Author, speaker and registered dietitian, Megrette Fletcher is a co-founder of The Center for Mindful Eating. She lives and works in New Hampshire, USA1) I'd love to know a bit more about your background Megrette - what made you decide to become a registered dietitian ?
Long story short. I wanted to be a physiological psychology and I was one of eight students in this PhD track during my undergraduate university. Then junior year came and I was #7 out of 8. My major professor said, "We will take the top 2 students - you won't make the cut. Do you have another option?" I mentioned how interested I was in nutrition and he said, "Great! switch majors." So...I did. The funny thing is, mindfulness and awareness of our direct experience is all about the brain, which has always been my first love. A big part of what I do as a nutritionist is talking about what we like, dislike, and our reaction to food. This is all about behavior and perception which again is about the brain.
Mindfulness and mindful eating begins by observe your direct experiences with food and eating. For example, with mindful eating, you might be asked to observe (no action or judgement) if you like something, neutral or dislike. To see this information as information and if you are able, become a bit curious. Why and I reacting to food? What is going on?
2) Many of my readers may not have heard of mindful eating - can you give us a brief explanation of what mindful eating is and what it has to offer?
Mindful eating is mindfulness applied to food and eating. The Center for Mindful Eating developed the Principles of mindful eating which are very helpful.Mindfulness is about becoming aware. Awareness of your direct experience. This might include noticing things, situations, feelings, thoughts, like and dislikes. Awareness or mindfulness is a teachable skill. I heard a lecture that offered this sobering statement about attention. One hundred years ago, our attention span was 22 minutes. Today it is 8 seconds! (By the way this is the same attention span of a gold fish!). It is clear to me that awareness is a 'muscle' that you can exercise. If you don't exercise this ability, you lose it over time. There is so much data and research coming out that our inability to focus, become engaged in our direct experience leads directly to how a person perceives quality of life. In short, distraction makes us unhappy and we don't feel like life has much quality! Now mindfulness or awareness is sometimes confused with being focused or critical. Awareness and mindfulness are either vigilant or critical. I think of this as more of a dieting skill. I think a lot of nutrition and nutrition counseling comes from this mental space watching, measuring, counting and limiting. It is fundamentally different than mindfulness. Mindfulness is about embracing your direct experience. Embracing the frustration, embracing the uncertainty, which allows people to welcome and embrace the joy, laughter and delight that also can come when we eat. There is no shame, guilt or blame in mindful eating. There is awareness and a really deep belief that, the information you gain from awareness can guide you (and your child's) food and eating choices.
In my second book, Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat with Diabetes which I helped author Michelle May, MD write, we define mindful eating as eating with INTENTION and eating with ATTENTION. Your intention is to be open and non-judgmental. You attention is to the bite, the each moment.
3) Can you tell me about how you became interested in mindful eating?
I started meditating and the information I learned changed me. I started to teach the concepts of mindfulness via mindful eating to my clients. After a few years, I had a lot of ideas and techniques and so did Fredrick Burggraf, MEd. Together we wrote Discover Mindful Eating which is a book of handouts for health professionals.
4)You specialise in working with people with diabetes - do you think your ideas about mindful eating can also be useful to parents of children who are picky eaters?
Yes! In May, my third book, Discover Mindful Eating for Kids will be published. It is 68 activities for professionals to explore food and eating. My experience is when people talk to nutritionists they are very numbers or outcome focused. They forget that eating is fun and enjoyable. Reconnecting with our senses -- sight, smell, texture, taste and touch are a big part of mindful eating and kids just eat it up!
5) So what does the future hold for you and your work?
Well... I am hoping that DiscoverMindful Eating for Kids helps professionals and parents. I am currently the President of The Center for Mindful Eating. This is a professional non-profit organization that created the Principles of Mindful Eating. It is a website that offers a huge amount of resources for both the consumer and professionals. TCME.org is really very dear to me, and it is such a thrill to be part of this dynamic group of people. I also have a wonderful family and they have been very patient as I have been writing for the last 6 years. We have agreed to shift my focus back to reading, not writing books!
This May, look out for Megrette's new book, Discover Mindful Eating for Kids: A Step by Step Guide to 68 activities for picky eaters, overeaters, speed eaters, and to just help kids love healthy food! I'll be reviewing it for this blog - can't wait to read it.