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Mindful Eating:
Geneen Roth-Eating for Now

Geneen Roth calculates that she gained and lost over 1,000 pounds in 17 years as she ricocheted from diet to bingeing and back again. In one binge she put on 80 pounds in two months. Finally, she says, she recognized that she was killing herself "in a very slow but very profound way." She resolved to never go on a diet again. Since 1979 she has been running her Breaking Free workshops where she helps people examine the complex relationship between compulsive eating and emotional needs and their use of food and diets.

"We believe so many things about food. First of all, most people believe that if they ate what they wanted to eat, they'd only eat sugar and fat in various combinations. They'd eat everything they are not supposed to or not allowed to eat. They'd eat everything that's not good for them. It's actually not true.

"We translate all the issues in our lives through food. Food is like a microcosm. We use it to express our dreams, our fantasies, what we want to do, what we want to be. But the problem is that it keeps us wrapped around food, and we don't look at the rest of our lives, because we're so worried about the size of our bodies that we never get to what we really want.

"One thing that I'm teaching people to do is to come back in their bodies. Most of us live in our minds. We are comparing ourselves all the time to what we think we should look like, or what somebody else has told us we need to look like. We hardly ever spend time in our bodies. By that, I mean sensing our legs, sensing our arms, feeling that we exist in this body. The mind can drive you insane. There's no end to what the mind tells you you should look like. It keeps telling you, 'When you have this, you will be happy.'

"Oftentimes in a workshop I'll say to 500 people, 'How many of you have lost weight before?' Everybody raises their hands. 'How many of you were ecstatically happy when you lost weight before?' Four people raise their hands. 'How many of you believe you will be ecstatically happy when you lose weight again?' Everybody raises their hands. And I think, what's that about? So a lot of my work is directed to helping people see what they believe that's actually not true. It's not true, and they already know it's not true, but they are not acting on what they know.

"I encourage people to be present, not just with food, but with their lives. In the beginning, it takes a lot of awareness and it takes a commitment to the process. It's a practice. Most of us are not used to paying attention. We eat because it's breakfast, lunch, or dinner time; or because someone puts it in front of us, or because we're at a restaurant or at a supermarket, and it's free. People have to be willing to be mindful about what they're eating. So, eat when you're hungry, and eat sitting down in a calm environment. This doesn't include the car. It doesn't include reading and eating. Eat what you want. Eat until you've had enough. Satisfaction is both emotional and physical. There's a physical point of satisfaction. It happens often that somebody is eating, and then there's one point at which your body says, 'I've had enough now, anything you put inside me is for your mind, not for me, your body.' You've got to be paying attention there, so that means you've got to be present. If you're distracted, if you're doing something else, you're going to miss that signal.

You can learn more about Geneen Roth's workshops on the Web at

Program Description
Geneen Roth
The Zen of Eating
The Problem Isn't Food

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Help YourSelf

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

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