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Mindful Eating:
Nourish Your Heart First

Ronna Kabatznick has a Ph.D. in psychology and is the author of The Zen of Eating: Ancient Answers to Modern Weight Problems. It is a book she wrote after spending nine years working with Weight Watchers and in reaction to her immersion into the principles of Buddhism after the deaths of several family members and a close friend.

In her book, Kabatznick suggests that many of us have come to perceive and use food as a form of nourishment way beyond our need for it as our body's source of fuel and energy. She makes the point that we use it and even abuse it as an attempt to satisfy or nourish emotional hungers. Body & Soul caught up with her at the Spirit Rock Meditation Center in California's Marin County.

"It's very common to turn to food to try to bring in that feeling of fullness that we want so badly. But the paradox of trying to eat to fill that gnawing dissatisfaction is that you only get hungrier and hungrier. And so we look for that fullness everywhere, but actually we find it nowhere.

"No matter what we do, no matter how many times we grasp, and no matter how much we eat, we cannot hold on to feelings of fullness, we cannot hold on to feelings of pleasure because they are part of nature and they rise and pass away. The Buddha said, rather than struggle with that feeling of hunger and trying to make it go away, or rather than struggling with that feeling of fullness and trying to keep it, why don't we try to rest in whatever the current experience is. The nourishment is in that resting itself. The hunger doesn't so much come from the physical feeling of hunger; it comes from the emotional struggle with wishing it wasn't that way.

"I work with many people who hate their bodies. And I've certainly gone through those kind of struggles myself. Where there's tremendous non-acceptance. Mindfulness is really a practice of generosity. It's really a practice of giving. It's really a practice of allowing the suffering, allowing the hunger, allowing the fullness to be there with your kind attention, to your kind awareness, without interfering and without interrupting the cycle--the natural cycle of arising and passing away.

"Once you establish an identity of I want to be a thin person, or I want to be a size eight, then you have to run your life around supporting this identity. And there's tremendous suffering in that because it closes down your options. It just puts you on this one kind of narrow road that says I've got to weigh a certain amount, and I've got to look a certain way. And yet, it doesn't keep you open to the truth of change. If you grasp on to this identity as who you are, it's a total setup for suffering. Because whatever you identify with, it's bound to change. That's the natural cycle of life.

"In fact, what you eat, or what you don't eat is not what counts. The key to healthy eating is learning how to change your state of mind. That's why it's important to look within. That's what mindfulness is. That invitation to feel full is always open to you. Food for the heart provides the only kind of nourishment that lasts. So make the commitment to practice mindfulness every day. Learn to let things be."

Program Description
Geneen Roth
The Zen of Eating
The Problem Isn't Food
Tell Me More
Help YourSelf

Body & Soul is currently airing Monday-Friday at 7:00pm and 8:30pm on PBS YOU.

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