The Center for Mindful Eating
Podcast #119 — Aired January 23, 2017

What if you could say goodbye to dieting forever? Our guest this week on BetterWorldians Radio says you can, and you should! We’re talking with Marsha Hudnall, the President of the Center for Mindful Eating. She’ll explain how Mindful Eating can help people achieve a balanced, healthy, and joyful relationship with food and eating.

 

 

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Marsha Hudnall
President, The Center for Mindful Eating

Marsha Hudnall is the President of the Center for Mindful Eating. A registered dietitian nutritionist, Marsha has been a voice of reason and a thought leader for the last three decades in helping women move away from restrictive notions of food and health so that they can better adopt a sustainable approach to eating well. Her mission is to help women learn to enjoy eating and living well, without worries about health and weight. Since 1986, Marsha has been a part of Green Mountain at Fox Run, the Vermont women's retreat that pioneered the non-diet approach to health and healthy weights. An accomplished writer, she has written hundreds of articles for popular magazines, newsletters and professional journals.

 

Episode Transcript

Raymond Hansell
Hi. Welcome to BetterWorldians Radio. BetterWorldians Radio is a weekly podcast whose mission is to uplift and inspire you to make the world a better place. I'm Ray Hansell. I'm joined today by my co-host MarySue Hansell. BetterWorldians Radio is brought to you by BetterWorldians Foundation and is co-hosted by the family team that created the popular social game on Facebook called A Better World. A Better World rewards players for doing good deeds while helping to raise money and awareness for charities. To date, over 40 million good deeds have been done in A Better World by more than 4 million people in over 100 countries. This week on BetterWorldians Radio, we welcome Marsha Hudnall, President of the Center for Mindful Eating. A registered dietitian nutritionist, Marsha has been a voice of reason and a thought leader for the last three decades in helping women move away from restrictive notions of food and health so that they can better adopt a sustainable approach to eating well. Her mission is to help women learn to enjoy eating and living well, without worries about health and weight. Since 1986, Marsha has been a part of the Green Mountain at Fox Run, the Vermont women's retreat that pioneered the non-diet approach to health and healthy weights. An accomplished writer, she has written hundreds of articles for popular magazines, newsletters and professional journals. And now let's welcome Marsha Hudnall and my co-host MarySue Hansell.

MarySue Hansell
Hi Marsha. Welcome to BetterWorldians Radio.

Marsha
Thank you MarySue and thank you Ray. It's a pleasure to be with you today.

MarySue Hansell
Great. You know, Marsha, we've done quite a few shows on mindfulness but I thought it might be helpful for those who don't know, let's begin with what mindfulness actually is.

Marsha
Well , if you want to start with, if you will, a formal definition of it, it's about being in the moment, paying attention intentionally to what is going on in the moment and reserving any judgement about what is happening also. But if you get down to it in a real practical way, it really is about living your life now instead of being caught up in rethinking the past. You know so many of us spend so much time thinking about what happened in the past and how we would have done things differently. Those sorts of things or caught up in worries about the future and the fact is, if we are spending more time in the moment, in the present time, it helps us be more aware of what is going on and make better decisions about how to react to what is going on or respond to what is going on. And that really has powerful implications for the future. So it really is about living your life now.

MarySue Hansell
Being conscious sounds like what you're saying. So how does that apply to eating and what is Mindful Eating?

Marsha
Well Mindful Eating is a practice that has developed because there are so many people in the world today who really do suffer in their relationship with food and a lot of that has come out of the worries about weight that really afflict so many people today. In the past, it was largely women who struggled around this issue but increasingly it's men too and we're seeing children affected by it also. And Mindful Eating is really just taking the idea of mindfulness and applying it to the present moment, paying attention to internal cues - am I hungry, if I'm attractive, if I'm thinking about eating, am I hungry. Well you don't always need to be hungry in order to eat. There's no really right or wrong but it's just being aware of the decisions that you're making and making the choice - is that the right decision for me at the moment - rather than getting caught up in all these rules that people have about eating that largely come from diets, weight loss diets, that don't work for everyone and in fact they don't work for the vast majority of people.

MarySue Hansell
So is the goal of Mindful Eating enjoying your food and having a better relationship or is there more to it?

Marsha
Absolutely enjoying your food is a part of it because one of the roles of food in our lives that hasn't gotten a lot of attention is that food is one of the greatest pleasures of life and I like to point that out. Also that pleasure is very good medicine. When we feel good, you know, it does good things for our bodies. So enjoying our food in the moment while we're eating as well as feeling good after we get up from the table or finish eating, does wonderful things for our health. So enjoyment is a huge part of it and it's actually sort of my banner that I carry around when I talk about Mindful Eating that we are meant to enjoy eating because, really, food is essential to our survival and enjoyment pleasure is what keeps us coming after it, you know.

MarySue Hansell
Now Marsha, how did you get involved with Mindful Eating?

Marsha
Well I actually was a dieter many years ago, forty years ago now. I developed an eating disorder as a result of that. And I recovered. It was before eating disorders were as common as they have unfortunately become in our society today. I recovered by starting to listen to my body and in this is really before we even know the terms Mindful Eating but what essentially brought me to the idea of Mindful Eating was that I joined Green Mountain at Fox Run, which Ray had mentioned. I've been a part of for over three decades now. It's a retreat that actually my mother-in-law founded to help women who struggle with dieting and their weight to help them stop dieting and learn how to take care of themselves and feed themselves. Learn how to eat instead of starve. So, when I joined Green Mountain, we weren't using the term cos it wasn't really a term that was around. We were talking more about conscious eating but then we had Jon Kabat-Zinn come up and speak to us in the late 80's and, if you know mindfulness and all, you know Jon Kabat-Zinn cos he's sort of the father of mindfulness, at least in this country and in the U.S. Anyway, Jon talked to us about the idea of Mindful Eating and we adopted it and we've run with it. It's become a core facet of our program since. And the wonderful thing about it is that so many women come to us who just really have never even heard of it before but most of them have struggled with eating and weight for much of their lives and it just offers such relief to hear about the practice and hope that they can indeed develop a better relationship with food, one that truly supports their well-being.

Raymond Hansell
Well, we're going to talk more with Marsha Hudnall, President of the Center for Mindful Eating in a moment but right now I'd like to take a brief break and tell our listeners a little bit about our game on Facebook called A Better World. A Better World encourages habits of goodness, positive mindsets and giving to social causes to make a positive difference in the world. Players actually do things like express gratitude, share their random acts of kindness and send get-well notes to real-world sick children and so many more and more and more activities. Each month, A Better World partners with a different nonprofit to help raise money and awareness for its cause. This month we're happy to partner with Nurturing Minds in Africa that we featured just recently, I think it was last week, on our show. When our players complete 150,000 good deeds in the game, we will release funds to provide quality education for over 200 vulnerable girls in Tanzania. You can find out more at abetterworld.com. So now let's get back to our conversation with Marsha Hudnall, the President of the Center for Mindful Eating and MarySue.

MarySue Hansell
Marsha, so what are some of the principles of Mindful Eating?

Marsha
Well, again, the primary principle of Mindful Eating is paying attention while you're eating but also doing it again without judgement and that is very key to the whole process because again so many of us have grown up with these ideas that there are good foods and there are bad foods and there are things we should and there are things we shouldn't eat. And all that, all those rules and judgements really can muddy our decision-making about what is best for us. Our minds are very powerful and they can drive us to make choices that really aren't in our own best interest, if we're not thinking straight. So trying to get rid of those rules and just be in the moment and decide what is it that I need right now from food or what is it that I need right now and will food truly help me meet that need. And that's important because so many people are caught up in emotional eating problems. And food is a wonderful solace. It is a wonderful thing to be using to help us feel better but, if that's our only way to help our souls feel better, then it can really create more problems than it solves. So it's about again being in the moment and making decisions about what we really need and is food what we really need at the moment. So that's one of the primary principles.

MarySue Hansell
Well, I was just going to say what can people expect as benefits if they adhere to the mindful principles that you talk about in eating?

Marsha
Well, I think one of the greatest benefits is we can find peace around food. Again, so many people are just struggling with eating and they feel guilty when they eat certain things. They want these foods but they try to not have them and then they eat them and they feel guilty and that often leads to overeating. So you can end up with a much healthier relationship with food, one that feels much more peaceful. And ultimately what that will do again is help you make better decisions about what it is that you need in the moment. And our bodies are really designed to guide us in eating, to tell us what, when and how much we need to eat. And so if we're listening to our bodies.... This is part of our survival mechanisms that keep us alive. So, if we're listening to our bodies, we are going to be choosing things that help us feel well. And over time, that's going to support our health. So the biggest benefit probably is that we are going to support our health and our well-being as much as food can impact.

MarySue Hansell
Now you mention that Mindful Eating is really not a diet. Is that right? Or it's really not a weight-loss plan?

Marsha
It absolutely is not. And if someone is using it as a weight-loss plan, the problem that we run into there is you become externally focused on achieving some sort of goal that really does not necessarily match what our internal needs are, what our body tells us. So, for example, if you say I'm going to use Mindful Eating in order to lose 10 pounds, well, the mindset that comes along with losing weight is not eating too much and what kind of foods should I be eating. So what happens when you wake up in the morning and you're hungrier than you normally are? And this happens because our hunger can vary according to whatever is going in our life, our activity levels, our hormonal levels. Different things affect our hunger. So if you wake up hungrier than you normally are but you're thinking I need to keep my intake low because I need to lose that 10 pounds, then you're really ignoring your internal cues. And what that really does in the long run is mean that you're not really meeting your body's needs. And your body's really powerful and if you do that long enough, it will drive you to get what you need and if it's just in terms of calories, if you're not eating enough, it will drive you to just eat regardless. Some food comes along that looks good and you might start eating it and then you feel guilty about it and then it sets up that cycle of overeating, guilt and over-eating, restriction and then overeating. And that's just the real common common situation that you see with weight-loss.

MarySue Hansell
I think we've all been there in that case. But this seems like it would be very good for digestion because you're going to be calmer. It seems like you'd be really enjoying your food. I think I read in some of your materials that you should look at the food first and do some deep breaths and then examine the texture. And it so much reminds me of other mindfulness principles that I thought it sounded like a great idea. You just overall use all your senses while you're eating, just like you would if you were walking outside on a beautiful day. So I wanted to ask. You say that being a foodie goes hand-in-hand. Can you talk more about that?

Marsha
Well that really goes along with this idea of enjoying food. I think many of us would say that we love food but we, in the this age of unhealthy relationships that so many of us have with food, we feel a little conflicted in that love of it. And my contention is that being a foodie actually really helps you embracing your love of food. It really helps you be a more mindful eater because you pay more attention to what it is that you're eating. You are more particular about what it is that you eat. You're not going to eat just anything because it's there. It needs to taste good. So you're really in relationship with that food. You're paying attention to it and enjoying it. So, it comes back to trusting your body to be able to guide you in making good decisions and then really enjoying. One of my favorite sayings these days is something that I saw on a bag tag of one of my favourite teas, and it said, "The purpose in life is to enjoy every moment." And yea, well, maybe not. But I sure love that saying."

MarySue Hansell
It sounds good.

Marsha
When it comes down to eating, if you're enjoying in the moment and you still feel good afterwards, then it's good. You're doing well with your eating.

MarySue Hansell
I see we have a big day coming up right on January 26th. Mindful Eating Day. Now what happens during Mindful Eating Day? Are there teleconferences or webinars?

Marsha
We are. We're having different videos and webinars that are featuring some of the leading practitioners in the field of Mindful Eating that are there to help spread the word that Mindful Eating is a practice that offers a lot of promise for people throughout the world. It is an international Mindful Eating Day. We have, The Center for Mindful Eating now has members from all over the world, active members in Belgium and in England and in Mexico and the Middle East. So it's really a celebration of Mindful Eating and the promise that it offers and giving some more information about it for those who are still learning about it.

MarySue Hansell
Now where can our listeners tune into this, if they have an interest?

Marsha
Well, you can go to The Center for Mindful Eating website which is tcme.org or thecenterformindfuleating.org and get all the information that you need there.

MarySue Hansell
Wonderful! Now Marsha, how do you believe that Mindful Eating can help improve people's lives and, therefore, make it a better world?

Marsha
Well again, I think what Mindful Eating can help us do is put eating in its place, food and eating in its place. It's an important area of our lives but not the only area of our lives. And again it takes up so much time and attention and energy for people who are struggling around this. It really doesn't leave a lot left over in terms of the energy to go after the things that maybe are truly meaningful to you in life. So whether you're a person who truly struggles or a person who's just a little conflicted about eating, Mindful Eating can really help you put all that to rest and spend your time focused on what really makes a difference for you and your life and for others also.

Raymond Hansell
It sounds like you're making a great difference. So we thank you for your work. For our listeners, if you want to learn more about Marsha Hudnall wonderful work please go to thecenterformindfuleating.org. Marsha, thank you so much for joining us today at BetterWorldians Radio.

Marsha
Thank you Ray and MarySue.

Raymond Hansell
BetterWorldians Radio is brought to you by BetterWorldians Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit whose mission is to make the world a better place by encouraging the very best in everyone. We believe it's important to plant flowers rather than just pull weeds. So we focus on positive thinking. We focus on positive values and positive actions. In short, our vision is to bring out the betterworldian in everybody so that we can all make it a better world but we could sure use your help. Donations to support us can be at the BetterWorldians Radio podcast as well as go towards developing new features, articles, videos, blogs and much more. So go to betterworldians.org and become a part of this important mission. And until next time, everybody please be a betterworldian.