Search

E20: The Dramatic Change Mindful Eating Can Have on your Life

Jacob Derossett

We're here with Sarah Vallely, mindfulness teacher, coach and author. Sarah has been teaching meditation mindfulness for the past two decades training and certifying others to teach mindfulness. Sarah is the author of four books. Her latest book is titled Tame, Soothe Dwell: The 55 Teachings of TSD Mindfulness. On today's episode, we talk about mindful eating; we discussed how mindful eating can be helpful with weight management and can help you eat healthier foods. We also talk about how mindful eating has been very positive in helping people with eating disorders. I am Jacob Derossett. We're here with Sarah Vallely.


Sarah Vallely

Mindful eating is paying attention to the movements that our body makes while we're eating and the sensations. Also, the emotions and thoughts that come up around food. Mindful eating has a lot to do with the awareness of taste, the awareness of being full, and the awareness of being satisfied. These are actually awarenesses that many of us have become desensitized to, which leads to issues with diet and weight.



I have suffered from Candida for years--issues with the yeast in the body. Candida plays with your brain making you think you're hungry when you're not. Because Candida survives off of sugar, it does this weird thing where it makes you think you're hungry, so it gets sugar. I've gotten to the point where I can differentiate that type of hunger versus real hunger. If I have true hunger, I feel it lower in my abdomen. If it's this kind of Candida type hunger, it feels higher in my abdomen. Mindful eating helps us gain more pleasure from eating. It supports us to eat as much as our body needs. And it helps us eat healthier foods.


Jacob Derossett

I grew up in a house with a dad and a brother, we always ate very quickly because we were worried we were going to run out. And it created a conditioning around me eating very quickly. When I first met my wife. She kept commenting on how she started eating faster, I would eat so quickly she would be worried. I had read somewhere that eating with chopsticks and putting them down in between bites helps train you to eat slower. I eat with chopsticks every day for lunch. And I always set them down in between each bite. And I had no idea my fast eating was causing me to be bloated--just eating way too much and eating way too quickly and then being miserable. Once I started changing it now my digestion is better. I'm less bloated. It's incredible.


Sarah Vallely

So you eat your lunch with chopsticks? I want to hear more about this. What kinds of foods do you eat with your chopsticks?


Jacob Derossett

I typically eat fruit and meat for lunch and some vegetables. I eat grapes with chopsticks, eggs, sometimes some greens of some sort. And yeah, I always eat with chopsticks every day.


Sarah Vallely

I love that--something I've learned about you. Eating more mindfully supports us to eat as much as our body needs, which also means maybe not overeating. Mindfulness helps because we feel more satisfied and full and complete. Maybe we gain more of a feeling of completion when we're more mindful. Mindful eating is the process of becoming more aware and less reactive to distressing thoughts about food. That's a big part of this. Mindful eating helps us become more aware of and less reactive to discomforts about body image, overwhelming emotions, and certain foods. So many thoughts and emotions are tied into this natural process that we have to do every day to survive.


Jacob Derossett

Noom is a diet app. The whole app is centered around you becoming aware of your conditioning. So why is it that you eat fast? Why is it that you eat late at night? All it's doing is bringing mindfulness to your food habits because they're so deeply ingrained in us from when we were children. Why is it that I eat this? Why is it that I eat ice cream with every meal. As soon as you bring awareness to that, you can then separate from it.


Sarah Vallely

Researchers are conducting more studies about mindful eating to address eating disorders, because typical eating disorder programs have high dropout rates. And then on top of that, there's so many relapses that people have who are struggling with eating disorders. So they're really putting a lot of effort and probably money into this because this is something that could make an impact.


Jacob what do you have there?


Jacob Derossett

I have a red grape.


Sarah Vallely

I invite you to look at the shape. And the color of it. Noticing the texture, what might be a couple of words you would use to describe it?


Jacob Derossett

It's red, but it's more like a beige, like brown kind of tint to it. I've never noticed this about grapes, but it has these tiny little things that kind of appear to be like veins running through it, which is fascinating. It's very, very firm.


Sarah Vallely

Awesome. All right. And the next thing I'd like you to do is take a few deep breaths and smell the grape. What does it smell like?


Jacob Derossett

I'm not getting a ton of scent from it.


Sarah Vallely

Okay, well, that's mindfulness right there, you're noticing that you're not getting a lot of aroma from the grape.


Jacob Derossett

Maybe there's soap on my hands. Yeah, that's what I'm smelling


Sarah Vallely

We're not even eating it yet. We're still doing pre eating mindfulness. What emotions come up before you actually eat it?


Jacob Derossett

I'm very curious. I'm excited to eat grapes because they're very sweet. I feel excited. And I'm very curious to do this more often. That's the first thing that comes up “I need to do this more, I want to start inspecting all my food.”


Sarah Vallely

And you had shared with me that you typically fast until noon, and it's before noon, are there any emotions coming up around that?


Jacob Derossett

No. I have a little bit more refrain against eating chocolate.


Sarah Vallely

I'm going to invite you to put the grape in your mouth. But what I'd like you to do is be very mindful of your mental intention to move your hand and arm to eat the grape. So what that means, is you're holding the grape, I've invited you to put it into your mouth, but you're not going to actually do anything yet, you're just going to be still. And you're going to notice if you can pick up on a mental intention to move your hand before you actually move your hand. It's like really slow motion. And then once you've picked up on that mental intention, or become mindful of it, then go ahead and move your hand and put the grape in your mouth.


I invite you to close your eyes. And notice the taste. Notice the texture; notice sensations on your tongue specifically, and don't swallow yet. And notice if there's any thoughts that come up or any emotions, listen to the sound of your chewing. And then again, before you swallow, I want you to do the same thing. Notice the mental intention to swallow before you swallow, and then swallow. There's this great book that I've just read for the second time, “The Experience of Insight” by Joseph Goldstein. And he says that we have a mental intention before every single voluntary movement and he includes swallowing as a voluntary movement. And then as you swallow, be mindful of what it feels like going down your throat and then moving into your abdomen.


Jacob Derossett

That was fascinating. First off, grapes are a lot more tart than I would have imagined when you really pay attention. Maybe it was just the particular grapes that I have, but it was a lot more tart. One thing that's fascinating, when I bit into the grape, the inside meat, not the skin, dissolved pretty much instantaneously. And the skin was what was left. The skin is very, very bitter. I didn't know this at all. And then when I had the intention to swallow, my mouth immediately started salivating so much so that I had to swallow some of the saliva and keep the remnants of the grape of my mouth. Very interesting.


Sarah Vallely

Yeah, thank you so much for doing this. Do you think that this extra awareness will add to your satisfaction level after you're done eating? I mean, do you think those are the kinds of things that help us feel more satisfied?


Jacob Derossett

Yeah, one of my favorite places to go and drink in town is this natural wine bar. The guy that runs the wine bar is so good at talking you through the entire process that the grape went through, and how natural wine is different from regular wine. And you're having this whole sensory experience, the color, the taste, and the flavor in your mouth. It's this giant rush of these sensations. But the thing is, with a little bit of awareness, you can get that when you eat one grape. I'm a big foodie. I love food and wine, I like having a very rich experience. But now I'm realizing I could get that anytime I eat popcorn or whatever. Fascinating.


Sarah Vallely

I think the inquiry piece is so important to our pleasure in eating or drinking. Being curious about how wine is made, how the grapes are grown, I think that all adds to the pleasure of actually drinking the final product, the wine.


Jacob Derossett

If somebody says, I've got five kids, I'm a single mom, I don't have time to pay attention to every bite of food that I have. How could somebody connect with these things in a in a rush?


Sarah Vallely

I have to say that I think that's more about routine and habit than time. Really what's going on, it's just not part of your routine. And that's a stumbling block for sure--getting that into your routine. Start with five minutes a day mindful eating. Then you can move it up to 10 minutes, and then maybe 15 minutes. So it's really just about the habit, making it a habit Isn't it 21 days of doing something, it becomes a habit. So five minutes of mindfulness eating every day for 21 days.


I read this study “Weight, Eating Behavior, and the Psychological Outcomes Associated with a Mindfulness Based Intervention for People with Obesity”. The researchers believe that the subjects have lost their ability to recognize and respond to their own hunger, to the taste, to feeling satisfied, to feeling full. And they believe that a mindfulness practice, specifically a mindful eating practice, will restore these awarenesses and these abilities. Many of us have lost touch with our own sensation of being full, or being hungry. We don’t eat when we're actually hungry, because we've lost our ability to even know when we are hungry and when we're not hungry.


So what they did is they had six 2-hour weekly sessions, and then the participants flew solo for another six weeks. The whole study lasted three months. And what they did during the training is they learned a sitting practice, specifically MBSR, mindfulness based stress reduction, which includes non judgmental awareness, accepting non reactivity. And usually with MBSR--they do body scans, they also did yoga, walking meditation, and they learned some general information about diet and exercise and nutrition. They were asked to increase their exercise, 5 to 10%, not a lot just up a little bit. And this I find the most fascinating, during each of these sessions, they ate mindfully together probably guided by the instructor.


Their average weight decrease was nine pounds over the three months. What do you think Jacob is that like average for a diet?


Jacob Derossett

It depends on the person's total mass. I'm always very skeptical of just pounds lost because if everyone was weight training, it's very possible to gain two or three pounds of muscle. If your goal is to lose weight and you lose nine pounds, that's a win is my book. I will say is sounds like a very healthy amount of weight to lose. That's just right about 7.5 pounds a week. That's about what you want to lose.


Sarah Vallely

Yeah, that's what I was thinking. It seemed like an healthy amount. It's not like a drastic amount, and it sustained. They did this on their own for six weeks without any support.


Jacob Derossett

That's insane. That right there is amazing.


Sarah Vallely

So it makes me wonder if they keep it up, then maybe they'll lose another nine pounds the next three months, and lose weight in a really healthy way. Their average BMI decreased by three pounds. What is BMI stands for?


Jacob Derossett

Body mass index. My BMI is poor because of my muscle mass. I'm considered obese on the BMI scale.


Sarah Vallely

If you haven't seen Jacob, he's in great shape. He's not overweight, by any means. Their mindfulness increased by 15%, which compared to some of these other wins that I'm going to go over is very minimal. But I think it's interesting because it shows that you don't need to become this like super, mindful person be this expert in mindfulness.


Jacob Derossett

How do they measure mindfulness?


Sarah Vallely

They use the Kentucky inventory of mindfulness skills. I don't know what the questions were on. I imagine it was something about their ability to be aware of their thoughts, their emotions, observing things, they might have put a picture up there for 30 seconds and brought it away and said, How much of the picture do you remember?


Their hunger reduced by 40%? Wow. Three months hunger reduced by 40%. Binge Eating reduced by 56%.


Jacob Derossett

These metrics are the ones that I'm interested in. This is the ones that matter. If your hunger and your binging goes down, that means you have sustained ability.


Sarah Vallely

Yes, that is this is the important part. Depression decreased by 38%. Also important because depression and issues with weight go hand in hand. Their physical health increased by 38%. And cognitive restraint increased by 57%. They didn't exactly explain what cognitive restraint meant, but what I'm guessing it means they were more careful about their thoughts, “I'm fat,” etc.


I read this other case study that I just found fascinating. It was a story about a 19 year old girl with anorexia. She was asked to keep a journal of her food intake, her thoughts that came up, her emotions around food, perceptions of her body, her feelings of being hungry, she literally wrote down “at 10am. On Saturday, I noticed I had feelings of hunger.” She also logged feelings of being full and satisfied “12:30 On Sunday, I ate this and I felt satisfied afterwards.”


Using Mindful Eating to Treat Food Restriction: A Case Study In Eating Disorders 2011


Because of what she learned about mindfulness, she was able to make connections between her thoughts, emotions and actions around eating. And she labeled her unhealthy thoughts around eating as “eating disorder thoughts,” and she said, “Oh, that's another eating disorder thought. I don't need to buy into that.” And some of them were, “I'm fat,” “This food is bad to eat.” And when she noticed her “eating disorder thoughts,” she used self-compassion by saying things like, “That is just my eating disorder thinking,” “That is just my eating disorder talking.” Or that was a very painful thought. Just validating herself that that was hard.


Jacob Derossett

People have such a difficult time talking about food. It’s like talking about money. It's very, very, very charged and shame ridden. It's very hard to get people to change their behavior and be interested enough to change their behavior. When I heard that amazing advice, eat mindfully for five minutes a day, for 21 days—I immediately think I don't need to do that. Do you have any advice for people on the daily just the smallest little intention, the smallest little thing, practice for them to add into their eating, if they're reluctant to take on any kind of practice?


Sarah Vallely

I think all looking at your food before you eat it is just odd enough to wake you up a little bit. I would say taking a moment of pause to really look at your food before you eat. It is a gateway into this mindful eating. Because if you look at it, and you become curious about the shapes and colors, then you're probably going to spend more time noticing what it tastes like and feels like in your mouth. It's a natural next progression.


Something that would be a little bit deeper to look at is if you are eating a food that isn't good for you--or if you're eating at a time that isn't good for you… Usually what it is, you're eating a food that's not good for you at a time that's not good for you. If that's happening, take a pause and use some curiosity, some inquiry to take a look at it. Why is that happening? Is it out of habit? Is it out of boredom? Is it coming from sadness, loneliness? what's at the root of that cycle for you in that moment? Let's say it's sadness, let's say something happened. It's disappointing. Your natural tendency is to go grab for the bag of chips. What if you just took a moment to consider the sadness and give yourself some compassion, “It's understandable that I'm sad in this moment. What happened was sad. And even though I'm experiencing this, I'm loved, I'm worthy of that love. I'm connected this sadness. This circumstance in no way disconnects me from other people in my life and on this planet. It actually brings me closer.”

4 views0 comments