Meditation and Mindful Eating For a Healthy Relationship With Food
There are 101 ways to mindlessly eat and I’m sure I’ve successfully tried all of them- maybe you have too. You could eat because you are truly hungry, but where’s the fun in that, right?!
Or…you could eat because:
it’s a holiday…somewhere
you’re mad, sad, tired, happy, worried
your body is craving cookies so you must be deficient in sugar
you have a health issue
food is your drug of choice (it’s better than crack cocaine according to YOU and science)
you got dumped
lost a job
there’s an unwritten rule you must over-eat at your favorite restaurant
you like baking (and eating)
you’re out with friends
you’re all alone
you’re in the car
you must’ve been possessed- certainly you didn’t eat the entire thing
you’re not sure if you are hungry so you eat anyway
…and of course it’s ALWAYS somebody’s birthday!
Most of us in the western hemisphere have an unhealthy relationship with food whether its over-eating, under-eating, mindless eating, emotional eating, or succumbing to the typical unhealthy diet of stress hormones with a heaping side of preservatives.
What if I told you none of that matters?
No matter what awesomely righteous, and legitimate excuse you can come up with it doesn’t matter. The diet and health industry is full of books that address each excuse for $24.99.
They have a diet for you if you believe you’re sensitive to gluten or you eat emotionally or your gut sprung a leak, but in reality those that actually change their bad eating habits (and their health) didn’t just change what they ate specifically, they changed their entire lifestyle, mostly HOW they eat.
Yep! If we don’t change how we handle everything, we can’t really change any ONE thing. This is why it seems like one area of your life is out of whack and another is OK, but overall you still feel very out of balance or dissatisfied. It’s like putting a Band-Aid on when you need a body cast.
Researchers report that we only have so much willpower.
Some of us choose to use our willpower to hold back from screaming at a boss and quitting a job we hate or we use it to patiently deal with our kids or we use it to get to the gym when we’re dog-tired.
Willpower is not the answer to our problems! It’s not sustainable.
There’s not enough willpower to go around for everything. Even if we get one or two areas of our life “right”, we’re not so hot in several others. Its a huge source of discomfort that we don’t have to tolerate because there is a better answer for ALL of it.
Most of my life I struggled with having multiple reasons to overeat. All those reasons listed at the beginning? Been there. Done that. There was never any one thing in particular that made me grab food for the wrong reasons and that meant there was never any one diet or program or book that actually helped me. I spent all my willpower on NOT overeating, but I was unable to handle stress in other areas. I had a healthy lifestyle mentality but I struggled with that too. It wasn’t natural, it was willpower, and it sucked!
After meditating a few months I noticed I lost ten pounds without thinking, without trying, AND without willpower.
The biggest change was being more mindful about everything from food to emotions. Pausing to practice meditation helped me use that “pause” mentality (mindfulness) before eating or before reacting too quick to something. It is finally a natural and (healthy) automatic choice that I didn’t have to employ all my willpower for.
The idea is to find one thing that can positively affect all areas of your life. If you only address your body’s issues with gluten, that hardly addresses your anger or problems in your relationship. Meditation and mindfulness are a one-size-fits-all tool! It changes the way you think and how you handle pretty much everything.
Most bad habits or certain areas in your life would significantly improve if you just pay attention. We do too much without paying attention. Since paying attention isn’t easy to do in the 21st century, the simple art of mindfulness and meditation make it 99% easier!
How you can start practicing mindful eating and change your lifestyle:
1. Meditate: Of course! Start (or continue) a meditation practice, preferably mindfulness meditation if you want to increase mindfulness in all aspects of your life. Simply practicing meditation helps you become more aware, clear about goals and decision, and prepared for everything else in life. (Free Mindfulness Meditation).
2. Breathe: Start taking a moment to breathe before beginning an activity or in between activities. Instead of rushing from one thing to another or one thought to another, pause and breathe in between. This is pretty easy and extremely effective. Most bad habits are automatic- the purposeful breath creates a break from that habit loop. Before taking your first bite of food….always take a nice deep breath. Extra tip: Take a deep breath sometimes in the middle of your meal. This can signal your brain that you are full since we often take a deep breath when we become full.
3. Slow down: Try not to hate me for this or scream, ‘Are you nuts lady? What century do you live in?’ Slowing down forces you to prioritize better. You start thinking of your time as precious and you hold yourself and your time to a higher standard. When you slow down to eat, you’ll notice junk food tastes either sweet or salty or fake. That’s it! While healthier food has a beautiful variety of flavors- so diverse!
4. Practice: “What you practice grows stronger”. The best way to receive the benefits of mindfulness, including a better relationship with food, is to practice mindfulness. When you feel the urge to check your favorite social media site or your email for the hundredth time, practice mindfulness instead. I start one of two ways- I start with my fingertips. Start small like this: What am I doing with my fingers right now? Sensations? Focusing on whatever I’m doing with my hands and connect to it, touching/feeling. The next way is to begin with your senses. In the moment, what do you taste, touch, smell, hear, and see?
5. Focus on HOW you eat not WHAT you eat: We’re programmed to note and focus on WHAT foods we eat, count calories, and even track it in a handy-dandy food journal. In fact this month I’m running a special on guided meditations that cater to and support various diets and eating programs. I used one to help me begin a vegetarian lifestyle. Eating vegetarian helps me with my chronic illness so in a way it is important WHAT I eat. However, my relationship with food changed and weight loss occurred when I focused on HOW I eat. Nearly 15 years in the restaurant industry taught me to eat fast (inhaling food instead of inhaling deep calming breaths) because we didn’t get breaks. Recognizing when I’m eating, why I’m eating, where and HOW I’m eating- am I shoveling food in fast? Or am I tasting each ingredient? Pay attention to HOW you eat!
Practicing meditation and/or mindful eating as I see it, is the only way to change your relationship with food if you struggle in this area. The bonus is you change HOW you do life. It’s not about perfection, it’s about transformation. Everybody is capable of that!
Peace and Be Well