I’d like to introduce you to Julie Chiu, founder of Mindful Eating HK. I am a huge advocate of eating in moderation (diets are no fun!) and I simply love the Mindful Eating approach to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. I sat down with Julie and asked her some questions to gain a bit of insight into why she is so passionate about Mindful Eating and learn a bit more about the workshops and seminars that she holds here in Hong Kong. I have to say, I am already a believer!
Can you tell us what Mindful Eating is all about?
Mindful Eating (ME) is a non-diet approach to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight by being aware and conscious of how and why we’re eating. In addition to mindfulness, ME helps us understand the why, when, what, how, and how much of eating with compassion and a nonjudgmental attitude which then allows us to really enjoy food without feeling guilty or deprived.
Have you always had a healthy approach to eating?
I’m a recovering “yo-yo dieter” who used to follow whatever fad diet was in vogue. I’d switch back and forth from over dieting & over exercising to overeating & avoiding exercise altogether. My weight would swing up and down 10-15 pounds (4.5 – 6.8 kg). Once I hit my 30’s, it seemed like it got even harder to lose weight and easier to gain it back!
I hit rock bottom after moving to Hong Kong. I gained 16 pounds and was at my highest weight ever. ME helped me discover and change my negative and unhealthy patterns into more positive ones. ME has such a positive impact on my life that now I’m sharing and helping others break free from unhealthy eating patterns also.
What is your biggest weakness when it comes to managing your diet?
Wow! Great question. My biggest weakness is emotionally comforting myself through food. Whenever I was bored, tired, frustrated, anxious, stressed or even happy I’d turn to food. Now, I’m more aware of food cravings not related to hunger and meet my emotional needs in more productive ways.
I also have a negative association to “hunger”. It was probably due to all the different diets I’ve been on. After understanding how hunger is our body’s natural way of telling us that we need nourishment, and other ME concepts, I am comfortable with hunger again. I’m now better able to know when to eat and more importantly, how to really enjoy food!
Has it been hard to maintain your weight living in Hong Kong with all the amazing food?
It was initially. I was going through a lot of emotions when we first moved here from the US, and I wasn’t working full time also. You know what that means! A LOT of lunches, afternoon teas and dinners that went straight to the thighs and butt! It’s gotten better now that I eat mindfully.
Can you share some of your favorite exercise and eating strategies/secrets that has help lead you to your path of Mindful Eating?
My pleasure! When it comes to exercise: be mindful of what you’re saying to yourself. Is it positive or negative? If it’s negative (i.e. “There’s not enough time!” “I hate exercise!” “It’s too humid!” “It’s embarrassing”, etc.) try replacing them with more positive self-talk like, “I am a fit and active person”, “I deserve all the amazing benefits from being physically active”, “I make time for my health and well being”. By changing your mindset, your brain will look for opportunities to prove it right.
– I have a realistic and very manageable fitness goal of running, weight training or moving along to a DVD for at least 10 min a day 5-6 times per week. I usually end up doing more than 10 min. There really aren’t many excuses out there that I can counter “10 min a day.”
– When it comes to eating: ask yourself, “Am I really hungry?” I have a post it on refrigerator with the quote “If I’m NOT hungry, what I’m looking for is not in here.” It’s helped several times!
– Trust your body’s wisdom when the “stop” point is. If you’re listening to your body and mindful of fullness cues, you’ll know how to really enjoy food without feeling uncomfortable afterwards.
What do you focus on during your workshops?
Currently, there are two types of ME workshops. One is an introductory seminar to get people familiar with the general concepts of ME and how it can help solve their unhealthy eating habits.
The second type is an 8 week long comprehensive look into ME. We meet once a week for 8 weeks. It covers an in-depth look into why, when, where, how, how much we eat and where we focus our physical, emotional and spiritual energies. In these 8 interactive classes, participants learn life-changing strategies to help stop yo-yo dieting, how take charge of their eating habits, and form action plans and goals. I would like to offer all Sassy members 10% off the 8 week program and an additional $200 off if they come with a friend. Just mention that you are a Sassy member when you are paying!
Attending an introductory seminar is not required in order to attend the 8 week workshop. However, if people prefer to learn more about mindful eating before committing to an 8 week workshop they can definitely attend both!