Lynn Rossy, Ph.D. wants us to take a moment. And, if we are being honest, we could really use it. Each of us has stressors, distracting us and pulling our focus away from our day-to-day lives. In particular, our relationship with food suffers from this lack of attention, says Rossy, author of The Mindfulness-Based Eating Solution: Proven Strategies to End Overeating, Satisfy Your Hunger, and Savor Your Life.
“Mindfulness teaches us to be with the total experience of eating before, during and after a meal,” she says. “It also teaches us to eat when we’re physically hungry but not to reach for food because of our emotions.”
This approach may seem like a tall order in a society where success is judged by appearances and accomplishments and in a culture that fosters unhealthy lifestyles filled with sedentary jobs and overbooked calendars.
Diets are typically proffered as the solution. But Rossy suggests a new approach. “[Diets] are designed to make you fail,” she says. “They try to mold you into a framework that you struggle with and often rebel against.”
Instead, Rossy wants people to find deeply rooted happiness. She believes an individual’s mindful relationship with food is a logical place to start in a world where body image is overthought and addressing the inner self is overlooked.
Rossy has a doctorate in psychology from the University of Missouri and trained at the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare, and Society in Worcester, Mass. She founded the Mindfulness Practice Center on campus while working as a psychologist at the MU Student Health Center.
To further connect mindfulness with her desire to help others, Rossy pursued Kripalu Yoga teacher training at Kripalu Yoga Center in Lennox, Mass., and Community Dharma Leader training at the Spirit Rock Meditation Center in California. Through education and introspection, Rossy found a healthier version of herself and enhanced her ability to help others do the same.
In 2007, Rossy transitioned to the University’s Healthy for Life program, where she focused on mindful eating and developed the Eat for Life course. The 10-week course, now available online, seeded the idea of a book to reach a wider audience with insights on mindful eating methods that help shed burdens, expectations and distractions and embrace happiness.
Rossy believes that a distracted mind and unhappiness go hand in hand. She refers to a study by Harvard University psychologists Matthew A. Killingsworth and Daniel T. Gilbert that shows people operate in default mode, with minds wandering, nearly 50 percent of the time. “That means half of your life you are not present for,” says Rossy. Instead of enjoying the moment, people overthink the past, worry about the future or allow technology and entertainment to displace thinking at all. It is rare to eat while immersing ourselves in the taste, texture and satisfaction of nourishment. Mindfulness can train us to regain these pleasures.
Rossy’s readers and students of her Eat for Life courses learn to reach inward to examine what they truly hunger for, besides food. She recommends starting with a seemingly simple question, “Am I hungry?” and developing the skills to answer honestly. She says, “If you are physically hungry, then eat. If you are hungry for connection, love, creativity, movement, water, etcetera, then there are other ways of [satisfying those needs] besides food.”
Her work encourages readers to respect themselves. “If you respect yourself, then you will treat yourself better,” Rossy says, “and part of that means that you will feed your body the food that makes it feel good.”
Once you train yourself to taste your food mindfully, you will naturally turn to healthier food. Rossy points out that your body gives you messages about the food you are eating and whether the food is good for you or not. “You will either have more or less energy after eating,” she says. “Flavor awareness and the after effects of eating are key.”
In the end, mindful eating is a simple concept but can be difficult to embrace. With her book and the “Eat for Life” course, Rossy teaches her students to find a happier and more meaningful path in life.
Recently, Rossy was hired by Veterans United as the Director of Integrated Wellness. There, she is working to bring mindfulness into the workplace, teaching the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program and the Eat for Life program, among other workplace mindfulness interventions.
More information about the book and course is available online at www.lynnrossy.com.