One of most essential relationships in life is with the food we eat. What we bring into our bodies affects our level of energy, ability to pay attention, and general well-being. That is why being mindful in our lives has to integrate the food we eat. Brandt Passalacqua, author of the audio program Being At Peace With Food, is also a speaker who discovered yoga and meditation after struggling with his weight, food and substance addiction, and serious illness. Since founding Peaceful Weight Loss™ Through Yoga, his personal journey has served as an inspiration to countless others looking to make peace with food. You can also check out his webinar here.
Today, Brandt talks to us about what our most impactful bad eating habits are, how he developed a healthy relationship to food, a meditation to get us started and a little advice at the end.
Elisha: Hi Brandt, to get us started tell us what some of the most impactful negative eating habits are that affect us today?
Brandt: I believe it’s mostly where and when we eat. We live in a culture that has completely lost its rituals. It’s pretty abnormal to live in a society that has such weak rituals around food. Many skip breakfast because we’re racing out the door. Many skip lunch because there’s too much to do at work. We eat in our cars because it’s fast and easy. We eat while we check our emails or watch TV. We don’t necessarily eat at the same time as our coworkers or spouse or ourselves on any given day. No wonder we are confused. Any one of these things are perfectly fine, but when you put it all together it adds up to a disorienting chaos. So when we find ourselves eating mindlessly directly out of the fridge between meals – why should we be surprised? Is it really that different than the rest of the day? The people I work with usually find some sort of consistent pattern of eating that they enjoy. This is often a huge relief. I know it was for me.
Elisha: You have a history of having been overweight. How did you develop a healthy relationship with food?
Brandt: I fell into yoga practice after an illness. I tried yoga out of desperation trying to heal myself. After doing gentle physical practices – breath work and deep relaxation practice for many months – I noticed an amazing side effect: I lost weight. The practices encouraged present centered thinking, which in turn lessened my anxiety greatly. And with that anxiety gone I could see my behavior around food more clearly. With this clear vision I was able to begin to make choices about how, what, and how much I was eating. I had never experienced the freedom to choose like this. My past of broken promises to myself about losing weight faded – so in the present I was able to decide what was best for me. Over the next several years this way of being became more and more natural. Now I can generally make good choices for myself and when I don’t, it’s not a big deal because a moment of bad eating behavior is isolated and it doesn’t take over or spiral out of control.
Elisha: Can you give us an example of a meditation that can help us develop a healthy relationship with food?
Brandt: Sure. Change happens in increments. We love big dramatic ideas and change because fantasy is appealing. But real change starts here and now. Goal setting has its place and it can be inspiring at times to imagine ourselves happier and healthier. But really all of the changes that we need to make will begin in the present. Each moment we have the ability to choose what is best for us, and this translates to food. In fact, we usually will make the right choice – if we are grounded in reality. The here and now. This takes practice. It’s not what we are necessarily used to doing. Despite our beliefs and stories to the contrary we are actually more at peace when we are in the present.
This simple breathing meditation is used for grounding, bringing us into the here and now. I suggest making this a regular practice. Possibly after waking in the morning but anytime of day would be perfect.
Find a comfortable position where you won’t be disturbed for 3-5 minutes. Take a big inhale and hold the breath for a moment – and breathe out of your mouth with a big sighhhhh.
Let’s take a couple more of these breaths. Find a nice big breath in – hold the breath – breathe out with a sighhhh. Find another big, full breath in – hold it at the top and breathe out with a sighhhh. Releasing tension from the body. Let the breath return to its natural state without controlling it.
Now watch the breath as it comes in and as it leaves the body for a few breaths. Breathing in, breathing out…
As you breathe in gently say to yourself – “I” and as you breathe out gently say to yourself – “Am”
Continue to breath in this way – Breathing in – I – Breathing out – Am This simple practice helps us start where we are no matter where that is. It can be used throughout your day and as often as possible.
Elisha: If you were sitting across the table from someone who has had a lifetime of struggle with negative eating habits and body image what would be the message you would give to them?
Brandt: That’s a big question! The main thing I would say is this: Transformation is possible for everyone. But be nice to yourself – change happens in increments. One or two small pieces at a time. Don’t rush the process even though you want to. Simply entering into the processes of present centered thinking is enough. Meditate or breathe, or learn to relax the body, or mindfully move. Do just one of these things that appeals to you.
The other thing to remember is that you are normal. There is nothing wrong with you. More than half our population has some sort of issue around food. Just start where you are. Find some peace every day. When the next move forward opens up in front of you, step through that door. We all make perfect choices in the present.
Elisha: Thank you so much Brandt, this was great and hopefully inspires many of us to have a wiser relationship with food and health! You can listen to a sample track of Brandt’s album here.
As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.