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The Neuroscience of Mindful Eating by: Cynthia Beard

One of the things we teach with Neurosculpting® is that we can incorporate other beneficial practices into our daily lives along with meditation. Some of these might be as quick as brushing one’s hair or teeth with the non-dominant hand. Based on my experiences (with neuroscience and spiritual practices to back me up on it), I’m inviting us to include mindful eating as yet another way to rewire our brains.

I remember eating in silence as a child, contemplating every bite, and carefully chewing in response to my mother’s warnings about the dangers of eating too fast. As an adult, I generally know how much food that I can put on a plate in order to feel full, and when I eat meals I serve myself, I make sure not to load up more food than I can eat.

Every once in awhile, my eyes are bigger than my mouth, but there’s still a voice (my great-grandmother from rural Mississippi) in my head saying, “Wasting food is feeding the devil.”


Spirituality and Mindful Eating

Mindful eating is about a lot more than thriftiness, though. When my now-husband first requested that we eat a meal together in silence, I was elated, as I enjoy sitting in silence (although he would also tell you that I love to talk). He told me about the three months that he spent at Plum Village, a Buddhist monastery in southern France where Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh is based.

Most of the meals at Plum Village are eaten in “noble silence,” with verbal communication used only when absolutely necessary. We visited Plum Village this past winter, and I really enjoyed sharing this practice with others. I’ve found that I’m more grateful for my food when I’m paying attention to what is nourishing me.

Neuroscience Weighs In

Neuroscientist Sandra Aamodt is the latest to research how mindful eating also helps us to settle into our bodies’ naturally comfortable weight range. I’m saying this with the caveat that, contrary to what pop culture and advertising tries to sell us, there is no single “perfect size” that we should all aspire to.

In an interview with NPR, Aamodt defines mindful eating as: “eating with attention and joy, without judgment.” She continues, “That includes attention to hunger and fullness, to the experience of eating and to its effects on our bodies.” When we do this, our bodies can often settle into a weight range that supports our health (disclaimer: there are, of course, other factors such as some illnesses that can complicate matters).

The Role of Stress in Dieting

Even when we’re attempting to eat healthier food, eating mindlessly can actually work against efforts to lose weight. Aamodt has found that dieting can lead to weight gain due to the activation of stress hormones. Just as in other stressful situations, the brain’s fight-or-flight response can go into overdrive when we’re putting excess pressure on ourselves to conform to unrealistic societal expectations.


Incorporating Mindful Eating into a Neurosculpting® Regimen

In Neurosculpting® classes and one-on-one sessions, we do talk about the importance of what we put into our bodies, but not from the standpoint of losing weight or trying to have the “perfect” body. We even offer a class that focuses on developing a new body image that counteracts the constant messaging from the media, advertising, and pop culture that only certain body types are desirable or healthy. Advanced Neurosculpting® studies include deeper explorations of nutrition by holistic nutrition therapist and educator Erin Livers.

We emphasize in all of our teachings that brain health can be supported by nutritional choices that include healthy fats that are high in omega-3’s (specifically DHA, or docosahexaeonic acid), proteins, and a balance of carbohydrates (which includes vegetables). Contrary to what some people might believe, this can be achieved with or without meat and dairy, which is especially important to me as a vegetarian/sometimes-vegan.Boost Circle

Proper nutrition that includes brain-supportive foods is helpful in reducing stress and enhancing neuroplasticity. This is beneficial for meditation and other mindfulness practices, and serves as a reminder that mindful eating plays a role in our overall well-being. For more tips on mindful eating, please check out the additional reading or contact a Certified Neurosculpting® Facilitator.


Cynthia Beard

Cynthia has practiced meditation most of her life, although she didn’t realize that was what she was doing when she was a child. She discovered Neurosculpting® as part of her preparation for a transformative trip to post-earthquake Haiti in 2012. In the midst of massive trauma, a meditation she had learned from Lisa Wimberger is what allowed her to navigate an intensely difficult situation on the ground in Haiti. She was immediately hooked and jumped at the chance to undertake the Tier 1 facilitator training in 2013. Since then she has also completed Tier 2 training and is excited about contributing to the expansion of the Neurosculpting® modality.

Cynthia is also a lifelong musician who holds a Ph.D. in musicology from the University of North Texas. In its own way, her doctoral dissertation is intimately connected to the meditative work that Cynthia is so enthusiastic about.

Cynthia is actively involved in social change movements, and she believes that meditation is integral to healing our society’s collective wounds. She enjoys bringing Neurosculpting® into spaces that are focused on creating a better world for us all, and providing a safe, nurturing environment for those who desire to cultivate compassion and empathy.


Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life


Mindful Eating: Interview with Zen Priest Susan O’Connell


The Center for Mindful Eating


Mindful Eating: How to Enjoy Your Meal


Zen Your Diet


Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More than We Think


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