Take 5 minutes out FOR YOUR HEALTH...

On April 13, 1998, an interview was broadcast on Bay TV (local cable channel 35 in San Francisco) between anchor Claudia Cowan and
Dr. Ronna Kabatznick, Ph.D.  The following transcription was created by scott richie for Winky.

Claudia Cowan:  There is nothing more frustrating to a devout dieter than gaining the weight back.  Our next guest believes that learning how to control eating habits is simply a case of mind over matter.  Dr. Ronna Kabatznick has written a book on dieting called The Zen of Eating, which applies the ancient principles of Buddhism to everyday weight problems.  Here's her book, and here's Ronna.  Thanks for joining us this morning.

Dr. Ronna Kabatznick:  Thank you.    

Claudia Cowan:  It's a beautiful book, and I imagine the principles are very ancient and beautiful themselves. What do you talk about in terms of mind over matter when it comes to trying to lose weight and keep it off?

Dr. Ronna Kabatznick:  O.K.  I just want to make the point that it's not necessarily simple but it is easy.  And I know that's a little bit difficult distinction.  We try for the get things quick scheme.  But in the principles of Buddhism that I try to apply here, I apply the principle of mindfulness, which is being aware of your moment to moment experience.  For instance, when we have the feeling of hunger we automatically want to run to the refrigerator.  The principle of mindfulness, which says be aware of what's going on, allows you to tolerate that feeling of hunger or tolerate that feeling of desire, so you are not always a slave to your desires.  That's what gets us into trouble, that's what puts us as part of a vicious cycle.  So our job, and this is a very ancient experience that's been going on for 2500 years, is to sit back and watch things come; watch our desire to move towards candy bars and move away and hate our bodies, and you can see that these movements are always going on, but when we can sit back and really observe them, this is a very interesting thing.  We find we are actually nourished by them, because when that feeling of hatred towards our thighs overwhelms us and you could really look at that feeling of hatred straight on, as opposed to then running off and saying I've got to go on the latest diet; or, look at that urge for the candy bar, and just really sit with it, and see that it's like a wave that comes and goes, you are actually nourished by these feelings.  So instead of being frightened by resentment or frightened by the love of your mothers chocolate cake, you can actually just sit back and appreciate it, even when these things are very difficult.  And it takes practice.

Claudia Cowan:  And even when you are craving these things?

Dr. Ronna Kabatznick:  Well, even - - craving is something that's like a wave; it builds up, and it comes to a big crescendo, and then it fades away.  And the more you practice mindfulness, and it is a practice, it's not some- thing that you just, you know, learn in two seconds.  You learn that you can survive.  And that is a really important thing.  You can survive that craving.

Claudia Cowan:  And it doesn't happen overnight, as we take a look at pictures of gorgeous dishes here that are looking very tempting right now even at this early morning hour.  Talk about some examples.  For instance, you have a craving for a candy bar at three in the afternoon.  You're at work; your at school.  You know you probably shouldn't do that.  You have dinner coming up in a few more hours.  What advice do you pass on, what examples do you have?

Dr. Ronna Kabatznick:  Mindfulness is not about the candy bar, mindfulness is about the drive that motivates you to the candy bar.  So if you really, you have that I've got to have it feeling, then the mindfulness approach asks you to sit back, well, what does that really feel like?  What are the sensations in my body?  What are the thoughts kind of pounding in my mind?  And as you get more familiar with them, you do not have to react to every sensation or every thought in your mind.  You go, Oh, that's just my mind pounding away for a candy bar this afternoon.  Oh, gee, that's just my desire to take 10 pounds off in 10 min- utes.  So the more familiar you become with the sensations in your body and the thoughts of your mind, and you don't identify with them as much, the more control and the more inner satisfaction you can have.  But, again, this takes practice.

Claudia Cowan:  It takes practice.  You talk about noble truths, and desires and attachments.  Do you recommend that people who read the book practice Buddhism in conjunction with part of their dieting?

Dr. Ronna Kabatznick:  Well, I certainly recommend they practice mindfulness, but mindfulness has a very inter- esting definition of what hunger is.   We always think of hunger as physiological, you know, we're hungry for a meal, we're thirsty for a drink.  Mindfulness says that when we suffer and we want something that's outside of ourselves, and we're lusting for something, that is a feeling of suffering.  And the mindfulness approach says let's take that desire to always be looking for things outside ourselves and bring it inside ourselves.  And that is satisfaction.  So, the idea of always looking for things outside ourselves is a vicious cycle, it's never, ever going to end.  The only thing that's ever going to satisfy ourselves and really take us off that vicious cycle or away from that kind of craziness that everybody feels about wanting to lose weight immediately is to be aware in the moment, and no matter what that is, hating our thighs or craving a candy bar, you can actually get nourishment from that.  And that's the most important thing.

Claudia Cowan:  That's probably the trick of the week for a lot of people...

Dr. Ronna Kabatznick:  It's the practice of the week.  The practice of a lifetime, I should say.

Claudia Cowan:  The book is called The Zen of Eating.  
Really no recipes in here, just talking about - -

Dr. Ronna Kabatznick:  No, that's not true.  There's
recipes - -

Claudia Cowan:  O.K.  There are recipes - -

Dr. Ronna Kabatznick:  Well, there's recipes for nour- ishing your heart.  As opposed to nourishing your body, The Zen of Eating is talking about really nourishing what you are hungry for, and what you are hungry for, according to the principles of mindfulness, is that everyday experi - - that every moment experience, no matter what it is.  No matter whether it's intense love, or intense hatred, it's awareness of that is what's going to nourish you.  So there are many, many recipes, but they are for nourishing the heart, not necessarily the mouth.

Claudia Cowan:  Something to keep in mind when you purchase the book.  It's The Zen of Eating and Dr. Ronna Kabatznick, thank you very much for joining us to talk about this. 

Dr. Ronna Kabatznick:  Thank you very much.  I hope it helped.

Claudia Cowan:  I'm sure it will help a lot of people.

[end transcript]

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last updated on Monday, July 19, 2010 at 9:03 P.M. P.S.T.

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