Mindful Eating: The Art & Science of Eating Better

Mindful Eating: The Art & Science of Eating Better

Updated 10/16/2023

Mindful eating is a meditative practice that has the ability to transform your relationship with food and eating. This simple (though not always easy) practice has done nothing less than revolutionize nutrition therapy when combined with evidence-based steps that lean your lifestyle toward health.

So, What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a meditative practice wherein you:

  1. Adopt a more chill mindset. We humans have the capacity to change our consciousness from our everyday distracted state to a calm, clear relaxed, and more open one. With this friendly mindset, you focus your attention inward and relax. Just experimenting with adopting a curious, expansive mindset before eating will take you far!
  2. Pay attention to what is happening moment by moment. One definition of mindfulness is meditation while…(whatever you are doing). So, you get curious about whatever you are doing – be it walking or eating – and explore the activity with all your senses. Slowing the activity down so that you can pay attention, and get fascinated enough that you lose yourself – you lose track of time – is mindful meditative absorption.
  3. There is a particular attitude of mindfulness called non-judgmental awareness. As you practice, you become aware of judgments like comparisons (this food is healthy therefore good, that food is less healthy, therefore not so good, for example). In mindfulness, you aim for a direct, sensory relationship with what you are eating or doing. Use all your senses.

Can you be Mindful without Meditation?

I’ve been a student of consciousness for several decades, and my understanding of mindfulness has evolved through that time. As a classicist, I used to think that mindfulness was a form of meditation, and if you weren’t meditating, it wasn’t mindfulness. Well, my perspective has changed and relaxed with the times!

There is now a collection of practices – kindness, paying attention on purpose (in the words of Jon Kabit-Zinn), and simply slowing down – that yes, can be considered mindfulness activities. Anything that invites the shift to a curious, compassionate mindset – is very helpful, and takes you another step on the mindfulness journey. Many practitioners learned these skills – of changing perspective, of cultivating compassion – through meditative practice.

The answer is yes, you can be mindful without being in meditation. Just practice as you can, and notice what it does to your life. If it helps, keep going.

Now, let’s apply it to eating. Then, check out my mini-course to take you deeper into the transformative practice of mindful eating.

Now, Apply it to Eating

In eating meditation, you slow down, breathe, relax, and enjoy your food. Just how might that unfold?
Here’s a few steps to get you going:

  • Make an intention to meditate while eating. Clear distractions (like TV, phones, internet).
  • Eat with all five senses. Enjoy the beauty of your plate and each food item on it. Take in the aroma.
  • Notice what thoughts and emotions come up for you, as you practice. Breathe, relax, and resist the temptation to ‘push away’ thoughts. Just note – there’s a thought. Feel it, honor it, release it.
  • Chew and savor. Can you chew each bite 10 times? 30?

Here is my Kripalu video on Mindful Eating.

Ready to Practice?

Check out How to Eat: My Mindful Eating Mini-course

mindful eating mini-course self-study

Getting Started

Do you need to eat like this evermore? Nope. Think of it as a practice – something you do regularly, and build like you might build a muscle. Like learning to breathe the yogic way, Mindful Eating has a tendency to expand on its own. So, you’ll find yourself tuning in naturally to more of what you eat – or finding a moment of awakening – whoa, what I am eating or impressive that I can fit all of that in my mouth!

When I teach mindful eating, at Kripalu or another retreat center, I encourage people to begin where they are.  So if you don’t currently do this practice, and you take a few mindful bites each day, terrific.

If you find that you are not practicing, chunk it down until it is ridiculously easy. So, can you take one mindful bite each day? How about one mindful bite on your day off? One mindful breath? If you don’t have the 5-10 seconds it takes to take one mindful breath, well…you are indeed a busy person, and there’s hope for you yet! Maybe a little support, like with my Mini-course. Try try again.

What Does the Science Say?

When I wrote my first book, Every Bite Is Divine, there really wasn’t much research explaining the mechanisms by which mindfulness eating meditation or yoga, does what they do. We just knew it worked. Times have changed!

Now, places like Harvard and Yale are summarizing the science of why mindful eating can be helpful for weight management (1). Cecilia Clementi of The Center for Mindful Eating compiled a comprehensive list of references on mindful eating (2) last year, and the science is evolving fast. A recent study by the psych department at Bowling Green did a nice exploration of several Mindful Eating measurement scales, exploring how a group of people with obesity’s positive and negative emotions relating to food differed (3). This type of study helps people like me provide a better assessment and a better menu of therapeutic options to those I serve.


If You Liked This…Check out:

Healthy Mindset: What, Why and How to Develop Yours

6 Benefits of Mindful Eating

Yoga’s East-West Moderation

Let’s Get Coherent

What Has Mindful Eating Done for You?

We all want to know! What keeps you practicing? What’s your biggest challenge? Share your tips and reports!


  1. Harvard Health Publishing – Harvard Medical School, Mindful eating may help with weight loss; July 6, 2011 https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/mindful-eating-may-help-with-weight-loss
  2.  Clementi, Cecilia – The Center for Mindful Eating; Mindful Eating References, Updated March 2017 
  3. Barnhart WR et al. Mindfulness facets differently relate to self-reported negative and positive emotional eating types in treatment-seeking adults with overweight/obesity. Eat Weight Disord. 2023. doi:10.1007/s40519-023-01578-.9. PMID: 37351755.

Tulsi: The Incomparable & Sacred Medicinal Herb

Tulsi: The Incomparable & Sacred Medicinal Herb

Love at first smell (and sight)

Absorbed in deep communion during a Plant Initiation Weekend, I was seeking to meet the spirit of Tulsi. A lovely spicy aroma began to envelop me, then I saw her. She was dancing. Green robes and gold swirled, moving and spinning a little like the ballerina in your first jewelry box. Tulsi danced in a shaft of gold-green light, clearly enjoying herself immensely.

She looked at me with a sparkle in her emerald eyes, and said “So, what shall it be today?”

I was smitten – enchanted – and remain so to this day. 

This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase through an affiliate link, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you. You can read my full disclaimer here


Tulsi is a powerful medicinal and culinary plant. Also known as Holy Basil or Sacred Basil, it has been used for centuries in Ayurveda, which is a traditional system of medicine that includes yoga therapy that originated in India. In the ancient language of Sanskrit, the word “Tulsi” means “the incomparable one”. 

This blog post will explore the integrative nature of Tulsi and how it can benefit your overall health and well-being.  We’ll review the integrative biochemical properties as well as an Ayurvedic health and metaphysical perspective.  Tulsi’s natural rhythms and abilities can synchronize with your own internal biological clocks, much like nature’s timekeepers, the solstice and equinox. Each of these aspects of The Incomparable One can help you to maintain a calm balance in our hectic modern world. 

Biochemical & Genetic Properties of Tulsi

Tulsi holds immense spiritual significance. It also possesses a range of powerful biochemical properties. Let’s delve into Tulsi’s composition and explore its health-enhancing properties.  Those properties create an impressive array of effects on your physiological systems.

Chemical & Genetic Composition of Tulsi

Sacred Basil contains numerous bioactive compounds that contribute to its therapeutic potential. It contains essential oils, flavonoids, tannins, phenolic compounds, and vitamins such as vitamin A and vitamin C. Its essential oil is a rich source of bioactive compounds, such as camphor, eucalyptol, eugenol, alpha-bisabolene, beta-bisabolene, and beta-caryophyllene. The complex composition of the plant taken in the whole form is what provides Tulsi’s unique range of benefits. The whole genome of Holy Basil is available, and sequence analysis suggests that compounds in the herb interact with genes for metabolite synthesis pathways in a variety of helpful ways. 

Tulsi the antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant & adaptogen

Holy Basil leaf extract has topical and systemic antimicrobial-antibacterial properties. Due to the great variety of phytonutrients (plant nutrients), it acts as an adaptogen, meaning that it works in a variety of ways in a variety of pathways to establish or maintain homeostasis (balance).

A key reason for Tulsi’s widespread use is its potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Flavonoids and phenolic phytocompounds have antioxidant activity, which helps combat oxidative stress and the damage caused by too many free radicals (oxygenated species naturally created by metabolism that the body clears – in part with an antioxidant-rich diet) in the body. By neutralizing excessive free radicals, Tulsi supports cellular health and so helps prevent various chronic diseases.

In addition to its antioxidant effects, Tulsi also exhibits anti-inflammatory properties. The active compounds (eugenol and linolenic acid, among others) in Tulsi help reduce inflammation by inhibiting the production of pro-inflammatory molecules in the body. This anti-inflammatory action can help calm symptoms associated with inflammatory conditions like arthritis and promote overall well-being.

Like other whole foods, Tulsi’s complex nutritional phytochemistry (plant-chemistry) creates a multifaceted profile of health-promoting properties. That’s what food-as-medicine is all about. 

Tulsi in Ayurveda

The Ayurvedic system recognizes the holistic nature of health and well-being.  Ayurveda and other holistic indigenous systems are the original integrative medicine – and the original food-as-medicine science. The elegant system of Ayurvedic nutrition relies on mindful seasonal whole-food eating and uses tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent & astringent) to balance the elements (earth, water, fire, air, and ether) within an individual.  Tulsi is valued for its medicinal properties to support the mind, body, and spirit in a food-as-medicine approach

Ayurvedic classification & actions

In Ayurveda, Tulsi is thought to promote longevity and rejuvenation, so it’s classified as a “rasayana” herb. It is also classified as a “tikta” herb, which means it has a bitter taste. It is considered “ushna” (hot) in potency. 

These qualities make Tulsi beneficial for balancing the Kapha and Vata doshas (Ayurvedic constitutions).  Doshas are the energies derived from elemental makeup responsible for an individual maintaining physiological, psychological, and whole-being balance. Tulsi is known to pacify (balance) excess Kapha and Vata. The plant is said to enhance the flow of prana, or life force energy, through the body, helping to promote physical and emotional well-being.

Metaphysics of Tulsi

Sacred Basil is believed to have metaphysical (beyond or outside material reality) properties and is a potent integrative medicinal herb. In Ayurveda Tulsi is considered to have a divine essence that can purify the mind, physical body, and soul.

Tulsi is a powerful tool for meditation as it helps to clear the mind and increase focus. It is associated with the element of fire, which represents transformation and purification in Ayurveda and other indigenous traditions.

Tulsi & Lakshmi

The plant is believed to have originated from the tears of the Hindu goddess Lakshmi and is an earthly embodiment of her divine energy of abundance, healing, beauty, and goodwill. It is often used in rituals to honor Lakshmi and to seek her blessings for wealth, prosperity, and good fortune. Sacred Basil is also associated with Lord Vishnu (the protector and defender of the universe in balance), who is believed to reside in the plant in the form of his consort, Lakshmi.

The story of Tulsi is closely linked to the important Hindu epic, Ramayana. In the story, Lakshmi is the wife of a demon named Jalandhar, who is eventually and dramatically defeated by Lord Vishnu. Lakshmi is heartbroken by the loss of her husband and curses Lord Vishnu. As a result of her curse, Vishnu is forced to take birth on earth as Lord Rama and undergo the trials and tribulations of mortal life. Later, Lakshmi and Lord Vishnu fall madly in love. So yes, it’s complicated but passionate. 

Here they are. 

Lakshmi and Lord Vishnu

Effects of Tulsi on Physiological Systems

Tulsi’s bioactive constituents have a profound yet subtle impact on various physiological systems, making it a hard-working and versatile herb with a wide range of potential health benefits. Remember that most whole herbs have a similarly complex action because of their complex nutritional makeup.

Tulsi system benefits

Tulsi in Integrative Medicine 

Holy Basil’s complex biochemistry as well as its metaphysical benefits make it a compelling adjunct to a number of Western integrative therapies, in addition to being a central herb in Ayurveda. 

Tulsi’s bioactive constituents have a profound yet subtle impact on various physiological systems, making it a hard-working and versatile herb with a wide range of potential health benefits. Remember that most whole herbs have a similarly complex action because of their complex nutritional makeup.

Tulsi & Immune Health

One of the key benefits of Tulsi is its ability to strengthen and regulate the immune system. This herb contains powerful bioactive compounds that enhance the body’s natural defense mechanisms. Tulsi is rich in antioxidants, such as flavonoids and phenols, which help to neutralize harmful free radicals and reduce oxidative stress in the body. By reducing oxidative stress, Tulsi supports a healthy immune response and helps to protect against infections and diseases.

Additionally, Tulsi possesses antimicrobial and antibacterial properties that can help fight against various pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi. It acts as a natural immunomodulator, regulating immune function and promoting a balanced immune response. Regular consumption of Tulsi can strengthen your immune system and possibly improve your body’s ability to ward off illnesses.

Anti-cancer Properties of Tulsi

Research suggests that Tulsi may also exhibit anti-cancer properties, making it a valuable herb in cancer prevention and management. Studies have shown that Tulsi extracts can inhibit the growth and spread of cancer cells, and even induce apoptosis (programmed cell death) in certain types of cancer. The active compounds found in Tulsi, such as eugenol, rosmarinic acid, and apigenin, possess potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects that can help protect cells from DNA damage and inhibit tumor formation.

Additionally, Tulsi has been found to enhance the effectiveness of conventional cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy, while also minimizing their side effects. Its natural compounds can help protect healthy cells from damage and improve overall treatment outcomes. While more research is needed, Tulsi shows promising potential as an adjunct therapy in cancer prevention and treatment.

Tulsi, Stress & Cortisol

In our fast-paced lives, stress and anxiety seem to be the price of the full and busy lives we often lead.  Fortunately, Sacred Basil can help us find balance and serenity amidst the chaos. Let’s delve into the use of Tulsi in managing stress and anxiety, exploring its impact on cortisol levels, weight management, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and blood pressure.

When we experience stress, our adrenal glands release cortisol, a hormone with far-reaching effects on many of your body’s systems. Elevated cortisol levels can contribute to various health challenges, including weight gain, hormonal imbalances like PCOS, and high blood pressure. Tulsi’s adaptogenic action assists in regulating cortisol levels, promoting a healthy stress response, and restoring neurological and metabolic equilibrium. 

Sacred Basil is also known to have an uplifting effect on mood and cognitive function. It can help improve focus, concentration, and mental clarity, making it an excellent herb for supporting healthful behavior change and overall mental well-being.

Additionally, Tulsi has shown promise in maintaining healthy blood pressure levels. Chronic stress and anxiety can contribute to elevated blood pressure, increasing the risk of cardiovascular problems. Tulsi’s adaptogenic properties aid in reducing stress and its impact on blood pressure, promoting a healthier cardiovascular system.

Beyond medicine, Sacred Basil also has benefits for skin, hair and overall beauty. You’ll find it in a range of beauty products. Given its myriad actions, it just makes sense. 

Awarenesses & contra-indications 

Tulsi is not to be taken by individuals who are pregnant or lactating.  If you plan to take it to address an imbalance, it’s important to work with a qualified nutritionist or health professional who can advise you on how to use Tulsi within a comprehensive protocol. Generally, starting with a small amount to test your tolerance and gradually increasing the dose minimizes gastrointestinal or other potential issues. It’s important to consult with a qualified healthcare professional before incorporating Tulsi into your routine, especially if you have any underlying health conditions (like diabetes or heart disease) or are taking medications.

How to take Tulsi

The best time to take Tulsi is before any health issues discussed in the article begin. Like Ayurveda itself, Tulsi is a fantastic preventive agent, helping you stay calm and balanced in a world that’s anything but.

Incorporate Tulsi into your daily routine by enjoying a cup of Tulsi tea or adding fresh Tulsi leaves to your meals. If you make tea, remember to steep the leaves for 5-10 minutes to make a potent cup. Tulsi is delicious with chicken, and you can add fresh leaves to salads, dressings, soups, and stews.  

You can also find Tulsi supplements or extracts available in various forms. A 4% Holy Basil extract has been used in dental health, sometimes in combination with other botanicals. 

Tulsi is often offered in a compound with other botanicals for a specific aim, be it weight management or cancer prevention. 

Holy Basil in supplement form (usually as a capsule) is most often used in a 500-900 mg daily dose and used for 1.5 to 3 months. You can find or make a tincture of Tulsi – meaning the leaves were soaked in a solvent like alcohol to extract the oils – and you take the liquid. Tinctures are often taken as drops under the tongue, but can also be added to water or made into an herbal cocktail.

Finally, the flower essence. A flower essence is an energy medicine often made by setting the plant in clean water in the sun for a period of time, then making dilutions with a solvent (brandy or vinegar) and water. Tulsi makes an especially lovely flower essence given its metaphysical profile.

We use flower essences in our meditative Plant Initiation Weekends.

Examples of Tulsi Products

Here are a few examples of products from a good manufacturer that a qualified nutritionist might suggest you try for either daily use or to address an imbalance. These products are from my Emerson/Fullscript supplement formulary (where you always get 25% off & free shipping with over $49). 

Your Next Steps

Tulsi, also known as Holy Basil, clearly encompasses a wide array of metaphysical, biochemical, Ayurvedic, and healing properties that make it a truly remarkable herb. From its profound spiritual symbolism to its scientifically substantiated benefits, Tulsi has captured the attention of health enthusiasts worldwide. 

So, the real question now is – how are you going to use it? 

As you reflect upon Tulsi’s metaphysical, biochemical, Ayurvedic, and healing properties, remember its profound value as a flexible holistic herb. It prompts us to slow down, reconnect with nature, and nurture ourselves on multiple levels. I hope Tulsi guides you in the pursuit of wellness, encouraging you to honor your body, nourish your mind, and cultivate a deeper sense of harmony in your lives.

Plant Initiation Weekends

Sources for this post

Upadhyay AK, Chacko AR, Gandhimathi A, Ghosh P, Harini K, et al. Genome sequencing of herb Tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum) unravels key genes behind its strong medicinal properties. BMC Plant Biol. 2015 Aug 28;15:212. doi: 10.1186/s12870-015-0562-x. PMID: 26315624; PMCID: PMC4552454.

Hasan MR, Alotaibi BS, Althafar ZM, Mujamammi AH, Jameela J. An Update on the Therapeutic Anticancer Potential of Ocimum sanctum L.: “Elixir of Life”. Molecules. 2023 Jan 25;28(3):1193. doi: 10.3390/molecules28031193. PMID: 36770859; PMCID: PMC9919305.

Cohen MM. Tulsi – Ocimum sanctum: A herb for all reasons. J Ayurveda Integr Med. 2014 Oct-Dec;5(4):251-9. doi: 10.4103/0975-9476.146554. PMID: 25624701; PMCID: PMC4296439.

Healthy Mindset: What, Why and How to Develop Yours

Healthy Mindset: What, Why and How to Develop Yours

My Healthy Mindset Wake-up

I was recently reading my weekly horoscope (yep, I find it helpful), which said to the effect: out with the old, in with the new.

It’s been a challenging few years, and I know I haven’t had the healthiest mindset. So I was ready for ‘out with the old’; a list sprung to mind: isolation, too much TV, too little movement and a heavier starchier diet than I know serves me. 

But what, I wondered, was the new? What is the affirmative vision for myself, my life and my health now? I was pretty close to stumped. This, my friends, can be an indicator of the need for an overhaul.

Heading into my 60’s, I’m changing for the better and….the different. Metabolic issues are knocking, mental health is usually good but…I need more tenderness of care, and to be more gentle with myself.

Where to begin?

My Ayurvedic brothers and sisters say it all begins in the mind. I’ve been skipping the mindset exercise in every training I’ve taken these past couple of years…maybe it’s…


Mindset. I want a healthier mindset. 

Mindset & Mental Health

Health is a state of body and of mind (and spirit, energy and more). Mental health is much more than not having a condition like depression or anxiety. A healthy mindset is about being and feeling empowered in life, feeling and appreciating your full range of emotions, having the tools and the skill to manage stress well, and being able to deal with everyday ups and downs.

What is a Healthy Mindset?

A healthy mindset is having a flexible, realistic yet optimistic approach to life. It encompasses things like high self-esteem and self-approval or acceptance, and a willingness to learn from what unfolds in life – even your difficult and uncomfortable experiences. The essential ingredient of your healthy mindset is your thoughts. If you can learn and grow from your own thoughts, and change them, rather than being overly reactive and controlled by unhelpful thoughts, you have yourself a healthy mindset.

Cultivating a healthy mindset helps you to cope with stress and life’s challenges more effectively, so it supports helpful habits. A healthy mindset isn’t a destination or an achieved fixed-state of being. It is a journey; a practice. It is an evolving and ever-changing process you actively work at. It takes time and attention to recognize your areas of focus to develop a healthier mindset, and the process is imperfect, but if you are interested in leading an examined life, it’s very worth it. With time and imperfect effort, you can become a friend to yourself or even feel abiding self-love.

It happens – a lot!

Mindfulness & Healthy Mindset

Mindfulness is one approach (the one I use in my practice) to a healthy mindset. It is a practice that can help you see things as they are, not as you imagine them to be, or as you fear they might become. It’s about being fully present and aware of the moment, moment by moment, without judgment. A person with a healthy, or growth mindset believes their own characteristics like intelligence are not fixed but can change with attention and practice.

The first step towards developing a growth mindset is becoming aware of your current beliefs. Once you become aware of your thoughts and underlying beliefs, you can work on changing thoughts and characteristics of yourself that are not so helpful.

Why Having a Healthy Mindset Matters

A healthy mindset has been shown to improve health including making healthy foods more appealing. It can help you to feel more in control and less stressed in daily life. When you feel able to have more in control (or as though you are participating in what the heck is happening), it’s easier to be wise about solutions to problems (rather than waiting and hoping for someone else to step in, or a miracle). We all know that miracles happen all the time, but creating your own is empowering, and just might make miracles more likely.

A growth mindset can help you to see the best in others, have more realistic expectations of yourself, and see setbacks and difficulties as opportunities to grow and learn. When you have realistic expectations of yourself, you are less likely to become stressed or anxious when you make mistakes or don’t meet your own impossibly high standards. This in turn makes you more likely to be kinder to yourself and help you avoid self-sabotage or blaming others for your problems.

Sounds easy, right? Well, not so much. It’s a practice. So, when you begin, you may not be very good at it. Keep practicing. You’ll get better at it.

We’re all imperfect beings. We all make mistakes – sometimes doozies. Learning from our mistakes while understanding that making mistakes is a natural part of life is part of having a healthy mindset.


Annie KAy mindful transformation

What the Yogis Say: Compassion & Witness

Yoga and Ayurveda have a lot to say about mindset. Yoga philosophy and psychology focus on your inner landscape, so naturally address mindset. Recent science suggests that a yoga mindset is a very healthy mindset in today’s world. This quote by Swami Kripalu is a beautiful summary of a yoga mindset.

“The highest spiritual practice,” said Swami Kripalu, “is self-observation without judgement.”

Yoga & Compassion 

Mindfulness, which is paying attention moment by moment, can help you to relax and enjoy what’s happening right now. Taking the bit of extra time that mindfulness requires helps you take kinder, more thoughtful, less reactive action. It slows you down!

When you slow down, relax and tune into what is happening around you, it’s easy to appreciate smells, colors, sounds, tastes and textures of the world around you. You’ll likely enjoy the experience more than if you rush through it, be it having a meal or going through your usual morning routine.

Two guiding principles drawn from the Yoga Sutras, a foundational philosophical text of yoga, are non-violence (Ahimsa, in the ancient language of Sanskrit) and contentment (Santosa). The practice of non-violence or compassion is central to a yogic lifestyle. So, the practitioner pays attention to their own thoughts and choices, and aims to become more and more compassionate with themselves and others over time. Contentment is another tenet of yoga practice – again, not a destination or something you finally achieve, but an ongoing practice happening right now. You can cultivate contentment now. It’s a practice. You get better at it.

Yoga & Witness Consciousness

Do you find it hard to pause in the moment – when you get triggered – before responding impulsively?

Along with compassion, being able to ‘step back’ or take a pause – especially when you get poked or irritated – is called ‘accessing the witness’. When you mentally step back, pause and consider the situation from a broader, less judgemental perspective  – you actually change your consciousness. You access witness consciousness.

As you practice non-judgemental awareness, it gets easier to understand that you are doing the best you can with imperfect information, and that much of what you do is rational – maybe even admirable. Non-judgemental awareness also allows you to experiment with a different response than your emotional self might. Being mindful can help you recognize when you’re feeling overwhelmed and in need of support.

Setting Intention

With regard to mindset, intention is getting clear on what you are seeking. I often ask people what they are looking to cultivate in life from the habit we’re experimenting with…be it eating well or moving more or practicing healthful habits. Intention speaks to the why – the personal why that motivates your behavior.

Here are a couple of my past writings on setting your intention, and preparing to set intention by letting go of what no longer works.

Here, also, is a meditation practice that can be very helpful in shifting your mindset. It’s called loving-kindness (metta) meditation. Enjoy.

Loving Kindness (Metta) Meditation 

Loving Kindness (Metta) meditation is a tool that can help you, over time, adopt a healthy mindset toward yourself and others. 

In loving kindness meditation, we wish ourselves well, several times until we feel it. Then, we expand our bubble of loving kindness to someone we love who could use it – a sick relative, a struggling friend. You can continue to expand, to your community, country, world itself, then back to you. Here is an easy version of a loving kindness meditation, from my friend and colleague, Stephen Cope (Kavi). 

May I be happy,

May I be healthy 

and May I stand in the light of my own true self.

You might begin this meditation for 5 minutes daily, and slowly increase it to at least 10 minutes most days. Twenty is even better!

Here is an episode of Quickeners, a podcast I host, on Metta Meditation. 


Manifestation: Breath, Believe, Receive

Setting your intention, then adopting an experimental mindset of noticing and adjusting is a mindful approach to making change easier.  Breathing and relaxation exercises, meditation, and visualization can all help keep you in the flow of helpful shifts. These practices can also help to keep you grounded in the present moment.

In this process, it’s important to think in terms of learning when things don’t go as planned. Rather than give up, you compassionately examine what happened, and think about how to overcome the obstacle that made the practice too hard to do. There is not failure, just lessons.

Focused attention and helpful affirmations can also support mindset. Imagining a vision of what your future might look like is a great way to keep you motivated. When you feel discouraged or frustrated by setbacks along the way, access your witness consciousness and remind yourself that you’re a human in an imperfect world that is progressing. Whatever you need to do – a glass of water, or saying to yourself “that happened” – to clear and get back to practice. If you can do that, I can guarantee you transformation.

It’s All Happening

Mindfulness helps you enjoy your unique journey, rather than constantly worrying about your destination. It can help you to be less attached to outcomes, no matter how important they are to you. It can help you to let go of expectations, and see things more as they are, rather than as you imagine them to be or as you fear they might become.

Most importantly, mindfulness meditation helps you to appreciate the moment you are in, and the one unique wacky painful beautiful life you have. It can help you to be more fully present in your everyday life and for those you love. It’s a tool to help let go of the past and of worries about the future. It can help you to see the beauty and magic in the world around you, and realize that events and experiences are happening in such a way as to benefit your spiritual progress, even if it doesn’t seem so in this moment.

Namaste. Keep going.

What is a healthy mindset for you? 

What helps you notice and shift, reset or keep a healthful mindset? 

We want to know – send us a comment! 




Healing Flow: Yoga Therapy for Nutrition-Related Conditions 

Healing Flow: Yoga Therapy for Nutrition-Related Conditions 

Yoga therapy has come a long way in the past several decades – I should know – I’ve been writing and teaching it for over 25 years! As a dietitian, my favorite application is to help people with nutrition-related conditions to feel better, make better choices, be in the flow of practice not perfection (for example, practicing non-attachment to the latest weight-loss miracle flooding social media, or a yearning to be a size you last were as a child).

You can break free of harmful mindsets, come into better alignment with a medically-indicated diet, and just be a little more content with yourself and your life through working with a yoga therapist. This article gives you an overview of yoga therapy and the nutrition-related conditions where science and practice suggests it can be helpful. May you find a nugget or two. – Annie 

In 1993 I went to my very first yoga class at a gym in Cambridge, MA. My days were desk-bound, working at the Department of Public Health (DPH) in Boston directing the state’s Osteoporosis Prevention Program. That program was a national model of how to prevent a chronic condition by influencing a group when it matters – for girls, the late teen years and women during menopause and beyond.

Recently I’d had a painful romantic breakup, and was on my own for the first time ever. I was a lapsed Catholic, seeking spirit and community. I fell hard for both the yoga class and later, the instructor. The instructor is a different story for another day.

Nearly thirty years and a fistful of teaching certifications later, I remain a fan of what yoga skillfully delivered can do for those who struggle with nutrition-related medical issues. Happily, the science and our understanding of yoga and its nature-based sister science of Ayurveda are expanding rapidly.

Those early life experiments showed me that specific types of yoga done in particular ways, mindful eating and other meditative and breathing exercises – can lead to predictable outcomes –  a lot like what the early yogis described. It can be helpful for those interested in taking an interior route to the dynamic rebalance of life, and particularly when life gets juicy – healing from discomfort of body or mind. Conditions resulting from lifestyle choices (imperfect diet, inadequate movement, other unhelpful choices) are a natural target of yoga therapy. 

It’s time to go deeper. 

There’s an opportunity for the world of clinical nutrition to use yoga as more than a fitness option, but as an adjunct skill for integrated change, physical rebalance and overall well-being. Yoga is being skillfully tailored to a great variety of medical and life conditions, and clinical nutrition practice can benefit from those advances. If you are a dietitian or clinical nutritionist, you may well be already using yogic understanding in your practice.  

What is Yoga Therapy?

Yoga is more than poses and it’s different from calisthenics. It is a comprehensive psycho-spiritual-physiologic & philosophical system that involves improving relationships – with yourself, with others, and with the world itself. 

Yoga movement is mindful, and integrates with the rhythm of your breathing while being lovingly observed by your attentive, focused mind.  All three – body, breath, mental focus – are engaged in order for it to be yoga. So, your whole being – your body, energy system (as breath and attention), and your mind are all dancing together. That’s union, one literal translation of the word yoga. 

In addition to movement and postures (Asana in Sanskrit, an ancient language of India) yoga has a philosophical framework. An overview is described in a text called the Yoga Sutras, written by the sage Patanjali, and featuring the eight limbs of yoga practice. There are many many ancient texts describing different aspects of yoga and Ayurveda, but the Yoga Sutra is an excellent place to begin.  

Yoga philosophy is less moral overlay, and more an experiential observational science. That is, practitioners noticed that if you do yoga in this way by the guidelines outlined in the Yoga Sutra, over time predictable things happen (the final limb of yoga is called Samadhi, meaning absorption, bliss or enlightenment). 

Here is a brief description of the eight limbed path of yoga according to Patanjali. I’ve included additional detail of the first two limbs, which are wonderful flexible guides to lifestyle choices. Yoga therapy for nutrition-related conditions begins with these first two limbs.


Patanjali’s eight-limbed path of yoga:

1) Universal restraints (Yamas):

…controls or restraints of attitude or behavior, primarily in community or relationship. These include:

  • Non-violence, compassion: (Ahimsa)
  • Truthfulness: (Satya)
  • Non-stealing: (Asteya)
  • Chastity or control of the life force: (Brahmacharya)
  • Greedlessness or charity: (Aparigraha)

2) Observances (Niyamas):

…awarenesses and attitudes primarily concerned with the individual. These include:

  • Purity, cleanliness: (Saucha)
  • Contentment: (Santosa)
  • Asceticism, simplicity, passion: (Tapas)
  • Self-study, self-inquiry, philosophical study: (Svadhyaya)
  • Devotion to God (Isvara Pranidhana)

The remaining limbs of yoga according to Patanjali are:

3) Postures (Asana):

…literally “seat” and describes the physical practice of yoga postures.

4)  Rhythmic control of energy flow (Pranayama):

Directing energy and breath.

5)  Freedom from senses (Pratyahara):

…inward focusing and withdrawal of the senses.

6)  Concentration (Dharana):

focused concentration.

7)  Meditation (Dhyana):

…adopting a focused yet expansive consciousness.

8)  Super-consciousness (Samadhi):

…absorption into or union with bliss consciousness or enlightenment. 

Yoga practice is integrative by nature. It is a whole-life practice encompassing physical, mental, energetic, soul and spiritual aspects of life. So, it provides a personal integrated context for self-examination of any problem in life. A weekly general yoga class, skillfully taught, and a brief daily morning movement and meditation practice most mornings can provide nearly anyone with resilience benefits. Yoga therapy is distinct in several key ways. 

Yoga therapy is the use of evidence-based yoga for a specific health aim.

Examples include to help you change eating habits to reflect a recent medical diagnosis, increase movement safely after an injury, or help to manage your inflammatory back pain. There is a growing collection of literature on both the mechanisms of how yoga does what it does, and also the use of yoga for particular medical or life conditions. So, the yoga therapist today uses yoga that draws from both the thousands of years of wisdom tradition, and current Western science to inform her work. 

Can taking a well-taught weekly yoga class give you a therapeutic benefit? Absolutely! If you can’t find an accessible general class, or if you need more personal adaptation there is personal yoga therapy. 

So, a yoga therapist is operating more clinically – more specifically – and more personally than your average weekly yoga class teacher. A yoga therapist may prescribe collections of postures, breathing exercises, and relaxation techniques to suit your personal health and medical needs. Yoga comprises a wide range of mind/body practices, from postural and breathing exercises to deep relaxation and meditation. Yoga therapy tailors these practices and exercises to your medical and life needs.

How Do Diet and Yoga Mix? 

The yoga-diet interface comes straight from the first two limbs of yoga described in the Yoga Sutras; restraints (Yamas) and observances (Niyamas). These two limbs provide a flexible guideline for living. Those who were raised in almost any spiritual tradition will find these tenets hauntingly familiar. 

Let’s take non-violence or compassion (Ahimsa), the first restraint (Yama), and apply it to diet. Because non-violence with regard to food and eating means something a little different to each of us, your answer to what it means takes a bit of introspection. Here’s an exercise to help you do that. 

Self-compassion (Ahimsa) Self-inquiry 

You’ll need a quiet place to sit or lie down, where you won’t be disturbed for about ten minutes and something to write with and on, like pencil and paper. 

Make your space comfortable (with a blanket or cushions), maybe light a candle or smudge the space with sage and/or put on some soft music. Take a minute to settle into this comfy spot you’ve made. Breathe and relax. Take a moment to think about your own food choices as well as your thoughts about your food choices. 

Breathe and relax. 

Can you become aware of how you are compassionate with yourself in terms of both your choices, and what you think about your choices? Can you become aware of how you are compassionate  – how you treat yourself well – with food and how you view your food choices & their results – on your body, your health, your family? 

Take a few moments to note down the ways you are compassionate with yourself. How do you treat yourself with love, peace, kindness with regard to food and how you think about food? 

Breathe and relax. Now, take a moment to think about the ways you are not so compassionate with your food choices and how you view them. 

Breathe and relax. 

Please know that we by nature have a certain amount of storminess within. It’s normal. We think and do things that seem self-destructive. Do you under-eat or overeat often, deny your body’s messages for food or water, or stress eat rather than integrate the inevitable strong emotions that pop up in your life? Do you listen to the latest media on what, when or how to eat rather than the messages of your own body? How much time do you spend wishing your body were different? Breathe and relax. Take your time and please hold yourself kindly as you examine these uncomfortable possibilities. 

Take a few moments to write about what came to you. Remember there is no need to fix things – in fact – jumping in to fix things may interfere with taking in the lessons, and fully integrating the experience – instead, notice, breath, relax, and feel. Take note of how your body feels as you unpack your awareness. 

Each of the restraints (Yamas) and observances (Niyamas) can be explored in this way. One exercise I share with students is to practice each of the yamas and niyamas fully for a day, with the intention of finding out what each of them mean for you. 

The flexibility of a concept like non-violence or compassion allows for each practitioner to find relevance, as non-violence – in diet, for example – for some means forgoing all animal foods (following a vegan diet) – while for others it means non-restrictive eating. 

Is There a Yoga Diet?

Why, yes there is. There is a concept in yoga that focuses on qualities or characteristics (Gunas). There are three characteristics, including purity-clarity (Sattva), mobility-activity (Rajas) and restraining-obstructive (Tamas). 

Different foods have these characteristics, and the yogis suggest that we take a primarily pure-clear (Sattvic) diet, which is a light diet rich in vegetables, appropriate whole grains and spices, and avoid too many heavy (Tamasic) foods, which are energy rich and devoid of nutrients or life. 

What is Ayurveda?

Ayurveda is often called a sister science of yoga, and is its medical and healing system. It is as complex as Western nutritional medicine, so a brief paragraph does not do it justice. I think of Ayurveda as the original mind-body-spirit integrated medicine developed thousands of years ago. Its foundational principles describe an elegant nature-based mind-body-spirit integrated system that makes intuitive sense.

Ayurveda honors the rhythms of nature, the earth and life. Your schedule of sleeping and rising, eating, moving and even learning have a peak rhythm based on who you are, where you live, the season, and time of day.

How Does Ayurveda Fit Into Yoga Therapy? 

A driving principle in Ayurveda is to find balance of the five elements (earth, water, fire, air and ether) of which all matter is composed. So, an Ayurvedic diet uses the taste, temperature and characteristics of food that reveal a dominant element to aid in rebalancing. Generally, like increases like (ex, spicy food on a warm day will make you even warmer) and opposites balance (cool food on a hot day will cool you off). 

Western clinical science has been finding, over the past decade or two, that much of what Ayurvedic practitioners have suggested for thousands of years actually has Western scientific validity. The sorting, testing, validating and adapting process of Ayurveda to our Western modern life is going on right now.

How can Yoga Therapy benefit Nutrition-related Conditions?

With recent scientific advances into nutritional psychiatry, digestive health and genetics, it seems every health condition is a nutrition-related condition. Certainly the chronic conditions – those that take years to develop – are prime targets for lifestyle medicine, including yoga therapy. What you eat profoundly impacts every aspect of your life. 

That said, there are some particular life events and medical conditions where blending yoga with integrative clinical nutrition have been shown to be especially helpful. 

Health conditions that respond to nutrition and to yoga therapy: 

Digestive Health:

Every gut imbalance is a mind-body issue. In Ayurveda, the first thing you might do to improve digestion is to eat in a calm and pleasant environment. Eating mindfully, chewing adequately, moving and breathing to support digestion have been only recently considered in modern nutrition yet can transform your digestion. Using these yogic principles along with Western integrative protocols and medically indicated diets can rebalance many a digestive system out of whack. 

Mindful eating is a meditative practice that has done nothing less than transform the way I am many integrative nutritionists do what we do. If you’re interested in beginning this profound eating practice (for those who want to eat well…but don’t), I’ve developed a mini-course to help you get started. 

How to eat: Mindful Eating Mini-course

Emotional Eating and Eating Disorders:

Stress, anxiety and wildly unhealthful Western beauty ideals have created an epidemic of body self-hatred and deeply disordered eating patterns in women and men of all ages. Diet culture is everywhere and hard to escape. The truth is that you have a natural weight and shape, and beauty comes in every shape, size, color, age and variety. Your intrinsic value as a human is NOT connected to your body size. Every person has value. Learning to manage stress through life rather than food, and learning how to feed, and how to love your healthy body as it is can help you heal these deeply destructive, and at times downright deadly issues. 

Metabolic Health:

Diabetes, Heart Disease, and other ‘Syndrome X’ conditions. Yoga therapy can help you move safely if you don’t move very much. It helps cultivate a kind and gentle mindset toward stress and your own body. It can help you open your heart and it supports realistic behavior change. It helps reduce stress. Combining yoga, and mindful meditation with Western medically indicated diets and strategies for these “X” conditions can be wildly successful. I’ve seen it – over and over and over again. 

Much of my writing and teaching over the past couple decades have focused on how to heal body and mind from metabolic issues combined with emotional eating. My first book, Every Bite Is Divine, focuses on my own struggle with weight and eating, and is a foundational text for much of the work I do. 

Inflammatory Pain:

Our Western diet is creates lots of inflammation. Inflammation combined with stress have made pain and inflammatory conditions like osteoporosis, arthritis and even complex conditions like fibromyalgia yet another epidemic largely preventable. My beautiful colleague Kathie Swift and I have been working together on integrating movement, nutrition and imagination – the mindset around pain – into a collection called Freedom from Pain. To see people come to us hurting, and leaving with a smile – is so satisfying! 


The inflammation, fear and treatments of cancer can be really hard on the body, and the level of uncertainty this particular diagnosis brings can be nearly unbearable. Yoga to the rescue. I have a friend-colleague who has developed a program combining nutrition and yoga therapy for cancer diagnoses. 

Check it out. 


Nutrition and movement are central to a healthy aging process, but it’s not easy. Keeping an eye on injury prevention, learning to work at your own pace and to create a way of eating that truly supports the increased nutrient demand (and waning energy needs) of aging is tricky. But, we’re doing it every day.  


If there’s one time in a woman’s life where she eats well and learns to use the incredible power of her own breath and specific gentle movement to address her well-being, it’s while she is growing a new human inside. These are a natural combination of yoga and nutrition counseling and support. 

This is really just the beginning of what a thoughtfully designed therapeutic yoga program can do. For each of these therapeutic areas, there are yoga therapists, and well-trained integrative licensed nutritionists that can help you navigate lifelong health and well-being.  

If you or someone you love is interested in working in this with way, check out Truly Nourished, a high-impact personal program that blends nutrition clinical science with the wisdom of yoga and meditation. 

6 Benefits of Mindful Eating

6 Benefits of Mindful Eating

Updated 10/12/2023

Mindful eating – using the tenets of mindfulness meditation while eating, has done nothing less than transform mind-body nutrition. Practitioners everywhere are incorporating it because it helps our clients change what they eat. Simple as that!

What is Mindful Eating?

Mindful eating is a type of meditation wherein you focus your attention on the sensory and other aspects of eating with an attitude of non-judgmental awareness. In essence, you slow down, eat with all five senses and stay curious about the process, about the food, and about your own relationship with food.

When I work with an individual, I almost always combine clear steps to bring food and lifestyle into balance (the what of lifestyle) with mindfulness (the how of lifestyle).

Since I’ve become a student of mindful eating myself, I enjoy my food more, often eat less, and am more satisfied. It takes longer to eat, (and to do the dishes as I really slow down), but I’m happier. Thich Nhat Hanh (who said he’s happier when he washes this teapot as though it were the baby Buddha or Jesus) is right.

The Science

The research community agrees that mindful eating is an effective tool. It can help promote a healthy natural weight (1) and curb destructive emotional eating (2). While the science is still young, it is evolving quickly – we are learning more about it all the time.

For emotional eating, mindful eating has been found to be most effective when combined with other behavior change techniques like coaching with a qualified nutrition professional. For effective weight management, again, mindful eating is most effective when it is done within a more comprehensive nutrition program and delivered by a well-trained professional.


6 Benefits of Practicing Mindful Eating

  1. Enjoying your food – First off, when people slow things down – and eating is a dramatic example – they tend to taste and enjoy their food more. It might seem ironic, but eating slowly is more interesting and enjoyable, once you get the hang of it.
  2. Epigenetic benefits – Epige-what? Epigenetics is the impact that choices have on gene expression. When you choose to eat a plant-based diet or move your body, you actually impact your gene expression, which in turn builds a more resilient future for you. It’s some of the biggest news in lifestyle medicine now.
  3. Neurobiology benefits – Mindfulness manages stress. When you slow down and breathe – particularly when you extend your exhale – you activate the whole rest-and-recover side of your nervous system. That not only manages stress but can improve digestion.
  4. Turn down the external messages on what and how much to eat. Face it, modern life is filled with messages from the media – commercials for fast food, billboards – it’s just everywhere. We are told we need to be eating basically all the time. It’s hard to ignore, but mindfulness can help you un-hook from those messages. That helps you to begin to find your own way.
  5. Tune in to your internal guidance system – instead of responding to cues from the outside, mindful eating gets you more in-tune with your internal guidance system – to if you are actually hungry, and when you are satisfied.
  6. Improve your relationship with what you eat. Eating is a two-way conversation. Mindfulness is an excellent way to tune in to the conversation. Beginning a mindful eating practice can bring up some uncomfortable aspects of your relationship with food. But, if you stay with it, keep your heart open as best you can, and practice compassionate self-observation, it can be a pathway to profound peace and self-compassion. 


An Awareness and Caution

One caveat – this practice can uncouple eating and satiety. It can help you eat less, but it can also help you undercut your nutritional well-being if your emotional eating has evolved into a more serious condition like an eating disorder. This is not a practice to help you stop eating or to eat less than your body actually needs. But, it can be misused in this way. Don’t do it – it won’t end well for you. You can avoid that risk – here’s how.

In addition to mindfulness, use nutrition guidelines for adequacy – adequate protein and energy needs – for your body. For example, the National Academy of Medicine (NAM, formerly the IOM), a non-governmental nonprofit affiliated with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which among other things tracks the research on dietary needs and creates recommendations, suggests that most humans need about 50 gm of protein to be reasonably healthy. I’ve found that a reasonable screen – is a starting place, for someone. A qualified nutritionist can help ensure that you are getting the nutrition you need to be who you want to be – strong, energetic, and healthy.

So How Do I Start?

Here is a free tip sheet to help you use mindful eating through the holidays.

Here’s another post:  Mindful Eating: The Art & Science of Eating Better 

Ready to practice? Check out my Mindful Eating Mini-course: How to Eat. Do it on your own, or bring me in to help. 


  1. O’Reilly GA, et al., Mindfulness-Based Interventions for Obesity-Related Eating Behaviors: A Literature Review, Obesity Reviews, Published online 2014 Mar 18. doi: 10.1111/obr.12156
  2. Katterman, Shawn, et. al., Mindfulness meditation as an intervention for binge eating, emotional eating, and weight loss: A systematic review, ScienceDirect – Eating Behaviors, Volume 15, Issue 2, April 2014, Pages 197-204, doi: 10.1016/j.eatbeh.2014.01.005

Ready to Practice?

Check out ‘How to Eat’: Mindful Eating Mini-course

mindful eating mini-course self-study