Welcome to a new episode of the Mindful at Work podcast. Today we’re with Heather Sears  author of the book Mind to Mouth: A Busy Chick’s Guide to Mindful Mealtime Moments in this 20 minute episode we talk about about what is mindful eating, the different types of hunger and how to be more aware with our food.

In this interview with Heather Sears we learn about:

  Starting with Mindfulness: Mindful Walking
  The Consumption Journey
  8 Types of Hunger
  Heather’s ABCs for Mindful Eating

Episode Notes

Heather Sears author of Mind to Mouth: A Busy Chick’s Guide to Mindful Mealtime Moments

heather-sears.com

📧 Email greetingsHeather [at] gmail [dot] com

Ellen Langer  

Oxford Study: The role of auditory cues in modulating the perceived crispness and staleness of potato chips

Wherever You  Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn

 “You’re not really the craving, you’re the one watching it.” Heather Sears

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Episode Transcript

Vanessa Pagan: Today’s guest for Mindful at Work podcast is Heather Sears. I’m excited to have her on our show. Heather is a busy chick. She’s an award-winning marketing executive and a happy mom who likes to eat well and live mindfully. She lives in Boston with her husband and two kids and when she runs an e-commerce and consulting business prior to finding her company Kesho Kitchen Heather was a VP at marketing for a media company where she led all aspects of marketing in a division with 150 million in revenue in addition to other pursuits she also volunteers as meditation and mindfulness teacher and she enjoys tennis and cooking. Heather, thank you for coming on to the show.

Heather Sears: Thank you so much for inviting me. I’m thrilled to be here .

Vanessa Pagan: Heather is the author of the book Mind to Mouth and it’s her first book and I’m so excited to share some of the insights that she’s been able to put into words so that everyone could hear about in terms of mindfulness and eating so I have all kinds of questions for Heather with mindful eating and I’m looking forward to getting started. Let’s dig in let’s do this. Okay Heather. I’m really excited that you have this book on mindful eating because I feel that in terms of mindfulness. It seems to be a very intellectual idea that sometimes people have a hard time grasping on and how they could use it in their daily life and there’s a attentional focus gradient and it says, One of the first things that we could be mindful about is how we are mindful with our food and in our in our time and space in terms of cooking how we eat how we shock and who we share our meals with can you briefly talk about what mindfulness and eating means to you?

Heather Sears: Yes, absolutely. And I love the way you state it because for me when I am not just eating the physicality of eating because what we put in our mouths actually becomes us but the entire process of planning for food and shopping and cooking. We are part of a very sensual process and through paying attention in the moment to what’s coming to us through our senses and a lot of this were actually very unconscious of which I go into in my book but through really tuning in we can brighten our moments.

We can more deeply appreciate what we’re actually consuming we can make better choices. And I like to say that food is a very open doorway for us to invite more mindful moments into our lives as you stated. It’s it’s something we do and we do it. Three times or more every day. So there are a lot of opportunities to take advantage of it.

Vanessa Pagan: That’s great. I feel like I’ve used the word mindful many times already, but could you give us your your definition of what mindfulness means to you?

Heather Sears: Yeah, absolutely, you know and it’s interested. I um, so I started meditating when I was in high school, which was last century and I was I was in Asian Studies major and I actually took my first mindfulness.

It was like a weekend seminar with Jon Kabat-Zinn down in North Carolina when I was living there so I have a long history with meditation and mindfulness and there are various definitions of it that are out there the the most basic and I think one that’s Mr. Kabbat-Zinn in has has promulgated is that it’s non-judgmental awareness in the moment.

So it’s a certain way of paying attention to what’s happening now. Moment by moment and there are mindful meditation, but for my purposes mm my book and the way I integrated into my life it’s literally what’s happening. Now kind of eyes wide open approach to inhabiting the present moment.

Vanessa Pagan: That’s great. That means it could apply in all kinds of situations for all kinds of people. Thank you for sharing.

Heather Sears: Yeah. Yeah. You’re welcome. And it’s when you take it out of the ancient Eastern Buddhist genesis of it, there’s so many benefits that researchers and scientists are finding just on the psychological aspects Ellen Langer whose I’m in Boston, so she’s at Harvard and she’s actually a professor in the psychology department and I actually love her definition as well, which is mindfulness is literally paying attention to novelty. It’s the essence of Engagement and it’s identifying what is new moment-by-moment because most of us are Mindless because we’re making assumptions that.

Everything is the same as we left it and in reality, there’s constant change around us. So by paying attention getting interested in the novelty we can identify things that are helpful for us and this is something that we can all do. We don’t need meditation. Meditation can deepen that when you’re off the mat but it’s something we can all do in so many situations across work across personal life obviously as well.

Vanessa Pagan: Could you give us a little bit about how have integrated mindfulness into your daily life from those teachings that you’ve had with Jon Kabat-Zinn who’s kind of the initiator of Western awareness of what mindfulness is.

Heather Sears: Yeah. Absolutely there’s one lesson. I actually I live in the city in Boston and what I’ve pulled forward through all of those years is the exercise of mindful walking and I can I can talk about it in an eating perspective as well but this happens to me every day. The ability to not walk with your phone and I see a lot of folks doing that and you know, I you know, sometimes you need to answer a phone call, but the ability to consciously inhabit your body and step-by-step breath by breath noticing the sensations happening through your senses. Really paying attention to what’s around you and you’re in the moment in your immediate environment and it’s amazing. Not only how calming this is, but the fascinating things you notice that otherwise you would just walk right by.

Vanessa Pagan: I also I grew up in New York. So the idea of being able to use mindfulness while you’re walking it opens a whole new door of what you’re able to input in your sensory overload of what’s going on with the people in the noises around you to finding the things that you respond to unconsciously because you’re doing it so frequently.  So I’m glad that you talk about the walking because everyone can walk wherever they’re going and still have this experience of mindfulness. So it’s not adding something separate into your daily life. It’s something that you can include in what you’re already doing. So if you’re already walking down the block to go to a restaurant or to a meeting you can be mindful along the way.

Heather Sears: Yeah, that’s true. And similarly eating is something we all do right multiple times every day and it’s so incredibly applicable there as well.

Vanessa Pagan: Could you share a little bit about that? I feel like that’s really your work in your book has can shine in terms of speaking about mindfulness and eating.

Heather Sears: Yes. Well, let me start with just a tiny story of why I wrote the book and anybody who’s at work will appreciate this. I was  working I’ve been working at home for the last couple of years and I was working while I was eating and I had all my screens open and I was starting to choke because I was moving too fast. I was distracted and multitasking and I had a small son and I was trying to get things done in order to pick him up and it didn’t just happen. Once it kept happening day after day after day, which I had never happened to me before and I realized that when I started to paying attention to that that the food choices I was making for myself and my family were completely subpar compared to the way I grew up and just my belief about how I wanted to consume food and that got me extremely focused on understanding what was happening to me and fixing it. So even though I started meditating, you know a couple of decades ago I hadn’t focused on pulling the awareness into daily life. So that’s what I ended up doing through research to understand some of the triggers that are impacting us in our very busy modern lives. Trying to understand other issues that busy women busy working folks  are going through. I wrote this book that talks about our consumption journey. That each bite we take is actually the end of a journey of planning and shopping and cooking and we actually make over 200 food related decisions every day the majority of them are vastly unconscious and for me by bringing mindfulness into this entire journey. I have been able to stop choking. Which this yes important thing. Yes, that does not happen anymore. Because I’ve integrated the best practices of slowing down and really paying conscious attention and being aware of even when I’m in a hurry how to deal with feeding myself and nourishing myself and there were other benefits along the way I wasn’t really planning on losing weight or even saving money but through being highly aware of the process there were many many benefits.

Vanessa Pagan: Wonderful. I have also been guilty of the eating while at work with you know, the dual monitors up trying to multitask. I just  where I’m gonna fit everything in okay, let’s let’s do this and I I wish that you didn’t have to have the experience of choking but sometimes we need our wake-up calls to have us change out of the automatic unconscious behaviors that we do so that we can have different choices and different experiences.

Heather Sears: Yeah, that’s true. And you know, that’s exactly what mindfulness does right it helps us develop and generate a deeper real-time awareness of what we are experiencing in our minds and our bodies and choose more helpfully how to react to those things. So I guess I needed a wake-up call but it was extraordinarily awful.

Vanessa Pagan: Yeah, it seems like there there are many benefits. So one of the things I wanted to ask actually relates to the topic of hunger because I know for me when I’m in that crazy busy work zone, and I’m also trying to add on eating. I’m eating mindlessly. I’m eating. I don’t really know what’s  on my plate. It’s just gonna disappear at some point and in your book you talk about different kinds of hunger. Could you take a moment and describe what those are?

Heather Sears: Yeah, absolutely. So many of us myself included have really forgotten what true hunger feels like and we’re very reactive to our environments and our habits and it’s not just us. It’s the environment.  I saw a stat that 80% of our food choices are impacted by digital media. Yeah. I mean, we’re just vastly touched by everything impacting our senses and  since eating is such a sensual sense oriented experiences anything that comes in through those senses will impact us. So it kind of makes sense that if what we see impacts our hunger then there could be a hunger associated with that.

So another example is the researches are proving that  food porn all those gorgeous pictures of lovely lovely food. Like if you look at that too much some people gain weight and it leads to overeating because of what’s coming through our sight and other researchers have proven that what we hear impacts our experience of eating. The the loudness of a crunch of a the sound of a potato chip if it’s muffled researchers at Oxford found that will think the chip is still and the same chip when they play a louder crunch in the earphones of the research participants they think it’s not stale. It’s fascinating. So thinking that we’re impacted by literally all of our senses. It helps us realize that we can have hungers attributed to them.

There are eight hungers that have been identified by some of the early risk researchers of mindful eating as well as just some of the Behavioral Sciences and one of which is is visual hunger,  when we look at these beautiful food pictures on Instagram on magazines, in person. It’s cues hunger or it cues the idea that we want food. It’s a very instinctual desire. We need to feed ourselves and now food is readily available and we might not need to be cued quite as much as we did in our ancestral days, but seeing beautiful food can make us tap into that desire to eat.

There’s a nose hunger when we smell something. You smell the cookies baking, you know that can cause hunger when we hear the sound of crunching that might make us hunger. So noise in our ears, there’s tummy hunger. There’s a cellular hunger when we’re actually hungry for you know, we need iron or we need  certain vitamins to help our health say optimal.

And then obviously our emotions, you know, we can be drawn into habitual or emotional cycles of desiring. Placating for which we might move towards food.  I think one of the things most prevalent or what I found in my experience is kind of a mindless hunger the hunger that started in my mind, especially when I was writing this book something was really difficult and I was looking for I would be looking for a distraction.

Something that engages our mind in a way that causes us to reach for food or think that we’re hungry.  The way to work around these hungers and identify if what we think is a hunger is a true hunger is literally to tap into and tune in to our senses and have a mindfulness practice a mini practice of being able to look at our senses. Calm ourselves down in the present moment with some breathing and get really curious about where is this hunger coming from? Where do I feel it? Why do I feel it?

Vanessa Pagan: That’s great. I’m going to remember these definitions when I’m trying to crave chocolate. I’m going to call it a cellular hunger for magnesium.

Heather Sears: And it  it could be. Yes. Yeah, and I think  because I actually, you know, there are certain times when I crave chocolate and if I have baked beans unfortunately, it kind of fills the craving as well and it’s because it’s for iron or magnesium or whatever is in there, but really your body is just so intelligent and by slowing down internalizing your thought and paying attention you’ll be surprised on how smart it is and what it can tell you and how it can direct your action your next action to be helpful as opposed to harmful. For example.

Vanessa Pagan: My next question for you is so I feel like you’ve given us some insights into how we could be more mindful with our eating by paying attention to what are we feeling and bringing that awareness to ourselves to be able to identify what is going on in terms of our we stressed out? So the mindless eating sometimes I relate it to the emotional eating. Is there something that you can try doing at their next meal to be more mindful?

Heather Sears: Yeah, absolutely. So in my book I suggest an exercise or an approach that’s been working for me. I call it an ABC check in and it’s literally becoming attentive bringing your attention to the present moment.

B is breath. Breathing taking just a few deep very conscious calming breaths or I’ll say they’re calming they can be calming and it’s surprising how quickly your body can slow down and really become calm when you consciously breathe in deeply. Especially when you notice the little pause between the inhale and the exhale so that grounds you in the present moment, and then the C is for curious and where that, you know, the nice tie into doctor Langer’s work about noticing novelty. Getting really interested in what you are experiencing in the moment through your senses. You don’t even need any food around you, but  it works obviously when you’re sitting before eating putting your mind in your belly. How does your belly feel getting really curious? Are you is your tummy hungry? Is it gurgling? Is it full? Is it not doing anything? Bringing your into your attention and your curiosity to you know, why? Why are you eating? Maybe it’s just the time to eat. Does your body really want to eat or maybe you’re craving something. Where’s the craving coming from? Instead of giving in to it or being afraid of it. Get interested in how it feels physically. How that might impact you emotionally are you feeling emotions? What thoughts are you thinking and it’s very very powerful to start becoming conscious of your thoughts.

Even if it’s right afterwards because when you are able to be the viewer of your thoughts you realize that you know, or the viewer of that urge you realize that you’re not really the urge. You’re watching it and that gives you some power to start to make different choices and have some freedom and some space around that.

So by doing an ABC checkin you can identify where that hunger is coming from and you can even do it during a meal or after a meal to see if you’re full because another trick is when do you stop eating and some of them right that’s the flip side of the coin and this process helps you have a healthy appetite which means eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re when you’re not. You’re satisfied.

Vanessa Pagan: What I heard was the ABCs the acronyms are definitely helpful. So the a is attention the be is breath to focus on your breath and the C is to be curious and to be paying attention and be interested in your body and where you’re at. Is there a um, is there a piece of literature a book or a YouTube video that has been influential in your journey of finding this mindfulness that you’d like to share with our audience?

Heather Sears: Yeah, you know I have several sources in my book, but I would say that Jon Kabat-Zinn Wherever You Go. There You Are which is a classic. It’s probably one of the first books on mindfulness. I direct people to that because it’s just a wonderful grounding and you really can understand what the practice is what it is and what it means and give it gives context and the the title. It’s just so apt. Wherever you go, you know, there you are and are you with yourself? Are you you know, instead of being I like to say, you know, the word knower where instead of being nowhere like when we’re checking our phones when we’re when we’re lost in thought and like you like stuck in that narrative part of our mind. Are you nowhere or are you now here? Right same word, you know, are you now and here and that’s when you are when in the more direct sensing part of their neural pathways there in the present moment and you know, that’s what mindfulness brings you to is that ability to be now and here. Wherever you are.

Vanessa Pagan: Also the closeness of the word also makes me think of the space. The space between changes the context the same way the space between our moments of awareness can change how we interact with our meals or with people near us or in relation to us. So that is that is a classic.

Thank you for bringing it up as a favorite reference point. Yes. Thank you for being on this interview with us. So to recap your book is called Mind to Mouth: A Busy Chick’s Guide to Mindful Meal Time Moments. It’s available on Amazon, and if people want to reach out and connect to you, how can they find you?

Heather Sears: They can go to my website, which is Heather-Sears.com or they can also email me. My email is greetingsHeather at gmail.com. I’m happy, to. I love this topic, and I’m happy to answer questions anyone might have.

Vanessa Pagan: Wonderful. Thank you so much for your time Heather.

Heather Sears: Thank you for having me. Thank you very much.

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