We are all born with the instinctive ability to manage our eating. We live in an food abundant environment with lots of pressure surrounding us. Food is convenient way to feel good fast and using food in this way does not work. One of the core concepts is to relearn how to eat instinctively and naturally. Restriction and deprivation are number 1 barrier to realizing these concepts. It goes against our instincts to not deprive ourselves of eating food we like. Sometimes my message can get over simplified- eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full. However, why we eat and how we eat are also very important to our relationship to food.
The focus of my book is less about losing weight and more about why and how you are eating. Weight is a symptom to an internal struggle; improving ones relationship with food and self leads to better health.
It can be hard for chronic dieters to embrace this new approach, how do you convince them?
A lot of people turn to diets for short term results so I like to understand my client’s diet history. Often, they blame themselves when those results don’t last- “they must not work because of me”. My response to that is if people who are successful in other areas in their life aren’t able to stick to restrictive diets, then perhaps it is not sustainable for anyone.
I will suggest to my hesitant clients, who have dieted in the past, to take one week to replace dieting with asking themselves “Am I hungry?”. Over one week, they are asked to eat as they would normally but to notice the physical signs of hunger and satiety. In one week, we discuss their findings.
Once my clients find something they are good at (i.e. listening to their body’s signals), a way to eat that they can manage it on a daily basis and enjoy doing it- then they will flourish. If we look at it in terms of a job, we would not yell at our employees to get a job done, so why are we yelling at ourselves and blaming ourselves when diets don’t work.
A lot of the information you provide to your readers is very easy to understand. What is the best way to present this information?
I find that one of the easiest ways to describe the eating cycle is to present to my audience the eating cycle graphic.
Another way I can describe this concept, is using a pendulum. Unlike a yo yo, that is wound up tightly and bounces up and down, a pendulum finds middle ground. A pendulum can swing back and forth between under eating and overeating but it does have the ability to land in between. The balance between over and under eating is kind of like a gray area and this concept can apply to both healthy eating, exercise and work.
Have you encountered any resistance from fellow professionals? If so, how have you dealt with it? any advice?
If my colleagues have attended my presentation, there is not much resistance. There is always 1 or 2 people in the crowd who are negative about the concept. Often time my colleagues have not explored this concept before. When people can hear it in a way they can understand or relate to, then those people are more likely to adopt that concept. A mere 45min can shift the way they perceive the idea. If I speak to other health professionals who have not attended a presentation and do not understand the concept, I tend to get lumped in with other physicians who are in the weight loss business. Too often people do not believe that it can work- there is a profound distrust that people can manage eating what they love and we assume that it is not possible to eat in that way.
You have collaborated with both a dietitian and a psychologist in the past. How do you discern between the roles of a dietitian, psychologist and physician? Where does one role start and the other end?
In an ideal world, we would work as a team in a multi-disciplinary environment with the patient as a coach. The best way for the mindful eating concept to work is if all aspects of the issues are addressed. More physicians need to understand cognitive behavioral therapy and unfortunately physicians have no training with nutrition information so teaming up with people who are experts in these fields helps the client.
You offer Am I Hungry? Facilitator Training to teach people how to integrate mindful eating concepts into their work. What characteristics do you think make a good facilitator?
Some people naturally eat instinctively and have a hard time understanding why others cannot. You don’t need to have an illness or disease to be empathetic to a situation. Our facilitators learn to help clients ask the right questions and guide them in a new way of thinking. Using the Mindful Eating Cycle, they are able to easily describe the connection between psychology and eating in a way that it is understandable and practical.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs in the nutrition and weight management field?
It is important to have a rosy out look even though sometimes it can feel like swimming up stream. I feel this movement is gaining momentum and that one day the tide will turn.
People trying to manage their weight can feel frustrated and feel discouraged about the process. There is a negative paradigm integrated into our culture. So many people disbelieve in their ability to eat what they love and this process is undermined by negative thoughts. That being said, my work is incredibly rewarding because I see my clients blossom and learn mindful eating techniques.
When you first started writing about this concept, it was called “Am I hungry?” Why did you change the name?
My company name is still Am I Hungry?® but I changed the title of the book to “Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat” because the name Am I Hungry was too simplistic to describe all that mindful eating encompasses. It is not just about being mindful of the physical cues of hunger and satiety, but also includes enjoying what you eat and understanding external cues. Fearless eating and mindful eating are the two concepts captured by the new title “Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat”
What is in the works for you in the upcoming year?
We are in the process of modifying the mindful eating cycle to other conditions such as diabetes as well as a family program on the horizon. Also, there is a lot of interest in pre and post bariatric surgery to help get patients discovering the core issues. I believe the momentum is there to continue to share the message and keeping it understandable and clear is important.