Shame is an inevitable component of binge eating disorder, so although it’s the most common of eating disorders, it’s rarely discussed.
Binging was a carefully hidden secret for me since my early teen years. I remember getting upset over a running injury and devouring a chocolate cake. Not a piece of cake — a whole chocolate cake — and it was still mostly frozen. Binging was my normal; I didn’t believe change was possible. So even as I got degrees in nutrition and ate more nourishing foods, there were still nights where I’d polish off a can of frosting, and suffer through the inevitable self-loathing hangover.
I am facilitating my second Mind-Body Skills Group since completing both the Advanced Mind-Body Medicine and Food As Medicine courses. The first group started with eight members and ended with a core of four, who have since held two reunions with a third on the horizon. During the time between reunions these individuals have no contact except through me and yet they want to keep in touch, so every few months we get together for lunch.
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In June of 2012 I attended the Center’s Food As Medicine conference in Bethesda, MD. At the time, I was unfamiliar with the Center, so I was not sure what to expect. This conference started unlike so many other conferences I have attended. Instead of jumping right in because there would be lots of ground to cover in a short period of time, Dr. Jim Gordon began with a relaxation breathing exercise called “soft belly,” a slow, deep breathing meditation that allows the belly to rise when breathing in and fall when breathing out.The sole focus should be on the image of a soft, relaxed belly. He instructed us to say to ourselves “soft” as we inhaled and “belly” as we exhaled. We started every day of the conference in this fashion. I will admit that I was a bit skeptical at first, as I wondered what breathing had to do with food and when were we going to get to the good stuff. But by day three of the conference I found myself ready to start the day relaxed; I was looking forward to “soft belly!”
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I was recently at dinner with friends — all of us acupuncturists with various backgrounds — and we were deep in discussion about how to describe what it is that we do. One said, “I call myself a Chinese Medicine Practitioner because that’s what I studied — all aspects of it (needles, herbs, movement & philosophy).” I wondered aloud, “Do you think that right now, there is a group of healers in China having dinner together saying, ‘I call myself a Western Medicine Practitioner because that’s what I studied – love those MRI’s and cortisone injections!’ ”
We tossed around the use of the term “Chinese Medicine.” What we are really pointing to when we use this term is ancient wisdom — not wisdom that is only exclusive to China, either but threaded through all the ancient world religions and traditions. It is the wisdom of observing the natural movements of life and the power of nature to heal the body, mind, and spirit.
On day one of the Mind-Body Medicine Professional Training Program, our first large group modality is shaking and dancing. “Oh no,” I think, “I get to shake this body I usually ignore, in front of 250 people I don’t know. How silly will I look and will released energy make me sick in some way like throwing up or hurting my legs or my replaced hip joints?” A breath of relief comes as Dr. Gordon says we are to close our eyes. What was I thinking anyway? I am in a room of professional health care providers, with a doctor standing right next to me.
Introducing….Mindful. We’re already partial to being mindful, but now there’s a magazine all about it–the latest findings, the latest programs, the most wonderful stories–the juicy bits. The October edition features an interview with Center founder and director Dr. James Gordon called “A Journey to the Center of Yourself,” 8 pages of his sage perspectives with beautiful illustrations. As soon as we got our hands on copies, staff members were pouring over the interesting articles cover-to-cover, from “At NASA, Meditation is Rocket Science” to “To Pause and Protect”, the cover story about Oregon police officers learning mindfulness techniques, to “Children Helping Children”… oh, my! Do I need to say we are all hooked?
Every meeting at The Center for Mind-Body Medicine starts with a minute or so of Soft Belly Meditation, which is deep breathing with the simple mantra, “soft….belly”.
Most interns and guests look a little wide-eyed at the first meeting here when the meditation is announced. Perhaps they’re thinking “What have I gotten myself into?” or “Who are these people?!” I know I did, when I started working here. But after attending meetings at other companies and meetups, where you launch into business without the benefit of a meditation, I definitely notice a difference.
Would you like to help the special children in your life cope with worry and anxiety?
We’re thrilled to announce the publication of Bye-Bye Butterflies: Seven Ways To Breathe Out Worry, written by our Mind-Body Medicine faculty member Lilita Matison, LCSW. As a K-5 children’s counselor for 5 years, Lilita became familiar with the children’s worries and creative about helping them mindfully cope. This book is a marvelous result. Publicity for the book describes it as teaching “self-regulation, stress management and mind-body techniques”, and it certainly does; but it’s really just the cutest, most empowering and practical gift you could give any young child.
Our signature mind-body medicine technique is something Founder and Director James Gordon, MD calls “Soft Belly”, by way of encouraging each of us to relax — which few of us instinctively do these days.
We sit quietly, breathing in through our nose and out through our mouth, which both calms the sympathetic nervous system and awakens the parasympathetic nervous system, creating a feeling of relaxation in the mind and body. Dr. Gordon suggests we think “soft” as we breathe in and “belly” as we breathe out, reminding ourselves to relax our belly so we can take in full, healing breaths rather than shallow, tense ones.
When people ask me for the most persuasive proof of the power of nutrition to heal, I reply with a question: did you know that Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease through diet and lifestyle is covered by Medicare?
Medicare vetted the program for 17 years before deciding to cover it for patients, under a new category entitled “intensive cardiac rehabilitation” — the first time Medicare has covered an integrative medicine program.