Interview with Dr Jan Chozen Bays

July 2015

Do you believe there could be a Center for Mindful eating ?

Founded in 2005 at a kitchen table at Aryaloka Buddhist Retreat Center in Newmarket, it is located in West Nottingham and welcomes more than 200 participants per month.

Dr Jan Chozen Bays guides the developments of this organization and has been practicing and teaching mindful eating since years now. The Center for Mindful eating offers different trainings, teleconferences and classes on this subject.

Here at Slow Control, we have been very much attentive to Dr Jan Chozen Bays work in her book Mindful eating a guide to rediscovering a healthy and joyful relationship with food bringing full experiences on how mindfulness can help with eating disorders.

1. What are you teaching in your classes ?

Each person who is trained to teach Mindful Eating will teach different aspects, depending upon who their clients or patients are. We teach many different exercises to help people discover for themselves what mindful eating and unmindful eating are. For example, we help people learn to eat more slowly and to pay full attention to what they are eating. Many people say, « Eating is one of the most enjoyable things I do each day. Why do I rush to get it over? »
For instance, we ask people to try, at least for a few meals each week, not to multitask. This means not to do other things such as using the computer or playing video games while they are eating. That way they can pay full attention to what they are eating, so they get more satisfaction and enjoyment from eating. We help people learn to pay attention to the signals from their bodies, the innate wisdom of their bodies, so they enjoy eating appropriate amounts and kinds of food.

2. What is the format of the lessons and how long do people generally stay ? How much does a lesson cost?

The mindful eating classes are usually held once a week for eight weeks. Each class lasts about 2 hours. The cost depends upon where you are teaching and who you are teaching.
At one hospital in my state the classes are for people who do not have very much money, so the charge is small, about $ 5 for each class. Other classes are for people who make more money, and the charge might be $ 40 for each class.

3.  Could you please explain how your vision and your research has progressed in the last 20 years based on the know-how that you have built?

Over the last 20 years I have learned that most people have some difficulty with eating. It can range from a mild problem like eating because of stress, to a serious eating disorder like binge eating. There is a tremendous amount of human suffering related to food and eating, which is sad, because eating should be enjoyable and easy. Each year I develop a few new exercises to help people eat more mindfully, and I learn about the newest research so I can teach people about their bodies and healthy ways to eat.

Each time I teach a course in Mindful Eating I learn new things from the participants. Each one has a unique history and each one faces their life challenges with courage.
My vision is that many professionals will train in Mindful Eating and thus we will be able to help many thousands of people find ease and joy in eating in a healthy and balanced way.

4. Who do you think the Center for Mindful eating could help and why ?

The Center for Mindful Eating helps professionals who work with clients who are overweight, underweight or people with eating disorders. These professionals includes doctors, nurses, therapists, dieticians and nutritionists.  The Center provides newsletters, patient-care hand outs, teleconferences and a review of the latest research, to help professionals do a better job taking care of their patients and clients.

The programs of Center for Mindful Eating can also help lay people (who are not professionals) understand more about how to eat mindfully and find more enjoyment in eating.

5. How do you feel professionals, institutions and the general public are responding to these classes, trainings ?

Everyone who listens to our teleconferences says they are helpful. We have some teleconferences and publications in spanish now, which helps us reach a larger audience. We have members now in many countries around the world. Together with Char Wilkins (who is also a member of the TCME Advisory Board) i have taught mindful eating courses for professionals in Europe and we had participants from Belgium, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Finland, Holland, Mexico and Ecuador.  Many professionals know that diets seldom work. They say that mindful eating is the « missing link » in what they know and teach about eating. Many professionals are very keen on learning mindful eating both for themselves and their clients.

6. Most mindless people think they are mindful. Is it achievable for a mindless person to become mindful ?

Of course. We are all mindless at times. We can all become more mindful in many areas of our lives. We can become more mindful while doing any activity — walking, driving, going up stairs, taking a shower, and so on.

We all ate very mindfully when we were young. Small children will eat a very balanced diet and just the right amount of calories (if they are given only nutritious food and no one tries to make them eat a certain way). Thus, we all knew how to eat mindfully early in our lives. We are not learning something entirely new — we are just re-learning something we once knew how to do.

The Center for Mindful eating website: http://www.thecenterformindfuleating.org/