Mindful Eating with Flourish CEO Claire Siegel

We’re going to be talking about mindful eating!

My name is Claire Siegel I am the CEO and founder of Flourish which I’m super excited to share with you. I am a registered dietitian whose mission in life is to help women stop dieting and to create an approach to health that enhances their life and that they can sustain throughout their lives.

Growing up I was a slightly larger child and I have vivid memories of getting made fun of on the school bus. My mother did not know what to do with me and so she put me on Weight Watchers. It wasn’t until I had my kind of health crisis in 2017 that I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and realized that health is a lot more than the number on the scale. it’s more than just what we eat and how much we exercise there’s a mental component and a physical component and you know health is something that we need to zoom out kind of to understand and appreciate fully. 

I started my company Flourish to help women create a truly sustainable approach to health free from the rigidity of diets that quite often fail them.

I read a study indicating that women will start a new diet twice a year but it will only last about four and a half weeks and it even indicated that over a lifetime the average woman will start a new diet 130 times. What exactly is it that makes sustaining a diet so difficult in your opinion? 

Research shows that there are a lot of factors that make diets unsustainable and what frustrates me the most about diets for women is the way that women internalize this failure and blame themselves. I hear women all the time talking about having a lack of self-control or kind of this

insufficient willpower when in reality it is the diet to blame. 

We’ll assume that the women we’re talking about here are going on diets explicitly to lose weight. W often hear weight loss boil down very simply to calories in and calories out. Eat less than you burn. While that is true it’s not the entire picture. So your body weight is regulated by a very complex neural hormonal system that’s impacted by many factors including your genetics your environment your behaviors and more. when you lose weight quickly through a diet that system that complex neurohormonal system has checks in place to reverse that weight loss.

Our bodies have these checks in place to return us to our original weight or quite often actually a slightly higher weight than where we started and that’s really because our bodies like it when calories in equals calories out. So when you extremely tip that balance, by

either eating less much less or exercising more like a lot more, your body starts to fight back

by slowing your metabolic rate (called adaptive thermogenesis).

There are also hormonal factors at play and I want to focus on two main ones. They’re called leptin and ghrelin.

Let’s talk about what happens with leptin and ghrelin in response to a decrease in calories. Leptin is a hormone that’s released by your fat cells and when leptin is released you feel satisfied by the foods that you’re eating so in light of a caloric restriction your leptin levels will decrease. What happens is kind of the harder you diet the less satisfied you feel. Graylin is referred to as the hunger hormone. When you restrict your calories by dieting your ghrelin levels will increase so which increases your hunger levels. okay so if we think

When you’re on a diet first again your metabolic rate slows because of that adaptive thermogenesis. your leptin levels are down so what little food you are eating is actually satisfying you less and then your grayline levels are up so you’re feeling more hungry.

Dieting is stress on the body which is going to cause an increase in cortisol which will also

increase your carbohydrate cravings. All of this is happening in your body and then your mind is also at work to restore you to balance and you’ll find that by having an increase in kind of the intensity and number of food-related thoughts. The problem that I have is that women blame themselves for this rather than understanding that it’s the unsustainable approach to nutrition that caused it and your body is just doing its job in response.

We act based on our emotions not on our logic and I think part of that is because we are seeking short-term satisfaction rather than acting on the logic that will ultimately lead to long-term transformation. We can filter every diet through critical thinking.

When you see that before and after picture on your Instagram feed of someone who lost

a lot of weight in a short amount of time don’t immediately hand over your credit card thinking “oh this time is going to be different for me” Instead here are questions to ask yourself when you see these ads:

What did this person do to achieve those results?

Has this person maintained those results?

Did they lose 20 pounds in four weeks – how?

What happens next?

What will they have to do to maintain those results?

They’re all meal-prepping every single meal, working out six days a week and tracking their macros. Do you want to do that? Ask yourself “Am I willing to go to those lengths and do those actions align with my values? Even if you did all the same things it doesn’t necessarily mean that you would experience the same results. I encourage you to like practice body autonomy and do whatever it is that you want with your body but if you want it to last, you need to ask yourself “can I do this? ”

We have started to see more of a trend of is this concept of mindful eating. Psychology Today defines mindfulness as a state of active open attention to the present. the state is described as observing one’s thoughts and feelings without judging them as good or bad. so if we apply this concept of mindfulness to eating we can think of it as a state of having active open attention to the present action of eating.

If mindful eating is a big departure from how you eat right now I would encourage you to start small. Start with one mindful snack a day. What that may look like is taking a highly intentional 3 p.m snack You’re very conscious and present in that experience you’re looking at the food you may smell the food. Being very intentional. You’ll find like in the experience of mindful eating just how different it is how much slower it is how much more peaceful it is. It also impacts your hunger and awareness of those physiological feelings.

We found that our members who maybe come in struggling with like gut issues and struggles with digestion by implementing a more mindful approach and again starting small can actually help alleviate some of those things as well. It is very challenging to make nourishing decisions for yourself when you’re at that point of primal hunger so we like to encourage our members to eat when they’re in a state of biological desire. Alternatively, when you’re genuinely full, your body starts communicating with your brain to send you those fullness signals.  Using a hunger and fullness tracker to help you get started makes a ton of sense. Women often don’t trust their hunger and fullness cues and think “How could I possibly be hungry at 11 am when I just ate at 9?” That’s where having a tracker especially as you’re getting started and hopefully working to kind of build that body trust can be constructive as a tool and as a way of staying accountable.

At Flourish we help women develop healthy habits that stick through a subscription membership that includes coaching group coaching and private coaching with nutrition and mindset coaches. We also have a powerful community element and then we have our curriculum which offers that clarity amidst a very noisy wellness world. We are running our flourishing life challenge in May. It’s going to be super fun we’ve built four weeks of habits to implement and we’ll be coaching and guiding you through both in-group coaching and also private coaching so every challenge member will get access to our nutrition and mindset coaches. Join the waitlist if you’re interested!

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