hello, bwl family!
First of all thank you for the incredible response from the Bariatric Weight Loss Family Facebook community and participating in the official 30-Day Mindful Eating Challenge for Bariatric Patients!
I couldn’t be more excited about the journey you are about to take with this Mindful Eating Challenge. It has taken me years to culminate and create this challenge into an effective, teachable online format to help other people who find themselves in a complicated relationship with food.
Together, we can make seemingly impossible-to-break food habits a thing of the past! Let's start the journey...
Before I get started with all the Challenge details, let me introduce myself for those of you who don’t know me. My name is Jennifer Hnat (pronounced NOT) as in “not what you think” and I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN). I had the pleasure of educating and encouraging your Facebook Family creator, Gail, as well as Sherri Scarborough while I was working as a bariatric dietitian at Wellstar Kennestone Hospital with the very talented and patient-centered surgeon, Dr. Fritz Jean-Pierre.
Having my own private practice is a dream come true after years of hard work, but I truly miss working with bariatric patients. I miss developing solid connections with people who are truly struggling with food and helping them cultivate a healthier relationship with it. This is a deep, heart-felt and perhaps karmic-passion of mine.
Even though I didn’t have surgery, I can relate to the fierce food struggle. Mine was with sugar for almost three decades and you can read about it on my blog at www.nutritionatlanta.com if you are interested in learning more. The struggle is real and can feel like an overwhelming battle no matter what your “weight” is because the biggest obstacle to overcome is that voice in your head, what Ariana Huffington lovingly refers to as her “roommate”. Which is why developing mindfulness is a valuable gift, if you are brave and willing to sit with your current beliefs and programming and make peace with that voice. Ask yourself, can I fully commit to giving this challenge my full-time attention and effort for the next 30 days? I can promise you, after guiding client after client through mindful eating challenges, it is not like any other “challenge” on Facebook or quite frankly anywhere. This 30-Day Mindful Eating Challenge requires a daily commitment and mental fortitude. This challenge is for people who won’t drop out when it gets tough. It’s going to get tough. But that is when the real magic and transformation happens. Chuck Yeager, perhaps the greatest military pilot of all-times, broke the sound barrier and said "right before you crack that barrier, the cockpit shakes the most." That's what breakthroughs are all about, shaking your personal cockpit and expanding, growing, and evolving.
WHERE DID THE FOOD STRUGGLE COME FROM?
We all know it’s not about the food. Food is the crutch to cope with the overwhelming emotions and feelings of shame, fear, anger, unworthiness, resentment, anxiety, disappointment, boredom, loneliness, stress… fill in the blank. Our emotions are in the driver’s seat causing us to default to our emotional cravings, old habits and less than optimal behaviors. Food just fills in the blank. Fills the void. Allows us to check out so we don’t have to deal with the feelings. At least temporarily. But then the emotions start to compound, our eating habits get out of control, we gain weight, perhaps a significant amount, and we lose sight of a healthy relationship with food.
Knowing better isn’t always doing better. You have to live like you know what you know. But in order to do that, you have to identify the emotions, the triggers, the feelings that are causing you to turn to food (or other substance) to cope with and numb the pain, the discomfort, the ickiness. To stuff down the feelings you don’t want to feel. Food will never ever solve the problem. Food can be a temporary detour from the pain, but ultimately it causes more. How ironic that we default to the easy solution which creates our biggest struggle. But the way I see it... a wonderful opportunity for massive growth and change if you are ready and willing to make the effort and do the work!
Getting to that space of having surgery and jumping through all the bariatric hoops to be cleared for surgery takes a LOT of effort. I walked through that process with hundreds of clients, educated them about what they needed to do from a nutrition standpoint, to prepare for surgery and be successful afterwards. And even with all the appointments with specialists, all the information and best intentions, swearing on people’s graves, people can fail after surgery and go back to the habits that got them in trouble in the first place. How is that possible? Why does it happen?
LACK OF MINDFULNESS
Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing your awareness on the present moment. It is a day in and day out practice where you focus on what happening inside, outside and all around you without judgement or expectation. It is a powerful yet invisible process of becoming more aware and is the only way to explore the depth of your human spirit. If you don’t practice mindfulness, you don’t get good at it. So this is a crucial mental wellness tool to incorporate into your daily life to set you free.
Mindfulness and awareness is a deep dive and connection to yourself. To your mental thoughts, that dialog between your ears. To the emotions that drive behaviors. Especially behaviors with food. With your thoughts. With physical activity. With hydration. With sleep. With stress management. Mindfulness is the only way to replace a current habit of using food, alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, sex, shopping, gambling and any other addictive behavior to soothe and pacify the dissatisfaction, the disappointment, the stress, the anxiety, the fill in the blank yucky emotion in our life. Mindfulness is the answer you have been searching for without knowing it.
I realize it sounds like a simple concept. It is. And some of the most simple practices are also the most challenging. Because you are going to start to understand why you do the things you do, without that judgy inner critic. You are going to reconnect with some feelings you might not want to. And you won’t have the familiar comfort of food to run to, unless you want to, but it won’t work the same because now your level of awareness will be increased. Shining a light on your behaviors is not always a welcomed process. But the truth, your truth, reconnecting with the real you, all of it, will set you free. By wiping the slate clean, you can lay down the groundwork for positive changes. For what you want. And then the real healing process can happen. You can actually have a healthier relationship with all food. That’s right, I said all food. You can eat what you want, without guilt, shame or blame. It takes time, but you can absolutely have a totally different experience with the food you eat.
Modern science has found that mindfulness is incredible for change and growth. And after working with this concept of awareness, consciousness or mindfulness for several years, especially when it comes to food, I was inspired to create a 30-day Mindful Eating Challenge. The results that clients experienced, reconnecting to what, when, how and more importantly, why they are eating, is nothing short of life-changing. People lost weight without trying, dieting or feeling deprived. They ate what they wanted, without judgement, and felt content (wow, what a concept!). They connected the emotional dots to their feelings and food, and healed some wounds of the past. They were able to become aware of how they were abusing food and easily stop any harmful patterns. They learned to nourish their body instead of punishing it, and then getting frustrated with themselves. They learned to evolve their relationship with food which evolved their relationship with their bodies, family, friends and loved ones. They showed up, did the work, and made the commitment to really put forth the effort during the challenge so they could free themselves from their personal food prison.
Now some participants were not ready and/or willing to do the work when it got hard. I get it. Perhaps they just wanted join and be part of the “challenge” - part of the excitement of something new and interesting. Be told what to do without having to do the actual hard WORK. And they dropped out halfway through the program because perhaps the timing was not right for them or it just got too hard to face their food demons. No judgement, it’s all about timing. However, the others who were committed, made the effort and then some, made the challenge their priority, no excuses, they had some serious “ah-ha” personal experiences. The shifts I witnessed with the willing participants were so rewarding that it finally hit me, THIS is what I should have been teaching to my bariatric patients before and after surgery!
Which leads me to why I reconnected with Gail, besides just the simple fact that I missed her and the rewarding experience I got from working with the bariatric community. I wanted to see if my hunch was right. If my Mindful Eating program was something she was interested in. I wanted to see if her BWL Family community would embrace the concept. If they were ready to do some REAL work. I wanted to make a difference with bariatric patients and help them end their food struggle. And the response was overwhelming and far surpassed my expectations. I know in my heart and soul this is the answer because it is something everyone can do and more importantly it is NOT a diet or trendy food fad. There is no diet to follow, no guidelines other than anything recommended by your doctor or dietitian. There is a lot of food freedom. Which is scary for some people, I realize it can feel overwhelming or think that there is some catch. Everything is fair game during the challenge except for alcohol (ideally) and drugs since they can alter your pure connection to the practice of establishing mindfulness.
LET'S BREAK IT DOWN
So as a participant, here is what is expected of you: to have a clear head through this 30-day process (and ideally beyond). Ask yourself, “can I commit to this part of the challenge at this time because of that requirement?” This process is going to really expose your food habits and struggles (yikes, I know) and allow the healing process to begin in a very loving and non-judgmental way. Hangovers and unbalanced metabolic systems don’t mix well with developing mindful skills. Trust me, I’ve tried and it just does not work. Being fully present and in a balanced state of mind is the best way for you to tackle this challenge, to end your food struggle, and stop wasting so much time dieting and dealing with food cravings. Stop the insanity of the emotional and mental struggles while allowing the space and freedom to start to build a healthier relationship with food and leading a dream life !
Mindfulness is not something that is created overnight and it takes daily practice and willingness to become habit. For me to say I can have ice cream sit in the freezer for weeks without eating it or it tempting me is nothing short of a miracle. I have holiday candy sitting on my counter-top that quite frankly I have no interest in. And if I do I only eat it if I really really want it and enjoy it without feeling guilty or overeating it. Ten years ago I could not have anything tempting in my house without it taunting me. All. Day. Long. Now I can take it or leave it. If I eat it, I thoroughly enjoy it mindfully, without overindulging, without guilt, judgement, or shame. If I could have looked in a crystal ball years ago, I never would have believed my future relationship with food. But now that I am here and continue to work with the concept of mindful eating, I am so grateful and I excited to teach it to everyone else. My only regret is I didn’t work with this powerful eating philosophy sooner!
The belief that developing a new habit only takes 21 days is unfortunately false. New research shows that it takes more than 2 months before a habit becomes automatic. In fact it takes exactly 66 days. But let’s start with the 30-day challenge and you can continue practicing what you learn for the following month + week and boom! BTW there is also a 67-Day Mindful Eating Challenge for those who really want to up the ante and create next level healthier habits for life! If you are interested in THAT challenge which is without a doubt be next levels, join it here (after your 30-Day challenge).
Get ready for an experience you won’t forget. The daily challenges will be posted on the private Facebook page and you are encouraged to engage in the daily discussions! Just like BWL Family Rules, there are the Mindful Eating Challenge guidelines to follow while on Facebook:
JUDGEMENT-FREE ZONE: Just like BWL Family rules, avoid placing your standards, thoughts, morals and beliefs on anyone else.
FOOD POLICE-FREE ZONE: This challenge is supportive so please avoid telling other challenge participants what they should/shouldn’t or can/can’t have. We encourage you to say “My Doctor” or “ My plan” calls for this…
NO: sales, gofundme, links to other pages without admin approval. No exceptions.
TOPICS TO AVOID: Politics and Religion.
BE KIND AND RESPECTFUL: It really is that simple.
CONFIDENTIALITY AND COPYRIGHT: Everything about this challenge is confidential and copyrighted. Please do not share with anyone else who is outside of the challenge. Not only is it not fair to the paid participants, but also it's bad karma. And karma my dear, is a real thing so don't bring that upon you. You are better than that!
WELCOME TO THE 30-DAY MINDFUL EATING CHALLENGE FOR BARIATRIC PATIENTS!
I so appreciate your dedication to giving this 30-Day Challenge your all and really working this like your livelihood depended on it. In the grand scheme of things, 30-days is a drop in the bucket of time. And speaking of time, the timing couldn’t be better to reset old food beliefs, patterns, thoughts and habits at the start of this new year! Take a deep breath, dedicate this time to creating a better version of you and a healthier relationship with food and your body. YOU ARE SO WORTH IT!