Author Susan Albers, Psy.D. joined us for an interview on her book, 50 More Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food. Our questions are designated in italics, with her thoughtful responses following.
In your “Mindful Eating Manifesto” you state, “The first step to healthy eating is to focus more on how you eat than what you eat.” Please tell us about this concept.
Fad diets fail and mess up your relationship with food because these diets try to write rules on what to eat. I find that teaching people “how” to eat is so much more effective! I help people understand why they make the food choices they do—or the how they eat. I rarely talk about specific foods or give people advice on what to eat. Often my clients notice huge changes in their health and happiness with their relationship to food when they tweak some of their ingrained eating habits. It’s amazing! My main message is that it’s great to eat all foods that you love—in a mindful way. This is much more difficult than it sounds. I’ve found easy techniques to help people make the food decisions they want to make and stick with them. To get a jump start on this, go to my website www.eatingmindfully.com to take the Mindful Eating Pledge—an useful way to get started.
The take-away message from your book reads “Eating is not a problem about food – it’s a problem of self-soothing.” Why does food/emotional eating seem to be a remedy for stress?
Food fulfills what I call the 3 E’s of human behavior—it’s easy, economical and effective. In other words, food is easy to obtain 24/7, it doesn’t cost much, and it does work, temporarily to soothe stress. My clients often get really hard on themselves for stress eating. I remind them to be kind to themselves! We wouldn’t stress eat if it didn’t calm down our systems. The good news is that there are many other, natural ways to get the same effect. We are taught from an early age that food is a way to calm down and media ads often push the message that food is the best way to give yourself a quick perk. You can rewire your brain to stop making food your number one way to unwind. I’ve seen it over and over again! Even people who are chronic stress eaters can get out of this habit and find new ways to relax.
Can you please explain how to have “a mindful walk?”
A mindful walk is an easy way to enjoy the pleasure of mindfulness and something you can do anywhere, anytime. It shifts you out of your head and into your body. It’s like shifting a gear. Try it right now! The next time you walk down the hall, tune into the sound of your feet hitting the ground. Notice how quickly you are walking and how you are breathing. I often wear heels and listen to the click clack of my shoes on the tile as I walk to pick up my clients. It’s a nice moment to reconnect with my body and check in.
Your book offers a technique often followed by a “soothing strategy.” Is your schema founded on integrative medicine?
My first book, 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food, has many strategies based on cognitive behavioral psychology—ways to untwist your thinking and act in new mindful ways to calm down, relax and soothe your nerves naturally. 50 More Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food, the sequel, is founded on integrative medicine. In other words, ancient techniques with a modern spin added. Many of these techniques have been around for thousands of years and have recently been studied in clinical trials. This book is great for people who are bored with the same old techniques, are looking for something new and interesting, but want to make sure they are grounded in solid research.
As you identify each of the 50 more ways to soothe yourself without food, you group these techniques into specific categories. One of these is Expressive Arts Therapy. Can you please share your experiences working with others as they use these suggestions?
The section on Expressive Arts therapy taps into your right brain—your creative and intuitive side. Many of my clients spend most of their day locked into using their left brain—making decisions, planning etc. These right brain techniques help you to have fun while also finding calm and comfort. Here is an easy example that puts a little creative twist on journaling. Write down vertically on a piece of paper one word that summarizes your feeling. Use the first letter to start off explaining how you feel. For example, if you are feeling anxious start with A—annoyed with my sister. At the end you have a journal/poem. Whalla!
What are some of your favorites ways to soothe yourself?
I have many favorites! Having a cup of tea in the afternoon is one of the most soothing, inexpensive, easy, quick practices that I love. I’ve done a lot of traveling with my husband who is sent all over the world for his job. I’ve found that whenever I am invited into someone’s home in a different country, I am often offered a cup a tea. It’s the most popular beverage in the world. There is usually a ritual about tea, including how it is served, the kind of tea selected, and the pace of drinking it. I seek out new kinds of tea. If you haven’t done this, I recommend pursing the tea isle in your grocery store. Black tea, vanilla Mighty Leaf, is my favorite. Black tea has been clinically shown to naturally reduce your cortisol levels!
I also love the squeegee breath. It’s so simple and easy to do. I’m very visual in nature so the picture it brings to mind helps me to focus. If you this sounds like you too, this is one technique in the book that will transform the way you calm down!
Who should read your book?
Everyone! We all experience stress every single day. Unfortunately, we weren’t given a handbook for coping with daily stress—until now! Stress and comfort eaters say this is a book that has been a game changer for them. Even people who aren’t stress eaters have told me that they benefited from this book. It has taught them effective ways to enjoy life more and feel less overwhelmed.
About the author –
Susan Albers, Psy.D., is a New York Times best selling author and a clinical psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic who specializes in eating disorders, body image concerns, healthy eating and mindfulness. After obtaining a masters and doctorate degree from the University of Denver, Dr. Albers completed an APA internship at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, and a post-doctoral fellowship at Stanford University in California. Dr. Albers conducts mindful eating workshops across the country. www.eatingmindfully.com
Dr. Albers is the author of seven mindful eating books including: EatQ, 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food, Eating Mindfully, Eat, Drink, and Be Mindful and Mindful Eating 101. Her work has been featured in O, the Oprah Magazine, Family Circle, Shape, Prevention Magazine, Self, Health, Fitness Magazine, Vanity Fair, Natural Health, the Wall Street Journal and was on Dr. Oz. Susan is a contributor to the Huffington Post and Psychology Today. Dr. Albers is frequently quoted in popular magazines, newspapers and on T.V. She frequently makes media appearances on TV and in magazines. Download her free Mindful Eating Pledge: https://mindfuleatingsummit.com/mindful-eating-pledge/