Jan. 28, 2010 Volume 31, No. 17
Eat for life
Wellness program relies on 'mindful' approach to healthy choices
Last fall, Sarah Nutt began a new way of eating — with care and attention. This different attitude about food and herself sprouted from a relatively new program offered on campus each semester and in the summer Eat for Life is a 10-week class presented by Healthy for Life, the T.E. Atkins University of Missouri Wellness Program. It is a non-dieting approach to eating that helps participants create a better relationship with their food, body and mind.
In class, students use mindfulness practices (meditation and yoga) to help bring them into the present so they are conscious of what they consume. They learn to use intuitive eating principles to help them pay attention to how they feel before they eat, what they choose to eat and why they eat, whether it is because of hunger, stress, boredom or some other emotion. They also learn to develop a more holistic view of themselves as opposed to negative, limited viewpoints and how to enjoy the foods they love.
“Diets and the diet mentality make us feel like we are not good enough the way we are,” Nutt says. “This program teaches you to forget about keeping track of calories, fats, carbs and all the diet rules that we learned before, and return to the basics of choosing what feels good over trying to accomplish some unattainable goal.”
Because of diet rules and fads, Nutt says she did not make healthy eating choices. “I love popcorn and movies, eating in front of the TV, snacking in the car or eating chips while reading book,” she says. “Eat for Life taught me to question why I was putting these things to my mouth. Am I really hungry or am I bored? You learn to slow things down because you are not making unconscious decisions. For me, the class was a self-esteem booster.”
Nutt founded Eat for Lifers, a group for past participants of the program. The first meeting took place Jan. 13. With questions about the monthly meetings, e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since Eat for Life was first offered two years ago, about 150 employees have participated on all four, says Lynn Rossy, a health psychologist, who developed the class and is one of the instructors.
“We’ve done research since the beginning,” she says. “We do not look at weight, because we try to get people to do away with external factors as they begin to have this different relationship with their food. We have shown an increase in mindfulness, an increase in intuitive eating and an increase in body image. We also show a shift from people being systematic for disorder eating to being nonsystematic. These are positive results.”
Employees with a history of chronic dieting or who find themselves eating when stressed, bored or unhappy may especially be interested in the program. The $60 materials fee includes CDs and books. Those who attend nine of 10 classes will receive a $20 refund. Orientation is Feb. 8 at 5:30 p.m. To enroll, e-mail Hannah Bush at email@example.com.
Rossy has created a blog called Tips for Mindful Eating: it’s more than just about food. All employees are encouraged to go there weekly for helpful and healthy tips and practices.