10-week Mindful Eating course
When it comes to diets and their consequences, you name it, I’ve probably been there!
I’ve been teaching mindfulness for several years and helped people manage unhelpful behaviours and habits, learning to allow their feelings instead of pushing them away. Last year, I felt it was time to develop a course to help with the habit I know best – eating too much and emotional eating. I’ve tried many mindfulness approaches to emotional eating, and have used the ones I find most helpful to develop the course.
Some of us have taken a long time to develop certain habits, and changing these does not always happen overnight. Participating in a course for ten weeks can enable us to make lasting changes to the way we approach how we eat. The Mindful Eating course is based on techniques that have been proven to help with compulsive overeating and binge eating recovery.
The aim of the course is to help you find peace, freedom and joy with food, and to eat in a way that nurtures your body and mind.
Mindful Eating course content
The classes are made up of discussions, simple meditations (either sitting on a chair or lying down), and various exercises, often involving food! There is no need to speak or eat anything if you do not wish to.
Week one: Introduction to mindful eating; letting go of past experiences with eating and diets; simple goals for week ahead.
Week two: Exploring our values, developing aims and intentions for the course, mindful eating techniques.
Week three: Mindless eating, how to change unhelpful habits, exploring consequences of food choices. Best ways to lose weight.
Week four: Finding out what the body needs, looking into what drives us to eat when not hungry. ‘I am hungry’ – but what for?
Week five: Further exploration of why we eat. How to face difficulties without turning to food. Night eating syndrome. Craving sweets or something savoury? How to stop cravings.
Week six: Exploring our thoughts, and ways to let them go. Techniques to stop overeating.
Week seven: Emotions – how to handle them skilfully; quick strategies to help with binge eating. What to do when you can’t stop eating.
Week eight, Focus Day, 11am – 4pm: Range of meditations to help with relaxation, being with difficulties. Buffet lunch - eating mindfully! Exploring feeling hungry after eating. Loving kindness to the body.
Week nine: Being kind to ourselves and respecting our bodies; using gratitude as a tool to enhance our lives. Self-compassion as a tool to overcome binge eating.
Week ten: Recap of the course. Exploring long-term effect of food choices. Creating a personal plan of action for the future. Celebrating victories and achievements.
Key aspects to the Mindful Eating course:
10 weekly classes, 90 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the size of the group.
Focus Day: one day towards the end of the course will be from 10am to 3pm, to explore new ideas and the joys and challenge of eating a buffet lunch together.
Home Practice: Each week there will be different exercises and meditations to practise at home. This is an essential part of the course – the time between sessions is where you’ll make the changes to the way you eat and your life.
A course workbook and MP3s of meditations will be provided.
Optional online mindfulness drop-in sessions:
These take place most Tuesdays, online via Zoom, 9.30-10.30am. In the sessions we focus on different aspects of mindfulness and how it can help reduce anxiety, stress, depression, help with sleep and help us enjoy life more. Developing our ability to cope with difficulties, to manage our thoughts, to be kind to ourselves and to calm ourselves without turning to food, are all core aspects of the mindful eating course.
The drop-in sessions are free to mindful eating course participants for the duration of the course. They are not part of the course itself and just offered as an optional extra.
Ongoing support after the course ends:
It’s extremely important to me that participants have access to support after the course ends, and are able to maintain healthy eating habits and any weight changes, if they wish, going forward. Depending on what group members prefer, we might set up self-help groups for people who did a course together, or maybe monthly sessions.
I run a range of other classes and courses with Mindful Surrey, including one-to-one sessions, so there are several options.
Suitability for the course:
For some people, it might not be appropriate to do the course at this time. Please note I am not a trained therapist or counsellor. The sessions might be therapeutic in nature, but they are not therapy. Depending on your situation, and if you feel you are at risk of self-harm or considering suicide, please consult your doctor. Get in touch if you’d like details of other organisations who might be more appropriate for you.
The course has been designed for people who struggle with diets and overeating. Please let us know if you’d like to arrange a confidential conversation about an eating disorder, to find out if the course is suitable for you.
Free and discounted course places
Mindful Surrey is a charity and receives funding which enables us to give free course places to Surrey residents on low incomes. If you live elsewhere and have financial difficulties, we can offer discounts. Please get in touch to discuss a free or discounted place.
Binge eating, compulsive eating, emotional eating, cravings, intuitive eating and mindful eating are all things I know a lot about! I’ve studied best ways to lose weight and eating disorders for most of my adult life.
I first went on a diet when I was 10 and since then I’ve tried many approaches to eating: weight-loss groups, counselling, online healthy eating groups and various apps. I’ve read many books to help with overeating, binge eating disorder, craving food and night hunger. Some helped for a while, some didn’t.
Food restriction, binge eating and today’s culture
The more I restricted what I ate, without exploring and changing what was driving me to overeat, the harder it was to stop eating when I abandoned the latest diet. I’ve always known that unless I change what is causing me to overeat, any form of diet, even just ‘healthy’ or ‘clean’ eating, will makes things worse when I inevitably give up my latest regime.
Living in a culture where thin is considered desirable and which also has big food businesses, (with experts whose job it is to make tasty, addictive cheap food), it can be hard to maintain healthy eating habits that nurture our bodies and minds.
I’ve twice lost two stone and put it on again, and over the last two years have lost four stone – partly through being in a weight-loss group and also with mindfulness. I feel better physically being lighter and much better mentally when I’m in control of what I eat. I don’t want to go back to the dark place of confusion, mixed messages, being overweight and always feeling hungry.
If you’ve ever put weight back on after losing it, you’ll recognise how disheartening and disappointing it can feel, especially if lots of people have told you how good you look when you were thinner, and then they just go quiet.
Being part of a healthy eating group
In all that I’ve tried over the years to help stop binge eating, two things have helped me eat well and not be obsessed with food. One, when I gave up trying to lose weight – this was when I was travelling for a year in Asia and also when pregnant. During those times I had no particular aims or rules and yet a desire to be healthy, and I was relaxed about food.
The second, (more accessible than going off for a year), was to be part of a group that I felt connected to, that I could attend on a weekly basis. Whether it was a self-help group for people with different types of eating disorder or one offering easy ways to lose weight, connecting with others in a similar situation made a huge difference. There can be so much shame and secrecy being an overeater, realising that you’re not alone can be life-changing in itself.
So being part of a friendly, non-judgemental group, with people interested in letting go of habits and developing new ones, is a core aspect to my mindful eating course.