Mathea Ford: [00:00:00] Good morning. We’re here today with Jenny Eden Berk of JennyEdenCoaching.com and today we’re going to talk with her a lot about the mind body connection and how things work. She works with people for different types of things. So Jenny tell us what you do and what interests you about the work that you do.
Jenny Berk: [00:00:26] Yeah I absolutely love the work that I’m doing. So I’m an eating psychology coach and what I do is I help women and men and teenagers too to really heal their relationship with food and with their bodies. So many people are confused and just frustrated and they’re listening to experts who change their mind all the time and people are left wondering like how the heck should I nourish myself. Like they don’t know what to do and I help people sort of tap back into intrinsic wisdom and to help them to make choices that really fuel their bodies, gives them joy and pleasure and awareness which makes a big impact on metabolism and stress response in stimulation of nutrients and also for other kinds of things. And I also work with people on body image. It’s a topic near and dear to my heart. So I just absolutely love what I do. It’s very rewarding to help people in this way because when you give power back to the person to trust their own intrinsic wisdom in their bodies. Just incredible things can happen. You know so that’s what is most meaningful for me.
Mathea Ford: [00:01:37] So you said you’re eating psychology coach. What’s your background what’s your field experience that type of thing.
Jenny Berk: [00:01:45] Yeah sure. I have a master’s from the University of Pennsylvania in psychology and education and I ended up getting an internship at the Office of Health Education there where I learned a lot of about behavioral change and supporting people. I actually worked with drugs and alcohol on campus and I did intakes and then I moved to Boston because I met my husband and I moved here and ended up working at a national health and weight management company for 13 years almost 14 years where I facilitated classes and I supported people. It was a very aggressive medically supervised weight management program. So essentially it was doing you know obesity treatment, bariatric treatment. However, I found that there were a lot of things lacking in the program. I started to wonder like if I was really helping people because yes they would lose weight and they would get healthier but we were not approaching any of the deeper root causes of why people felt called to overeat or to binge eat. And what I would see is a lot of recidivism meaning like people who lose a lot of weight but they weren’t given any tools really to understand why they were eating in the first place. So after a while you know the willpower can only last for so long. And I would see people start talking this weight back and feel very frustrated. And I started to feel like well there’s got to be something more like I want it. I’m very interested in psychology and behavioral change but I wanted to understand and have it come from a different place where we could really heal from the inside out one’s relationship with food.
Jenny Berk: [00:03:21] So I found this amazing program it’s called the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. And I got my certificate there. I also got a certificate in it’s called MBE which is Mindfulness Based Eating Awareness Training and I got a certificate in Mindful Eating Instructions. So that’s essentially what my background and training is.
Mathea Ford: [00:03:44] Yeah that sounds a lot like what I see as a dietitian. A lot of times. Just there’s a reason why we eat when we’re not hungry. Right? And so how do you when you’re coaching people when you’re working with them how do you help them to do that? I mean you can talk a little bit about the mindfulness stuff but I also kind of just want to know how do you get into that deeper?
Jenny Berk: [00:04:15] Yeah so I mean I don’t like market myself as like a weight loss coach or dieting coach or anything like that. I help, I try to help people. A lot people come to me and I like oh I just want lose weight. And I say well what do you really want. Well I want to lose weight. I said OK go deeper. Let’s really, like if what does the promise of weight loss give you? What do you want? Well, [you know] I want to go sailing again without feeling self-conscious. I want to [you know] get on the ground with my grandkids. I want to feel good on my clothes. I want to feel good good on my skin. I want to move my body in a way that feels. You know what I mean?
Jenny Berk: [00:04:53] So when we start to look at those things as opposed to weight loss we’re actually getting to the heart of what makes people happy and balanced. And that’s what I do. I go deeper because it’s not weight loss. I mean weight loss may occur anyway. When you’re happy and when you’re like you are living an aligned life and you’re doing the thing, pursuing the passions that you have. And [you know] a lot of times people that I work with, there’s something off balance in their life. Whether it’s like connection in community or it’s spirituality or they’re not pursuing passions or they have a bit of a stress response all the time and food becomes this really important – takes on a even more important role. It plays a surrogate role for a void that they’re experiencing in their lives right? So when we can sort of identify what that is and start to tune in and talk about those things that oftentimes food becomes much more about what it really supposed to be which is nourishment and pleasure. And so that’s what I do and you have to of course build a certain amount of trust beforehand with your client to be able to go there and [you know] I get into sexuality, I get into relationships, I get into spirituality and things you know all aspects of somebody’s health because it’s really a holistic way of healing somebody. And then I also do a lot of like behavioral modification but in a really heart centered place or not like this. “OK. You do that and then tell me by Friday that you’re doing good.” You know it’s not like that. It’s more like how can we identify what your habits are around food and your food scripts and start to you know short circuit.
Jenny Berk: [00:06:30] Or like rewrite the story rewrite the script and give people empowerment around their choices. And then a lot of also what I do is stress reduction techniques because a lot of what causes people particularly to binge eat is being in a stress response. And I often say to people like imagine [you’re] you’ve just gotten the most amazing massage in your life. There is aroma therapy, there’s soft music playing, you’re totally relaxed. You’re not going to jump on off that massage table and start binge eating on Doritos. Like most people when they are in a relaxed day will not feel called to binge eat. So I work with people on mindful eating techniques and I actually go do like one on one exercises that support people with learning their satiety cues and their hunger cues in a way that they’ve never even understood before. Which is very powerful because we are so used to being distracted when we eat. We’re driving or watching TV or reading or whatever, we’re working. And when you can really tune in to food and have a sense of gratitude and abundance around food it can be extremely powerful and pleasurable.
Mathea Ford: [00:07:41] Jenny, I love what you just said because it’s [really we do] we attribute so many things to food. You know, like “Oh! I’m excited and happy, I’m gonna eat [you know] Oh I’m unhappy, I’m gonna eat. Yeah. Yeah, its Thanksgiving I’m going to eat too much. So, we give food all these emotional value. We do. [I like] I love that you talk to people about disconnecting that and seeing food as the value it truly is which is nourishing your body but it’s not necessarily going to heal your mind to eat, you know six dove bars. But when you were talking [I was] I was thinking what are some of the food scripts you mentioned that people have? What are some of those that you see really commonly that maybe the listeners would identify with?
Jenny Berk: [00:08:40] Yeah absolutely. So once you start to tune into these you’re going to be like “Oh yeah!” I totally do that. And part of that is our own food scripts and part of it is outside food scripts. So like one example is your [you know] after a long day, [you know] maybe put the kids to bed just sit down on the couch with your spouse or partner and you start watching a show. Right? And all of a sudden a pizza commercial comes on. And that is a cue for you to go grab some food or order a pizza or perhaps every time the game is on, you grab some snacks like that is a food script. That’s something that you follow it’s almost like instinct. You’re not even putting much thought into it. It’s just like “OK go!” You know or maybe like one of my food scripts that I identified was every time if my kids were fighting I would be so stressed out. And I when I started to notice I was heading for the cabinets to eat chocolate chips or chips or whatever. And once I realized that I’m like “Oh OK,” my food script is like whenever my kids are fighting it makes me anxious and stressed out and my food scripts when I’m stressed out and anxious is to go eat something like pleasurable right? Or junky.
Jenny Berk: [00:09:53] And once I started to recognize the actual and isolating the emotion that I’m feeling and how that leads to over eating potentially or eating foods that are I really need in that moment, I started to opening up an expansive, more expansive way of dealing with that stress. So instead of heading right to the cabinet I do like a stop look and listen techniques like “Oh OK I understand what’s happening.” Let me go upstairs and listen to some music and like just lay down for a few minutes calm myself down. Right? So that’s that’s what it is. It takes extreme awareness because these food scripts lie within all of us and these cues but [we’re not] but we’re so on autopilot and it’s comes from like a very base part [of our] of our brains like this called the Basal Ganglia which stored all these habits that we have and unless we start to bring them to the surface and start to short circuit them or create a new pathway we’re sort of destined to follow them over and over again.
Mathea Ford: [00:10:52] So they’re kind of some of them I imagine being created when we were very young, like our parents [you know] “oh you’re not feeling good here have something to eat or [you know] I always on Sunday. Well I find it funny that we tend to eat popcorn like in my family when we’re watching certain shows like if you go watch a movie you’re going to pop a popcorn and sit there and eat it.
Jenny Berk: [00:11:20] Yup!
Mathea Ford: [00:11:21] Versus whether you may have just had lunch. You’re not really needing that. So yeah that’s..
Jenny Berk: [00:11:28] That’s a really food script. You’re not going to be like “Oh! Let’s go out and watch a movie. I’m going to make some brussel sprouts. Okay? Join me in a minute!” You’re not going to do that. So again that’s partially because of society, right? Because they’re not selling brussel sprouts at a movie theater. They’re not! You’re not getting those types of food. So those. Remember I said like part of it is like internal food scripts and part of that is internal food scripts.
Mathea Ford: [00:11:53] Yeah I can see that really how and the Stop, Look and Listen type thing because we do so many things mindlessly.
Jenny Berk: [00:12:01] Yeah. Yes.
Mathea Ford: [00:12:02] Eating in my car, eating on the run and grabbing you know food like you said when you’re watching your screen and you’re even to the point now with a lot of mobile devices where you’re seeing food ads on there. So that’s also driving I imagine some of the desires that they don’t advertise really healthy food, usually. All food has value. It’s just how much of it you eat.
Jenny Berk: [00:12:26] Right. And that’s another thing that I really stress upon with my clients is that food is there’s no morality in food like you or your twinkie didn’t just rob a bank. And you know I mean broccoli doesn’t have a halo on it’s all about the meaning that we ascribe to that food right. So if we can divorce ourselves from this feeling of good and bad I’m good if I eat some bad if I eat that. Then things become a little less powerful to us because especially if you sort of adopt a abundance mindset around certain foods whereas we usually kind of shut the door on certain foods like that’s not for me. I can’t have that.
Jenny Berk: [00:13:03] I can only have this which is very constricting and it makes us feel like rebellious almost like that food it’s like a teenager you are going to tell me not to have seconds of this cake. Well you are going to have seconds of this cake and then you’re like oh wait I’m just sort of hurting myself. [You know] so I try to with people and like you know not to restrict foods that really to start to tune in to with the foods that make you feel really good. And if and there’s like you said they’re room for all foods. There’s nothing like and there’s some value in all foods for the most part. I mean there is some that is you know peeps like I don’t know what the value is in that. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a peep once in a while. [00:13:47] Right? [0.2] Like it’s sort of about the balance it’s sort of about “OK, let me eat peep. Let me like and I really enjoy it. Let me like totally enjoy this and give myself permission and own this decision. But when we end up doing it feel so guilty about it that we almost like dissociate, distract and we have conflict. We’re not fully giving ourselves permission to eat it. You know I mean?
Mathea Ford: [00:14:10] Yeah or we eat it like when nobody’s looking and eat it really fast.
Jenny Berk: [00:14:13] Yes, 100%. Exactly. Exactly.
Mathea Ford: [00:14:17] I swear Dove Chocolate does not taste good unless you hold it in your mouth or let it totally melt.
Jenny Berk: [00:14:22] Oh my gosh! That is so true. My husband might refrigerate his chocolate I’m like “Honey, that’s beside the whole point. It’s supposed to melt in your mouth.
Mathea Ford: [00:14:31] Yeah you got to get that mouth feel and all that…
Jenny Berk: [00:14:33] That’s how your brain gets that message that it’s receiving pleasure.
Mathea Ford: [00:14:38] Chocolate is pleasure. It’s really it’s that has the value chocolate have.
Jenny Berk: [00:14:42] Me too.
Mathea Ford: [00:14:43] We won’t state that its a fact. But it is a strong opinion of mine. Now, I know you said you don’t do losing weight. You really do kind of the mental change and stopping those kind of mindless eating. What is wrong with… Because you said sometimes people do lose weight. So what is it that’s wrong with just counting calories and exercising and maybe it’s not wrong is not the right word but what’s different or [you know] an issue with the normal like calories in them and a track how many fifteen hundred calories. I’m going to burn 2000 calories and that’s going to help me to lose weight. What’s the difference?
Jenny Berk: [00:15:26] That’s a great question and I think because we’re such a dieting culture that people get really caught up in all of those things without taking into consideration all of the mind-body stuff that happened. So like your awareness, your eating rhythm, your how quickly you eat. [You know] your thoughts and beliefs about food and about you as an eater. Those are all things that actually affect your metabolism, affects your gut health, affect your stress response, affect your stress hormones. And I often tell people like [if your main] if you’re very focused on the outcome which is oftentimes weight loss right? You’re not going to find joy in the process. And oftentimes the sustainability lies in the process of making behavioral change. An example I used to exercise only – only to lose weight, only to burn calories. I didn’t really see any value in doing it otherwise.
Jenny Berk: [00:16:23] And when I was starting to shift and heal my own relationship with food and with my body I started to I would never consider yoga because it wasn’t enough calorie burn. Now I love yoga because I feel really good about moving that way and it makes me feel very calm. And I started to recognize that there’s joy in the process. It doesn’t have to always be an outcome only because when we are very obsessed or focus on the outcome, oftentimes it’s because we’re doing it with clenched fists like we’re so pushing and bullying ourselves to get that outcome that it’s not sustainable. Yes, there’s there’s great value in information about calories. And [you know] a lot of my clients use a food log. That’s fine I think it’s important because our culture certainly doesn’t make it any easier to have us lose weight right or eat healthy. But one part of my story and so I’ll give you another example. I have a client right now. You mean the first thing hebsaid to me was like I want to lose 30 pounds and I was like OK you know and I said the same thing. “Well what do you really want? What you know what can you do here?” We started to look at his lifestyle. How he was eating his eating rhythm. You know started to recognize he was skipping breakfast for instance and then being ravenous later on. So that’s a huge factor right there. And then I started to help him sort of identify his hunger cues a bit more and to tune into the foods that he really likes and dislikes.
Jenny Berk: [00:17:49] And I gave him some. It’s a mindful eating exercises of him and wouldn’t you know like without any effort. And I didn’t coach him on any of this. He’s a I’ve worked with him for almost three months and he’s down 30 almost 30 pounds just by tuning in by slowing down by looking at eating rhythm by having breakfast again. Thereby becoming less sort of ravenous later in the day and then potentially over eating. Because look when you’re starving, you don’t care what’s in front of you. You’re not going be like “Oh! I’m going to make a nice green smoothie right now!” When you’re starving you will eat whatever is there – fast, convenient. And a lot of times the fast and convenient foods are not the most nutrient dense ones. Let’s just face it. So that’s why I feel like [you know] calories is just one part of the story. And what I’m really interested in is everything else about you as an eater.
Mathea Ford: [00:18:41] It’s funny to me. How have calories in and calories out do matter. But it’s a matter of like you said it’s that mindless eating and part of when you start to write down what you eat. You start realizing how my mind boggling you are doing.
Jenny Berk: [00:18:56] Totally!
Mathea Ford: [00:18:58] You know that food log. If that’s the only way it helps if you don’t even count it. You just write down what you’re eating all the sudden you’re like “I stop and [you know] I drink full mocha latte, full of sugar every morning and didn’t realize that [you know] that was kind of that extra calories I was getting in the day and you’re not necessarily changing that because you want to reduce the calories, you’re changing it because, you’re like “You know what, I bet I might feel better if I didn’t have so much caffeine and sugar first thing in the morning maybe if I tried some different, you try it. If it helps you can start like you said changing those food scripts. Because we do have that. When you mention the food scraps that really hit me like we… It’s not that we don’t have control but we do have to make a lot of choices. We make so many choices every day just walking into a room. So you get tired of making those choices. So yeah just kind of…
Jenny Berk: [00:20:06] Yeah, you’re bringing up such choices’ important part it’s called Decision Fatigue and the fit decision anxiety because you’re absolutely right. A lot of my clients end up eating later in the day and part of it is because they’ve made so many decisions during the day, they don’t want to have to agonize about their dinner [you know]. And I read in the book I think it was Brian Wansink’s book which is called Mindless Eating. He says that Americans make like two hundred food related decisions a day. That’s a lot like how many bites and what to eat and when to eat. And yet it was exhausting and then you get home and you’re like “Oh! I’m just going to eat whatever! [You know] I’m tired.” Exactly! Yeah. And I think like food logs are really really interesting because it brings you cognizance of what you’re doing. Like you said, maybe you don’t realize some of the ways that you’re taking an extra calories without really knowing it or needing it. Right?
Jenny Berk: [00:21:01] And if you can be subtle changes like that and still you know allow for pleasure that you’re not restricting and denying yourself constantly. [You know] that’s a subtle way to lose weight too. A latte at for instance like that. [You know] I had one client who was like was having like three cups of coffee a day with cream with whole [you know] crepe in their coffee and they just need like one little shift and that was like they realized it was like a 200 or 300 calorie shift just that alone.
Mathea Ford: [00:21:31] I noticed on your information, you have a little bit of information about. I think we talked a lot about emotional eating because that’s all that kind of mindless eating and being true. So is there an exercise that you can tell people to do. Maybe that would help them to be more mindful when they eat?
[00:21:49] Yes, absolutely! And when in fact, I have a whole free mindful eating course that’s really a good jumpstart. And I can share that with your listeners too or you can visit my website it’s on there. But essentially there are some very basic things that you can do to start becoming a more mindful eater. First, it really just you have to be present and conscious during the eating experience. A lot of people check out. They’re that multitasking. They’re feeling emotional distress or conflict about what they’re eating. There’s a lot that makes us sort of want to dissociate from the eating experience so just sort of say “I’m here, I’m not in a rush. I don’t have to rush this meal. I own the decision to eat.” I have often tell people just to do that. So sit down bringing a little bit of gratitude to eating like “I’m so happy I get to eat this a balanced delicious meal right now.” And that’s some really basic things like taking some deep breaths before starting can get your body into relaxation response putting your fork down so basic but like [you know] I see my kids sometimes they like literally have their fork in their hand and it’s close to their mouth and they’re constantly like sugar shoveling stuff in. And hey [you know] we’re not in a rush, put your fork down. And even just that, it’s a reminder to stop for a minute and to check in with your body. Like am I still hungry? How is everything feeling? Am I enjoying this food? You know what I mean? So like literally just a few times during your meal just decide and be conscious and decide to put your fork or spoon down. Take a break, do a stop look and listen. How is my body feeling? Can be very very effective. And then, I often ask people to sort of envision a hunger timeline in front of them and to determine where they are within that time that hunger timeline. Now there’s no like right or wrong answers when to stop because that individual for every person. But generally, you know around a 5 or 6 sort of the sweet spot you want to feel energetic, you want to feel sort of light, you don’t want to feel weighed down, bloated, having fatigue, [you know] getting the distended belly.
Jenny Berk: [00:23:59] Those are signs those are signs that like OK I’m probably over that sweet spot area now [you know]. So those are just some basics and as just a jumping off.
Mathea Ford: [00:24:09] Yeah. Point…
Jenny Berk: [00:24:10] But that alone could help I think a lot of people.
Jenny Berk: [00:24:13] On the other side of that, is a little bit of binge eating or kind of shoveling food in or whatever, you talk a little bit about that on your website. Can you talk to people how to identify if that’s what they’re doing and then maybe some ideas for how to do our ability to change our behavior a little bit?
Jenny Berk: [00:24:35] Binge eating is a particular specialty of mine it’s something that I hope people alot with and it’s a very personal topic right? Because people feel very ashamed of binge eating and because of that shame and the feeling of being out of control, people often feel like there’s nothing they can do about it. But the truth is, there’s a lot you can do about it and the first part of that is to recognize that you’re in a stress response and it’s incumbent upon you to then let your body know that it’s not in a crisis. You’re not running from a lie and [you know] there’s nothing, there’s no place you have to be. So I often talk about the three D’s of binge eating. So it’s distraction, dissociation and culture. So the talk about those. Distraction – distraction leads to overeating and binge eating. Because if you’re not paying attention you’re going to overeat because you’re not listening to your body’s cues and then oftentimes it’s too late. Dissociation occurs when you literally it’s painful to be in the process of feeling out of control so our brain sort of we’re not dropping into our bodies.
Jenny Berk: [00:25:41] We sort of detach a little bit and then and then it’s almost like a wall flex swoops in and you’re like this big craziness and then you wake up almost and there’s like wrappers all over the floor and you’re like What did I just do and it feels very scary. And so a lot of what I do is help people to find self soothing techniques, stress reduction techniques, relaxation technique so that they can avoid that. And then a lot one is dieting culture. So when you and this goes into this idea of polarities of binge eating and restricting so if you have been a chronic dieter, if you’ve been somebody who’s judge your food choices, judge your appetite, restricted yourself, going on multiple diets. What happens is because of that feeling of restriction for so long, it’s almost like a rubber band and eventually it snaps and you end up binge eating on the very thing that you’ve been restricting all this time. So I certainly had done that. Like I had there was a period in my life where I had to give up gluten and dairy and I was already a vegetarian so I felt so restricted, I felt so miserable all the time [you know whole] I was hanging on for dear life trying to stay with this protocol. And then one day at our neighborhood block party I look literally lost it and I ate almost an entire pizza. Why? Because I had said no to it for so long. And it’s like what you resist persists in a way.
Jenny Berk: [00:27:09] So that’s what what I do is I try to help clients have an abundance mindset with food as opposed to restrictive mindset because if that twinkie all of a sudden you can have it anytime you want there’s no restriction. It also has a lot less power right? I mean you may binge on it or like for a little while and then you’re like oh I can have this whatever it, whatever I’ll have that when I really want it. You know what I mean? So I help a lot of people a lot of people that I work with.
Mathea Ford: [00:27:37] Oh good. OK. That was great! I think you are correct with the shame thing and I get that dissociation thing too. It’s just hard to because you know that it’s not the healthiest thing for you to do but you do have to kind of get a hold of it. So that’s a good, very good point. So last question for you because we’re almost in the end our time, what’s your favorite food? Tell me about your favorite food that you love to eat. Not, [you know] binge or anything like that.
Jenny Berk: [00:28:11] OK. It sound weird but I love a great macro ball of like Tofu and Brown rice with like a yummy like maybe Tahini sauce and likes and greens and broccoli and some nuts. I love it, love it, love it. It makes me so happy. Tastes so good. I love Tofu. So [I mean] that’s more of a meal than a food. And then the other thing that I would say is peanut butter. I love almond butter and peanut butter so much. I love cashew butter. I totally get that.
Mathea Ford: [00:28:44] OK so Jenny where can people find you if they want to know more about you from listening to us.
Jenny Berk: [00:28:50] Yeah, thank you so much. Best way to reach me and to find out more about me is to go to my website which is www.JennyEdencoaching.com. Thank you.
Mathea Ford: [00:29:02] And I’ll link to your site and the show notes.
Jenny Berk: [00:29:06] Thank you so much. It is so fun talking to you.
Mathea Ford: [00:29:08] Thanks for talking with us today. Jenny, thank you so much for being on the podcast today. It was a pleasure to have you on the show. I know that my listeners have learned a lot about the intrinsic wisdom that our body has and will share with us. Well guys this has been another great episode of the Nutrition Experts podcast. The podcast that is all about learning more so you can do more with nutrition in your life.