As we approach the time of year when the tastes and smells of gingerbread cookies and candy canes are more alluring than a more practical visit to the gym for a workout, Ahwatukee Foothills resident Dawn Rutledge is coaching a group of adults through a mindful-eating workshop that will help them make healthy choices this holiday season.
The eight-week program, called “Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat” is based on the “Am I Hungry?” mindful eating program developed by Ahwatukee Foothills resident and author Dr. Michelle May.
“We’re working with participants to help them understand what mindful and intuitive eating is so that they can break free of the eat, repent, eat cycle,” Rutledge said. “Oftentimes we find that the people who come to us have tried numerous diets and they’re not succeeding because diets don’t work.”
Rutledge’s program takes a non-diet approach that helps people understand their weight and eating cycles.
“When people feel the urge to eat we ask them to ask themselves ‘Am I hungry?,’” she said.
“Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat” has 11 participants, and some have already seen signs of improvement.
“One woman put her scale away, which is great because she’s been weighing herself four or five times per day,” Rutledge said. “It’s good because she’s focusing on what she’s eating and not what her scale says.”
According to Rutledge, eating mindfully is similar to how people ate when they were too young to make their own decisions about when it was time to eat.
“If you think back to when we were toddlers we innately followed our eating cycle,” she said. “We intuitively knew when we were hungry, asked for food, and then moved on.”
Over time, Rutledge believes that people disconnect from their bodies and knowing what hunger really is. The workshop is about helping people re-discover the true nature of hunger.
“Some participants say that they’re never hungry because they are constantly eating,” she said. “Others are always hungry, which means that there is something else driving their hunger that they’re identifying as hunger, but is not.”
Rutledge also helps program participants develop a hunger scale so that they can find where they are on the scale and plan accordingly. She also discourages preventative eating.
“A lot of times we eat preventively – you’ll eat before a big meeting because you won’t be able to eat for the next few hours,” she said. “The body stores that as fat because it wasn’t ready for food.”
So far, Rutledge has found the experience of sharing better eating practices rewarding.
“I was the former owner of the Ahwatukee Foothills location of Curves and I’m also a certified personal trainer,” she said. “I’ve just always had a passion for helping people take charge of their health.”
Although it is too late to join Rutledge’s current “Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat,” program, she plans on holding more sessions next year. For more information on other programs taking place throughout Phoenix, visit www.amihungry.com.