is just one particular area that we can get caught.  

I think we are not very skilled in this culture to take care of our emotional needs.  We have been so used to using food (or shopping) that it is what we naturally turn to.  Take some time this week to find more healthy, skillful ways of nurturing yourself.  Examples that quickly come to mind include taking a walk, calling a friend, reading a book or interesting magazine, playing or listening to music, meditating, doing yoga, coloring or painting, cooking for fun, getting a pedicure or massage.  In addition, give yourself some time to fully allow your feelings, particularly if they are difficult.  Imagine holding them like you would hold a small child.  Bring compassion to yourself and the challenges that you face from day to day.  By befriending yourself through nourishing activities and with time to experience your emotions you might find the “urges” and “cravings” to fix with food come less often.

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BEWARE: Mindfulness may change the way you eat forever!!

I had a funny moment this week when a volunteer who has worked with me for about a year now said that this (mindful eating) stuff had finally had an effect.   She told the story of how she had gone to the Student Center to buy a piece of pizza and how she was really looking forward to eating it.  She went back to office and sat down with the pizza.  Instead of the familiar pizza she was used to eating, she tasted the cold, congealed taste of grease.   She took two bites and threw the rest away.  She was a little startled that one of her previously favorite foods had now become inedible.   She looked around for something else to eat but, working on a college campus, good food can be hard to find quickly.  She has determined that she will need to bring her own food in to eat and we discussed various foods that would be easily to pack with her for the day.  She said that I had also ruined eating at fast food restaurants for her.  A high point in my day!

This is what happens when you really pay attention to what you eat and how it affects you.  It might not happen overnight, but if you practice being really present, it definitely changes the experience.  When I first started meditating regularly, the first thing that I noticed was I stopped drinking soda.  I was a 3 to 4 can of Diet Coke drinker at the time and I stopped cold turkey.  I was so aware of the chemical taste all of a sudden that it was no longer appealing.  I had already stopped eating fried food because of how it made me feel.  And, soon, I was noticing the effect of really fatty, buttery, sugary foods on my body.  It isn’t like I gave up on dessert, but I have become much pickier about what kind I want to eat.   

Mindfulness about the food you eat also includes paying attention to the quality of the food that you eat because of the harmful effects it could have on you and the environment.    I have a friend who is currently studying “food law” and is horrified at some of the information she is being exposed to.  She said “Honestly, if I didn’t love food so much I think I would just quit eating, given some of what I have been learning about our foods and food system. It’s not bad enough that we really don’t know what’s in a lot of food (GMO, antibiotics, hormones, etc.) Just this week, I have learned about the “defect levels” below which the government will not take any action (not that they really do so at higher levels either). The “defects” had to do with the amount of mold, dirt, stones, etc., and the number of flies, rodent parts, etc. that can be in our (canned or packaged) foods.”

Being mindful about eating includes paying attention to all aspects of the eating experience.  The more I read, the hard it does get to want to eat anything that I don’t know where it came from and how it was produced.  And then, I think, I can’t make myself completely crazy here.  I have to balance, like you do, everything in my life and eating is just one of them.  But it is an important one.  Your life really depends on it so it’s best not to stay too unconscious about how you eat.

Staying present is the key.   In my classes I always teach a raisin exercise in which I ask people to taste a raisin as if for the first time.  It is always fascinating that people report that they don’t think they have really ever tasted a raisin before, even though they have been eating them all their lives.  What are you not noticing?  How about bringing your full attention to eating the food that you know isn’t that good for you, but you think you really can’t live without?  You might still want it.  But, you might not and be better off for it. 

Meditating a little bit each day can put you in touch with the everyday things of your life–helping you to pay attention and make choices that support your health, your happiness, and your overall well-being.  Try one of the meditations on our website at

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True Confessions–How I became a “foodie”

Sometimes I am accused of being a little bit of a food snob.  I’m sure my mother thinks I am (that’s okay, Mom).  I admit it.  And, after thinking about it,  I have decided this is a label I willingly accept.  Why? Because I don’t want to apologize for appreciating and loving good food.  And, I spend a good deal of time talking to people about how to love their food and their bodies so they can be healthy and happy.  I also admist I do have a hard time understanding the experience of someone who says they enjoy eating twinkies when, for almost the same price,  you can have the joy of a piece of any kind of gourmet dark chocolate instead.  

 ”Good food” will be different for everyone.  However, there are two major factors to consider.  First of all, all of our bodies respond with health when we feed them nutritious, healthy food.  And, from experience I know that eating healthy makes me feel energized and ready to live my life with vigor. So, part of my “foodie” habit is eating healthy food.   I love going to the healthier sections of grocery stores, stores that are dedicated to healthy food, and eating at health food restaurants.  In Columbia, the Main Squeeze (our local vegetarian restaurant) is like my second home.

However, I don’t always eat everything that is considered completely healthy.  That brings me to the second part of my “foodie” habit.  I love to eat the most flavorful, delicious food I can, whenever I can.   I was born and raised in Missouri and ate very well growing up.  We grew a lot of our food and we ate home-cooked meals everyday.  Then,  when I moved to San Francisco at the age of 21 I was introduced to a whole new world of food delights.  I learned to explore and enjoy many new types of foods and flavors.  Now, when I’m vacation, I can mark my days by the restaurants I dined in, the food I found on the street, and the local specialities of each area.  It is such a pleasurable way to enjoy life and socialize with others. 

These two ideas — healthy food and delicious food– are not mutually exclusive.   The healthy food I eat has the exquisite natural taste of goodness.  And, the amount of delicious, not “as healthy”  food I eat is not hurting my body in any significant way.  The key, of course, is moderation.

It seems to me that people have a hard time navigating the world of food and sometimes just decide to give up or they feel intimidated by new and different foods.   But, I encourage you to try new things.  Go to your farmers market and ask them for recipes to cook some of the local, seasonal foods you find there.  Take a cooking class.  Read some recipe books. Go to a new restaurant that you haven’t tried before or try something new on the menu.   Go to a local specialty food store and check out the foods from around the world. 

Don’t have the time?  Do one small thing for yourself this week that helps you enjoy the pleasures of health and your palate.  Want something sweet?  Try savoring a fresh apple from this season’s harvest. Notice how it makes you feel.  Don’t miss out on the pleasure that your life has to offer.  Savor the moment and your food! I encourage you to become a foodie, too!

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Buying and eating seasonal food!

More and more people are asking me for tips on the right food to eat and food preparation.  It seems that we have forgotten how to eat and cook of our own food in this crazy busy world and could use a few pointers.  I completely understand. 

The first important consideration for me is to buy food that is seasonal.   There are many reasons for this.  When you buy food in season you will be buying fresher food and fresher food is going to be more nutritious.  Produce that has traveled a long distance will be lower in nutrients than produce grown locally and in season and it tastes better when it’s fresh.  If those aren’t enough reasons, remember the  carbon dioxide emissions associated with food that travels miles to your plate.  Buying local helps save the environment.  Remember that what you eat makes a difference to the health of your body and its also a social, political, spiritual, and environmental statement.

Find what’s local and seasonal in your area with the ingredient map on the website that include recipes and tips to optimize flavor.  You might discover new foods that you’ve never tried before.

For instance, I just received an email from one of the best cooks I know and is very skilled at buying and cooking seasonal food.   She described how she just discovered sweet potato greens.  She recently made friends with a woman from Malawi in southern Africa who told her that sweet potato greens are a staple food there.  Then on her next trip to the farmer’s market in Columbia, there was a vendor who had sweet potato greens for sale.  She got the recipe on how to cook them and shared it with me.

So, in case you run across a bunch of sweet potato greens before they wind up in the compost pile (or worse), here’s what to do:

 Wash the leaves and chop roughly. Heat a little bit of oil in a sauté pan and put in the greens. Salt lightly. As they cook, chop some tomatoes (I used small roma tomatoes and simply halved them). Use whatever ratio of tomatoes to greens you like. Squeeze in a little lemon juice. Add a tablespoon of peanut butter, especially the kind that is just the ground nuts (I used almond butter because that’s what I had). Cover the pan and let things cook in just the liquid from the leaves, plus the lemon juice, for just a few minutes. Uncover and stir things around so the nut butter sort of melts into the liquid in the pan. Then enjoy! The dish is not highly seasoned but has some texture and a delicate complexity of flavors. Apparently, sourness of the lemon juice is they key in their preparation of the dish.

Try something new, local, and seasonal.  Taste the difference. Feel the pleasure of doing something good for your body and the rest of the world.

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I’m taking the $5 challenge. How about you?

“On Sept. 17, I pledge to share a fresh, healthy meal that costs less than $5 — because slow food shouldn’t have to cost more than fast food.”  from Slow Food Movement

I just received this intriguing email from the Slow Food Movement.  They are challenging people to prove that you can eat healthy, local food with not much money.  So, I signed up and will have a few people over to my house on (or near) September 17 and see what I can whip up for $5.00 per person.  (Note:  I can’t do it exactly on September 17 because that’s my dad’s birthday and we will be celebrating!)  

I love the idea of eating healthy, cheap, and easy and showing others that it is possible with just a little planning and thought.   I will report back in September about what I fixed and how much fun this was (because I’m sure it will be).  If you want to do it, too, read about the challenge below and go to the Slow Food website and show your support.   I would love to hear from you in the comments section if you take the challenge.  Let me know what you discovered!

THE CHALLENGE: This September 17, you’re invited to take back the ‘value meal’ by getting together with family, friends and neighbors for a slow food meal that costs no more than $5 per person. Cook a meal with family and friend or have a potluck..

WHY: Because slow food shouldn’t have to cost more than fast food. If you know how to cook, then teach others. If you want to learn, this is your chance. Together, we’re sending a message to our nation’s leaders that too many people live in communities where it’s harder to buy fruit than Froot Loops. Everybody should be able to eat fresh, healthy food every day.

HOW TO GET INVOLVED: Sign up for the challenge! You can cook a meal with friends and family, find a local event, or host your own event. When you sign up, we’ll send you $5 cooking tips.

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