With Anxiety In Tow-Dedicated to Interviewing the World's Foremost Experts In Anxiety Management

The Benefits of Mindful Eating in the Wake of Stress: An Interview With Joy Rains

If you’ve found Ben and Jerry to be sadistically soothing, you’re definitely not alone.

We know you know what we’re talking about.

You dive into a consoling pint of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, promising to have “one bite.”

Just when self control feels like a reality, the frenzy begins. One bite becomes two, which becomes twenty…something.

And it doesn’t stop there. The cabinet becomes a free-for-all of promised anxiety relief.


Two hours later, it’s a whole different ballgame. There you sit, sadly staring at an empty container with tight pants and a heart full of guilt. You’re stuck in a food coma catastrophe.

So just what is the best way to avoid this common pitfall?

Curious about how to avoid this dilemma, we reached out to some of our favorite mindful eating experts.

Please welcome our first guest in this series: Joy Rains.

P.S.  No Ben and Jerry’s while you’re reading these wise words of wisdom.

Hi Joy. First and foremost, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. So just what the heck is mindful eating?

Mindful eating is eating with awareness. Awareness of what you eat, how you eat, when you eat, and where you eat. Awareness of how your body feels before, during, and after you eat. If you choose any one aspect related to your eating and bring your full attention to it, you are on the path to mindful eating.

How did you find an interest in this?

I developed an interest in mindful eating because I had spent much of my life eating in unmindful ways, with my weight yo-yoing as a result. About five years ago, I finally realized that for years I had been training people in mindfulness skills as they related to anxiety…And that I could take many of the principles of mindfulness training and apply them to oneʼs relationship with food.

How would a person struggling with anxiety use mindful eating to avoid weight gain?

In practicing mindfulness, awareness is key. Once awareness is brought to the anxiety itself, one can be make a choice to decide how to handle the anxiety rather than reacting to the anxiety with an ingrained, habitual pattern such as stress eating.

In your journey, you have developed a mindful eating program called CARE. Tell us about this.

The CARE Mindful Eating Program is designed to help people who struggle with urges to eat more food than the body needs. CARE is an acronym for Compassion, Awareness, Repatterning, and Envisioning. Each one of these represents a category of strategies to help cultivate mindful eating behaviors.

For instance, one can engage in compassion practices by practicing a meditation on gratitude for the body. Awareness practices, such as meditation, can help develop awareness of what you eat, when you eat, how you eat, and your bodyʼs needs. Re-patterning refers to identifying old behaviors that no longer serve us well-and developing new, alternative healthy behaviors. And finally, envisioning refers to imagining the results that you want, as if they are already happening.

Each one of these tools is powerful by itself, but when used together, they offer a strong “toolkit” on which to draw upon when urges to overeat arise.

Do you have any suggestions that we could use to keep from stress eating?

It is vital to have some strategies planned ahead of time. This is so that you will have preplanned tools when stress arises. Any of the aspects of the CARE Mindful Eating Program can help with this process. For example, you could practice developing compassion for your body that could be used as an alternative to stress eating. Or, perhaps you could just sit and notice the urge to eat as a stress response without acting upon it. These are all preplanned tools.

In addition, always remember that a thought about a cookie is not a cookie. This is not easy to do, but it is a viable option. Notice where the urge to eat shows up in your body and notice any mental chatter that goes along with this urge. You can also create a list of alternative activities to stress eating. You can try taking a walk or run, journaling, or painting. Another idea is to envision how youʼll feel if you donʼt overeat-and how those pants will fit comfortably rather than snugly around the waistline.

That said, not every practice will work every time. That’s why itʼs important to have a variety of strategies planned out ahead of time. Keep trying new things.

About Joy:

Joy Rains teaches meditation in the Washington DC area, including programs at: the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), The Childrenʼs Inn at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Washington National Cathedral, and American University. She is the author of Meditation Illuminated: Simple Ways to Manage Your Busy Mind.  More information about Joy can be found on her website: www.joyrains.com.

Joy also invites you to check out the following link to learn free mindful eating tips to help you develop awareness:




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