Mindfulness & Health

Mindfulness is something I believe strongly in. Not only is it scientifically researched and proven to be an effective way of coping, thinking, and living, it is something that I have found to be immensely helpful in my personal life.

My practice of mindfulness began about 15 years ago when I began taking yoga classes. This was years before I solidified my professional direction and life calling. Although rudimentary, this early practice of using my breath to connect me to the present moment helped me through stressful college years, in relationships, and in my personal growth.

Many moons later, I am a mindfulness enthusiast and have made it a primary focus in my clinical practice. I feel strongly about using the techniques and practices that mindfulness provides in all areas of life, however, I am not an expert in all areas. I wanted to learn more about how other experts in the field of health and wellness also help clients by using mindfulness practices.

This month I am collaborating with experts in the field of health, relationships, and business.

This week I spoke with Nancy Popkin of Love More Eat Less. Nancy is a nutrition counselor with more than 10 years in the field of nutrition and wellness coaching. She helps busy people find and maintain their balance and learn to love their bodies using a combination of proven food changes, lifestyle tools, and practices based on mindfulness. 

As I suspected, there are many similarities in our mindfulness practices with our clients. However, there are some really clear differences and insights that relate more to health-specific issues.

Nancy and I agreed that physical and mental issues are often deeply connected and when we are experiencing health issues, we can usually draw some connection back to an emotional starting point. Nancy explained that often times these emotional issues manifest themselves with physical symptoms and this is where her mindfulness practice comes in. 

She pointed out that approximately 95% of the time physical ailments are related to our emotional state. She noted that our hormones and immune systems are ancient compared to the modern day stressors that we face. This was such a key piece of insight for me. I have never seen things from this perspective and it helped me to see how fast our minds and external circumstances have progressed while our internal processes have remained the same. 

In her practice at Love More Eat Less, Nancy focuses on the mind-body-spirit connection in order to help her clients understand how so much of our health issues can be alleviated by improving the strength of connection.

Similarly to my own clinical approach Nancy focuses first on awareness. She focuses specifically on awareness to how stressors and triggers impact the health choices her clients make. She made one thing clear: it is less about losing weight or what you eat and is much more about how you eat. This was an important distinction because often times when I think about nutrition coaches, I think primarily about weight loss.

Nancy goes much, much deeper in her practice and emphasizes that the first few weeks are more about establishing this awareness and mind-body connection than about what the client is eating or losing weight. We discussed how the weight loss goal is generally secondary because losing the weight or finding a healthier eating routine becomes so much easier once a mindfulness practice is established.

We discussed whether it is difficult for her clients to grasp this mindfulness piece as most people coming to her usually have a physical goal in mind. Nancy explained that a lot of the time clients will push back initially, which is understandable. They might not be coming to a nutritional counselor to be told how to think differently.

However, once clients begin putting small things into practice, like becoming aware of triggers around eating or cravings, they can understand why the mindfulness piece is so crucial. By having this approach, both Nancy's clients and my own are positioned for more long-term success than having some “band-aid” solutions that will not be long-lasting.

I really enjoyed getting to discuss these overlaps and differences with Nancy and learning how her mindfulness practice connects the mind to the body in order to achieve better health choices and an overall healthier, more sustainable lifestyle. If you are interested in learning more about Nancy, visit her website at LoveMoreEatLess.com. You can also check out her free audio workshop 3 Steps to Changing Unwanted Eating Habits.