Tag Archives: jan chozen bays

Are you OK with a 2-and-a-half-year-old child undergoing bariatric surgery?

by Char Wilkins and Jan Chozen Bays

mindful-eating-360x200A two-and-a-half-year-old boy weighed 79 pounds, three times normal weight for his age, and he suffered from sleep apnea. After his parents’ two attempts to control the boy’s weight through dieting failed, surgery was approved.1 A laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy was performed on the boy which involved removing the outer margin of the stomach to restrict food intake, leaving a sleeve of stomach, roughly the size and shape of a banana. Unlike a lap band, the surgery is not reversible.

You might take a breath right now and become mindful of your thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations. Anger? Fear? Denial? Sadness? Any judgments?

Welcome to the world of excess that affects all of us . . . at any age.

Over a period of 14 years (199-2012), the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey collected information about the prevalence of obesity and severe obesity in the US, examining differences in the trends by age, race/ethnicity, and sex. During that time, 17.3% of children in the United States aged 2 to 19 years were found to be obese. Additionally, 5.9% of children met criteria for class 2 obesity and 2.1% met criteria for class 3 obesity. Although these rates were not significantly different from 2009 to 2010, all classes of obesity have increased over the last 14 years.3

We in this mindfulness community need to not only contemplate our responsibility to the obesity crisis which is fed by greed in its many forms, but we need to act, not react.

Dr. Rohit Kohli, MBBS Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, while acknowledging bariatric surgery can be a life-saving procedure, said:

There are case reports now in the literature and in the public domain in which 4- or 5-year-old children have undergone bariatric procedures. We should definitely think about this, as a community, with open eyes. There are consequences for bone development and metabolic concerns such as mineral and vitamin B12 deficiency or beriberi developing in these children. When we put all of this together as a consequence of a bariatric procedure and weigh it against the benefits that we have just outlined, it is a fine line that we need to walk.

As a pediatrician, first and foremost, I have learned to say, “Do no harm.” We need to take a step back, acknowledge that these procedures work, but in the same breath try to understand the consequences, both moral and physiological.2

But we who practice and teach mindfulness can do more than “do no harm.”

We can help people learn to eat mindfully. We can help them understand how conditioned patterns around eating can impact the way they eat for their entire life. We can help people make connections between thoughts and emotions and disordered eating. We can help them rediscover how to listen to the body so as to know what hunger, fullness and satiety are. We can help people of all ages slow down and re-discover the pleasure of eating through engaging their senses.

And we can help them find alternatives to work with a truth they already suspect: You can never fill the hole in your heart by filling up the stomach.

Our kids are eating their anger, sadness, disappointment and fears.

We tend to point fingers and talk about the issues that swarm around food, eating and body image: the media, fast food chains, genetically engineered food and stressed life styles. Most of us feel pretty helpless in the face of corporate and global forces that shape our lives. We have to acknowledge that we cannot change all these external factors. However we can change our relationship to our bodies and our food. We can choose to focus our time, energy and love on helping one person, one child.

Bridging BadgeJan Chozen Bays and I (Char Wilkins) have been teaching people for many years, individually or in small groups, how to rediscover a kinder and more joyful relationship with themselves, food and eating. A few years ago we formed a teaching partnership in order to spread the benefits of mindful eating by training other professionals in these skills. In our full-day workshop at the Bridging the Hearts and Minds of Youth Conference in February, we’ll be exploring fun ways to help children use their innate wisdom to eat for nourishment and enjoy the process.

  • What do you think about mindful eating for kids?
  • How do you feel about bariatric surgery for children? Laparoscopic adjustable gastric band, the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, sleeve gastrectomy, or a nitrogen inflated balloon placed in the antrum of the stomach?
  • Do you have experience with mindful eating?
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Introducing Mindful Eating Within a Family

By Jan Chozen Bays, MD

baysjanJan Chozen Bays, MD, is a pediatrician and Zen teacher from Oregon. She is the author of Mindful Eating: Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food and How to Train a Wild Elephant, a collection of 53 mindfulness exercises. Jan and her colleague Char Wilkins, MSW, LCSW continue to offer a 5-day Professional Training through the UCSD Center for Mindfulness entitled  ”Mindful Eating, Conscious Living” based upon their work in this field and Jan’s book.

One of the most common questions we get in our mindful eating events is how to teach mindful eating to children and practice it during family meals. The answer is for everyone to practice mindfulness while cooking and eating together as a family.

Young children have a natural internal nutritionist that tells them what and how much to eat. Little kids who are provided with a variety of foods on the tray of their high chair will eat the appropriate types and amounts of each food. The catch is that they will not eat in a balanced way in one day, but over the course of a week. We can imagine how quickly this intuitive way of eating is disrupted. Parents see that their toddler has eaten only mashed potatoes one day and applesauce the next. Worried that their child is not getting the proper amount of protein, they begin to interfere, cajoling, bribing and trying to force food into the child’s closed mouth. Research shows that by age 5, children will valiantly try to eat all of an inappropriately large helping of macaroni and cheese.

Thus begins our uniquely American habit of trying to clean our plates at “family style” restaurants where huge portions of cheap food are considered “a good deal.” We are even taught to feel guilty if we don’t eat it all and somehow worsen the situation of starving children in Africa.UCSD CFM Mindful Eating

Mindful eating is a way to become reacquainted with the guidance of our internal nutritionist. How can parents introduce mindful eating to their children? Here are some suggestions.

(1)   Have at least one congenial family meal a day. If the atmosphere is relaxed and each person shares the events of the day, children learn to eat slowly and to pair eating with enjoyment and connection. Eating and anxiety are not a healthy pair. Eating and a sense of ease are.

(2)   Let children help you prepare the meal. Talk about where each item of food comes from and how the Earth, sun, rain and many people helped bring it to your table.

(3)   Begin family meals with a simple grace. It could be just holding hands briefly and bowing heads around the table in order to stop, remember and thank the many people and creatures who brought the food to the table. Pausing helps teach children not to bolt their food and run.

(4)   Experiment with new foods and drinks. Try fresh apricots, pineapple or dates. Buy something from an ethnic grocery store: persimmon, papaya, mango, kiwi, star fruit or red bananas; tamarind, guava or coconut juice. Encourage curiosity: “This is a fruit that children in (Mexico, Japan, Thailand, etc.) like to eat. Smell it. What does it smell like? Take a little bite or sip and tell me what it tastes like.” Experimentation helps children explore the vast world of different tastes and not collapse into a steady diet of boxed macaroni and canned ravioli.

(5)   Be creative with food. When one boy’s mother told him that broccoli is trees for dinosaurs to eat, he spread the story to his entire elementary school class and every kid began to enjoy eating broccoli.

(6)    Talk about the benefits each food confers. For example, milk, cheese and spinach have calcium that builds strong teeth and bones.

(7)   Play the “how full is my stomach” game. Ask children to check in with their stomachs before, halfway and at the end of a meal. Is it empty, half full, or all the way full? This helps them (and you) stay in touch with body signals of fullness and not overeat.

(8)   Avoid  talking  to kids about calorie counts or diets in restrictive ways. Research shows that girls who begin dieting as preteens have a much higher risk of eating disorders. Don’t be too rigid about junk food. If your kids have been raised on home-cooked organic food and they have a McDonald’s hamburger and cola at a birthday party, it’s not a tragedy. It’s a cross-cultural experience.

(9)    Help children discern the difference between actual physical hunger and emotions such as  boredom, fatigue and anxiety. Help them learn to work with real solutions to these emotions, using activities such as exercising, playing a game, reading a book, doing crafts, and connecting with friends.

(10) Celebrate holidays and special occasions. Let kids help with creating a party. Set the table with a tablecloth, a candle and flowers. They can make simple decorations such as hearts, stars or Easter eggs cut out of paper. When we treat ourselves as guests, we infuse the food with an important ingredient, an extra scoop of love.

(11) Everyone’s deepest hunger is for love and connection. Loving words are vital to our health. Loving words are a way to feed the heart that does not involve food. If you want your family and friends to feel well nourished, give them generous helpings of genuine expressions of gratitude and affectionate words. “I really appreciate your …”  “When I am with you I feel …”

Mindful eating in a family means making a good mixture of these basic ingredients: eating as a family, pausing, slowing down, having fun, experimenting, being curious, exploring new tastes, and bringing the flavors of kindness and love to your meals.

Join Jan Chozen Bays, MD and Char Wilkens for a A 5-day Mindful Eating, Conscious Living (MECL) Professional Training Retreat April 29-May 4, 2014, at Great Vow Monastery, Clatskanie, OR.

Locally in San Diego, we invite you to join Allan Goldstein and Megan Leuchars for our 8-Week Mindful Eating Program beginning Monday, March 17, 2014, 6:30-8:30 p.m, at our University City location.

Cultivating Ease and Freedom When Consuming: The Case for Mindful Eating and Conscious Living

Jan Chozen Bays, M.D.

Jan Chozen Bays, M.D.

By Jan Chozen Bays, MD

You’ve been working hard on a project on the computer, and it’s time for a treat. You’ve been holding off, waiting for the delicious taste of __________ (please fill in the blank). Coffee ice cream? a piece of dark chocolate? a donut? an onion bagel? some fresh strawberries?  For me, it would be a creamy, sweet‑sour lemon tart.

You take the first bite. Very yummy! You take the second bite. Still yummy, maybe a little less yummy than the first bite, but never mind. You glance at the computer and something catches your eye. A Hollywood scandal, a political gaff, a weird and wacky video. You click on it, watch, and continue eating.

Disappearing food!

strawberrySuddenly you look down. Where did that treat go? Your fingers are sticky and there’s still a trace of flavor on your tongue, so it must have disappeared down the hatch while you weren’t looking . . . or smelling, or tasting, or enjoying. Disappointment and dissatisfaction set in. “That one just vanished! I’d better have another one.” Next the internal critic voice pipes up “What are you thinking? One treat is enough. You know you’re trying to lose weight/eat better/stop grazing/etc.”

Thus begins the struggle over the simple, biologically natural, pleasurable act of eating. When I tell people that I’ve written a book on Mindful Eating*, and describe what it is, almost everyone will relate some difficulty they have with food, from an embarrassed confession of an addiction to chocolate to the palpable misery of binging and purging.

How is it that food and eating have become such a common source of unhappiness? And why has it occurred in a country with an abundance of food? The fundamental reason for our imbalance with food and eating is that we=ve forgotten how to be present as we eat. We eat mindlessly.

Food, fat cells and the stomach are not the problem

We decided that the problem was in the food, so we’ve used chemical technology to take the calories out, the fat out, and to substitute chemical sweeteners and artificial fats. Food is food. It is neither good nor bad. Then we decided the problem was our fat cells, so we liposuctioned them out. Fat cells are just trying to do their job, which is to store energy for lean times ahead or for famine. For most of our evolutionary history, starvation was one snowstorm or drought away. Our fat cells are there to help us survive! When I lived in Africa I discovered that skinny women there have trouble finding a spouse. They aren’t considered good marriage material —- they’ll get sick and die on you!

Then we decided that the digestive system was the problem, so we staple the stomach or surgically bypass the small intestine. The digestive system is just trying to do its job,  breaking down food, absorbing nutrients and excreting what’s not needed. (There’s no question that bariatric surgery can be an emergency life-saving measure for some people. It works by forcing people to eat mindfully, causing pain and vomiting if they don’t. It is very expensive, has lots of side effects,  and is not a long-term solution for the majority of people or for children with out-of-balance eating.)

The problem is not in the food, the fat cells or the stomach and intestines. The problem lies in the mind.  It lies in our lack of awareness of the messages coming in from our body, from our very cells and from our heart. Mindful eating helps us learn to hear what our body is telling us about hunger and satisfaction. It helps us become aware of who in the body/heart/mind complex is hungry, and how and what is best to nourish it. Mindful eating is natural, interesting, fun, and cheap.

What is Mindfulness?

Let’s start with what Mindfulness is. It is deliberately paying attention, being fully aware of what is happening both inside and outside yourself — in your body, heart and mind — and outside yourself, in your environment. Mindfulness is awareness without criticism or judgement.

The last sentence is very important. In mindful eating we are not comparing ourselves to anyone else. We are not judging ourselves or others. We are simply witnessing the many sensations and thoughts that come up as we eat. The recipe for mindful eating calls for the warming effect of kindness and the spice of curiosity.

What is Mindful Eating?

Mindful eating involves paying full attention to the experience of eating and drinking, both inside and outside the body. We pay attention to the colors, smells, textures, flavors, temperatures, and even the sounds (crunch!) of our food. We pay attention to the experience of the body. Where in the body do we feel hunger? Where do we feel satisfaction? What does half-full feel like, or three quarters full?

We also pay attention to the mind. While avoiding judgment or criticism, we watch when the mind gets distracted, pulling away from full attention to what we are eating or drinking. We watch the impulses that arise after we=ve taken a few sips or bites: to grab a book, to turn on the TV, to call someone on our cell phone, or to do web search on some interesting subject. We notice the impulse and return to just eating.

We notice how eating affects our mood and how our emotions like anxiety influence our eating.  Gradually we regain the sense of ease and freedom with eating that we had in childhood. It is  our natural birthright.

The old habits of eating and not paying attention are not easy to change. Don=t try to make drastic changes. Lasting change takes time, and is built on many small changes. We start simply.

NOTE: Jan and her colleague Char Wilkins, MSW, LCSW continue to offer a 5-day Professional Training through the UCSD Center for Mindfulness entitled  “Mindful Eating, Conscious Living” based upon their work in this field and Jan’s book. Upcoming training dates and locations include March 10-15, 2013 in Joshua Tree, California and September 15-20, 2013 in Batavia, New York.

Further Reading and Listening:

* Mindful Eating: a Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food, by Jan Chozen Bays, with an introduction by Jon Kabat-Zinn, released February 3, 2009 by Shambhala Publishing. (Includes a CD of 14 mindful eating exercises and meditations.)

** Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, by Brian Wansink, published 2006 by Bantam Books. (A very funny look at very interesting research about how we all eat mindlessly.)

From: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mindful-eating/200902/mindful-eating

Hurrying up so we can slow down!

CharWilkinsBy Char Wilkins, MSW, LCSW
Mindfulness Teacher and Trainer

Well of course that makes sense! We leave work and drive too fast to get home so we can finally relax.  Between patients we scribble notes in the file, run to the bathroom, and make a phone call while slurping caffeine so that after the next patient we can catch our breath. We inhale lunch without looking at it while we order holiday gifts on online because we don’t want to waste time just eating.

“Deck the halls with boughs of holly,
tis the season of endless folly.”

It’s high season for too much and not enough, and Heart Hunger moves to the number one spot on Jan Chozen Bays’ list of Seven Hungers. As the holiday hype heightens and family drama, anxiety, depression and distress eating increase, we may feel anxious about our ability to respond to our patients’ escalating worries and fears about out of control holiday eating.  As clinicians, may find ourselves thinking that the problems that come with the season are just too much and that we don’t have what it takes to help those in our care with their overwhelming concerns.

holiday-foodDuring this holiday season of “food fests” at the office, with family and friends, in the media, schools and stores, we often suggest to our patients that they slow down when eating and savor the smells, tastes, textures and visual aspects of their food. But sniffing platters of food at the holiday office party isn’t going to happen. And slowing down with the very object that is their biggest “problem” can be daunting especially at this time of year.

We’re now in the throes of holiday madness sales, unrealistic expectations and personal history- a perfect recipe for reverting to the entrenched coping habit of eating foods that comfort or numb.  So even though it’s a season of huge over-indulgence, it can be a time during which small steps count.

Pausing can be one of those small steps. Rather than suggesting pausing before taking the first bite, suggest they pause before entering the room or building where the office party spread is on display.  Offer the idea of taking one minute to stay seated at their desk and feel the sensations in their feet in contact with the floor, or as they walk down the hall. Suggest sitting quietly for 60 seconds before getting out of the car to enter the house of a friend’s holiday brunch, aware of the feel of the steering wheel, or sounds inside or outside of the car, or the coming and going of the breath at the belly.  I call this “backing the movie up” far enough so that we can find a reasonable spot in which they might pause instead of hoping we can do it amidst the noise and pressure of the festive event. This way they begin building a slowing-down habit where and when it’s possible, rather than in the fray of things.

I try to take my own suggestion and see where in my day and my thinking I can slow down and pause. I try to “walk my talk” so that my practice becomes a skillful way of being with myself and others. I’d be interested to hear how you navigate the holiday food landscape mindfully (or not so mindfully!). Please share below your own observations and experiences, or perhaps the kinds of exercises of mindfulness practices you suggest to others.

(Char Wilkins, MSW, LCSW and her colleague Jan Chozen Bays, MD, author of Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food  are co-leading an intensive 5-day Professional Training in a program called Mindful Eating, Conscious Living at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center in the high desert of Southern California March 10-15. See the website for more information.)

Loneliness and Boredom “eat” at us! by Jan Chozen Bays, MD

By Jan Chozen Bays, MD
Dr. Bays is a pediatrician and Zen teacher in Oregon. She is the author of Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food.

Loneliness and boredom are often triggers for eating comfort foods, or for eating at inappropriate times.
When we feel the impulse to eat at an odd time (such as an hour after lunch or when we can’t fall asleep at night ) we can take a moment to investigate what is happening in our body, heart and mind.
We can check within our bodies to investigate if we are actually hungry. How full does our stomach feel? Empty? One quarter full? Half full? Full? Stuffed? If we realize that we’re not actually hungry, we can investigate our feelings and thoughts.
We can check in with our feelings to investigate what emotions might be present. It helps to become acquainted with the particular body sensations that accompany different emotions. For example, the body signals of loneliness in one person might be a sagging feeling in the eyelids and heaviness in the chest. We find that the body can tell us about feelings of loneliness or boredom that we are not fully aware of.
We can check the background dialogue in our minds. The mind might be subtly murmuring, “I feel so alone. I need to comfort myself with something to eat, ” or “I’m bored. I need some exciting taste sensations in my mouth.”
Once we’ve identified the emotion we are feeling, what can we do? If the discomfort we are feeling is arising from loneliness, we can reach out. We can call someone who cares for us. We can reach out to another person who might be lonely. We can play with a child or pet. We can go outdoors and open our awareness to the company of trees and birds.
If the discomfort arises from boredom, we can challenge the mind that says, “There’s nothing going on, ” by looking directly and carefully at just what actually IS going on. We can sit down for a moment and focus on the breath, curious about the thousands of tiny touches in and on our body. We can look at a flower close up, drinking in its color with our eyes. We can open our ears to the many sounds, obvious and subtle, that surround us. We can sip a cup of tea slowly, aware of changes in temperature and flavor. When we are fully present, when boredom is replaced by curiosity, when loneliness is replaced by connecting to others, our discontent can dissolve and be replaced by satisfaction and ease.

Register, and join mindfulness teachers and retreat leaders,
Jan Chozen Bays, MD and Char Wilkins, LCSW
for Mindful Eating, Conscious Living, a 5-day Professional Training Retreat, August 4-9, 2012, Chapin Mill Retreat Center, New York.

This training emphasizes experiential engagement in mindfulness meditation practices and mindful eating awareness exercises, so that the participant will be able to pass the benefit of these exercises on to clients and patients in a variety of settings. These practices and exercises are integral components of the Mindful Eating program, designed by Bays and Wilkins, which provides the organizing structure for this training.

Please click here for information on our local UCSD Center for Mindfulness 4-week Mindful Eating Conscious Living program starting June 28, 2012 6-7:30pm.

Mindfully Slowing Down, Pausing and Pacing Can Add to Your Eating Enjoyment and Better Choices

By Jan Chozen Bays, MD
Dr. Bays is a pediatrician and Zen teacher in Oregon. She is the author of Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food.

One of the simplest ways to get more enjoyment out of eating while eating more appropriate amounts of food, is to deliberately slow down. Our digestive system sends “satiety” signals to our brain when we’ve had enough to eat. These signals take about 20 minutes after we begin eating to be activated.

Americans are speedy eaters. Beginning in the elementary school lunch room, we consume our meals in about ten minutes. This means our body doesn’t have a chance to give us “feedback” about how much food is the right amount. We can easily eat too much food too quickly. Because there isn’t time to release the satiety hormones, we also miss pleasant sensation of satisfaction after our meal.

There are some simple ways to slow your eating down. Try taking a small first portion and deliberately eating it slowly, with full attention to the flavor and texture. Avoid “layering” that is, don’t put additional bites of food in on top of previous ones. Try putting down the fork or spoon between bites, and don’t pick it back up until the food in your mouth is savored and swallowed. Check-in with the sensations in your stomach a few times during the meal to see how full it is feeling.

Ordinarily our food seems to lose flavor after the first bite. When you slow down, however, pausing between bites, you will discover that each bite retains that “first bite” flavor. Your body also has a chance to register a sense of satisfaction with just the right amount of food.

Register, and join mindfulness teachers and retreat leaders,
Jan Chozen Bays, MD and Char Wilkins, LCSW
for
Mindful Eating, Conscious Living, a 5-day Professional Training Retreat sponsored by the UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness, March 10-15, 2013, Joshua Tree Retreat Center, Yucca Valley, CA

This training emphasizes experiential engagement in mindfulness meditation practices and mindful eating awareness exercises, so that the participant will be able to pass the benefit of these exercises on to clients and patients in a variety of settings. These practices and exercises are integral components of the Mindful Eating program, designed by Bays and Wilkins, which provides the organizing structure for this training.

Please click here for information on our local UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness 6-week Mindful Eating, Conscious Living program starting January 7.

Free Teleconference Coming Up On “The Role of the Inner Critic in Out-of-Balance Eating”

Our relationship to food is a central one that reflects our attitudes toward our environment and ourselves. As a practice Mindful Eating can bring us awareness of our actions, thoughts, feelings and motivations, and insight into the roots of health and contentment. The Center for Mindful Eating (TCME) helps professionals and institutions implement principles and practices of Mindful Eating into their professional work by offering principles of mindful eating, teleconferences, handouts, notices of mindful eating trainings and workshops by TCME board members for professionals.

One of these teleconferences, entitled “The Role of the Inner Critic in Out-of-Balance Eating” will be presented by Jan Chozen Bays, M.D., author of the book “Mindful Eating”, on Wednesday, August 31, 2011  at  2:00PST/5:00EST. Dr. Bays notes that “The Inner Critic is a voice that criticizes us from within. When it invades the realm of eating, it can cause a great deal of confusion and distress.” She  will discuss how to recognize and antidote the Inner Critic so that eating can become mindful, enjoyable and balanced again. There will be case examples and time for questions.

Jan Chozen Bays and her colleague, Char Wilkins, are co-leading a 5-day professional training in Northern California entitled “Mindful Eating, Conscious Living” on October 2-7, 2012. This highly experiential training is sponsored by the UCSD Center for Mindfulness and promises to provide a tremendous opportunity for any professional who works with the issues of food, eating and weight, to fully delve into the topic of mindful eating.

To register for this teleconference, visit the TCME website and sign up today.

The Practices of Mindful Eating & Healthy Living: New 4-Week Workshop Launched at UCSD

Following on the heels of our recent successful 2-day workshop by Jan Chozen Bays and Char Wilkins entitled Mindful Eating, Tasting Satisfaction here at UCSD, we are launching a series of 4-week (90 minute sessions) experiential workshops on mindful eating for the general public. Exploring of the intersection of mindfulness, eating, food and physical health, The Practices of Mindful Eating and Healthy Living emphasizes engagement in formal and informal mindfulness meditation practices and eating awareness exercises as a means of bringing about significant changes in behavior, eating patterns and overall health.

Rochelle Voth, Ph.D.

Rochelle Voth, Ph.D.

Led by clinical psychologist, mindful eating authority and senior UCSD Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) teacher Rochelle Voth, Ph.D., this workshop aims to help those who want to find new ways to relate to food, eating, weight and health through the practice of mindfulness. People with previous meditation experience and those new to the practice are invited to participate. Dr. Voth teaches MBSR at the UCSD Center for Mindfulness and also will offer this workshop in her private practice called New Mindful Life. 

The practice of present moment awareness (mindfulness) is at the heart of all aspects of healthy living, as it allows us to see clearly into the choices we make, the emotional reactions we have and the things that are most important to us. Because of the universal nature of mindfulness, while this workshop is focused upon food, eating and weight, the skills gained will apply to all aspects of life, including relationships, work, and physical health.

Participants will explore the joys and sorrows held in eating and food, the disconnects and communions, and the avoidance and cravings – all of which can be opportunities for more conscious, mindful living and eating. Participants will also explore the accomplishments and challenges held in meeting the body, the acceptance and resistance, and the trust and uncertainty- which are also opportunities for more conscious, mindful well-being and health.

The first workshop begins on July 14 from 6 to 7:30 pm at the UCSD Center for Mindfulness, 5060 Shoreham Place, Suite 200, San Diego, CA 92122. For more information and details, peruse our schedule and register at our website or visit New Mindful Life’s site for the schedule at that location.

For healthcare professionals who wish to learn more about teaching mindful eating, you may wish to attend a 5-day Professional Training Retreat entitled “Mindful Eating, Conscious Living” on October 2-7, 2011 at EarthRise Retreat Center in Petaluma, California. This training will also be led by Jan Chozen Bays (author of the book Mindful Eating: A guide to rediscovering a healthy and joyful relationship with food) and experienced mindfulness teacher and trainer Char Wilkins, LCSW.

 

Mindful Eating: The Power of Mindfulness Practice for Client and Clinician

Char Wilkins, M.S.W, L.C.S.W.

Char Wilkins is a mindfulness-based psychotherapist who is trained to teach Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, and Mindfulness-Based Eating Awareness programs. Char has led several professional training retreats for the UCSD Center for Mindfulness.

By Char Wilkins
I found my way to meditation years ago out of necessity- not unlike how people come into therapy and the mindfulness-based courses I teach. Knowing how useful meditation had been in my own life, I began looking for a way to incorporate mindfulness and meditation into my psychotherapy practice for individuals and in groups. The intersection of abuse, body image and eating/food issues is insidiously woven together for many people. Each year I find myself sitting with an increasing number of women struggling with disordered eating borne out of stress and suffering.

Bringing mindfulness into working with painful and habituated coping mechanisms, whether a situational practice or an entrenched eating disorder, seemed to be an appropriate next step. Through mindful eating exercises and meditation, most of the women I see individually or in  MB-intervention programs report that food cravings lessen, they gain skills in self-regulating not only with regard to food and eating but in all areas of their lives, and they become more aware of what, how and the hunger that drives their eating or non-eating. Mindfulness isn’t a cure and it isn’t for everyone, but it can facilitate change.

There is never just one way to address any behavior that arise out of fear or ignorance, but the integration of mindfulness into a treatment plan can be useful to both therapist and client when difficulty around food/eating and body image are part of the landscape. For the healthcare professional, being fully present to the client through the lens of mindfulness provides an anchor for the clinician and a steadying presence for the client. When the pull to be directive with a client about what to do, eat or not eat arises, it’s valuable for the clinician to skillfully attend to their own feelings of anxiety, inadequacy or fear that could cloud their ability to remain fully present and non-judgmental. For the client, the introduction of mindfulness meditations and exercises offer the possibility of a skillful approach to being with difficult emotions, thoughts and behaviors, and a way to be aware of and with physical sensations in body.  Once learned, mindfulness skills are not dependent on the therapist and this helps to shift the client’s locus of control from external to internal.

When working with habituated eating patterns from a mindful stance, the goal is never weight because weight is only a symptom. Just as in meditation where relaxation is the not the goal although it is often a welcomed by-product, weight gain or loss is not the goal. Rather the focus is bringing eating into balance with other important aspects in the client’s life. Because unhealthy eating habits are often closely linked to depression and anxiety, trustworthy ways in which to develop awareness and tolerance of uncomfortable thoughts, feelings and physical sensations are an important consideration of mindful eating practices. Compassionate acceptance of what is here right now brings with it a different perspective and the possibility of choice.

The idea of “acceptance,” “non-doing” or “non-striving” often elicits feelings of agitation, frustration, inadequacy and fear of passivity from the client.  To someone used to following strict diets, excessive exercise or other regimes, cyclical binges or habituated overeating, the idea of not doing something about it can be frightening for client and clinician, even when both are aware of the merciless cycles these behaviors create. Using the principles of mindfulness and mindful eating encourages self-referral, a reduction in impulsivity and a way to steady one’s self in challenging moments.

Once trained in mindfulness meditation and mindful eating practices, a clinician might begin by introducing the concept of mindfulness through the raisin exercise or a simple breath meditation.  My colleague, Jan Chozen Bays, has simple and short, focused eating exercises in her book, Mindful Eating: a guide to rediscovering a healthy and joyful relationship with food.  And there are more and more books, trainings and workshops that can help and support healthcare professionals in this much needed eating awareness work.

Char Wilkins and Jan Chozen Bays will be co-leading a 5-day Professional Training Retreat entitled “Mindful Eating, Conscious Living” on October 2-7, 2011 in Petaluma, CA sponsored by the UCSD Center for Mindfulness. They will also be conducting a 2-day workshop entitled “Mindful Eating: Tasting Satisfaction” on June 18-19 in San Diego.

 

Two Upcoming Mindful Eating Professional Training Opportunities at UCSD

We take our food very seriously, don’t we?

Mindfulness and its relationship to eating is a topic that always seems to engender the most enthusiasm and interest among clinicians as well as patients. Perhaps it is because we are already somewhat aware of the complex (and often troubled) relationship we have with food and eating in our own busy and stress-filled lives.

Whatever the reason, the UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness is working closely with two wonderful mindfulness teachers to offer two different venues for exploring this complex and multi-faceted relationship. Jan Chozen Bays, physician, Zen teacher and author of Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food and Char Wilkins,psychotherapist and highly experienced mindfulness teacher and professional trainer, are working with us as teachers for both of the following exciting offerings in the coming months:

Mindful Eating: Tasting Satisfaction
A Two-Day Workshop for Professionals
June 18-19, 2011
Alliant International University, San Diego, CA

Hosted by the Center for Integrative Psychology at AIU
“Eat when hungry, sleep when tired” is a simple, ancient Zen prescription for a satisfying and contented life. But for many people, simply eating is anything but simple. This weekend program will draw upon mindful eating-awareness exercises to help attendees develop an appreciation for ways in which they can help their patients or clients reconnect with kindness to the process of eating and to their bodies.

Mindful Eating, Conscious Living
A 5-Day Professional Retreat Training
October 2-7, 2011
EarthRise Retreat Center, Petaluma, CA

Following the very successful and popular format of combining a 5-day meditation retreat with formal professional training, this offering is intended to explore the intersection of mindfulness, eating and our relationship to food. This training will support and enhance participants’ personal meditation practice, which is the essential foundation for teaching mindful eating. It will provide practical ways of integrating mindfulness and mindful eating in working with patients, individually or in groups.

We invite you to look more closely at these two wonderful programs (or any of the others we have coming up) and consider joining us for one or both.