I love to teach mindful eating because I get to witness how the act of mindful eating can become the doorway to enlightenment! While that might sound a bit lofty, it is truer than you might think.
So, let’s think about it a moment. When you eat, you are bringing your whole body, heart, and mind to the table. I use “table” as a metaphor for wherever you eat because I realize people eat in many other places these days. However, wherever and whenever you eat, there are a multitude of things happening besides the act of putting food in your mouth.
If you are eating because you are physically hungry, you may be satisfying the body’s need for nourishment. However, if you are eating because you bored, it’s probably because you haven’t learned to take care of your mind’s need for creativity and meaning. If you are eating because you’re overwhelmed, it’s probably because you haven’t learned skills of resilience around stress OR learned to give yourself a deserved break in the middle of a busy work day. If you’re eating because you’re sad or lonely, it’s probably because you haven’t yet learned how to manage and attend to your emotions in a better way.
So, just this brief contemplation reveals there are many other things going on when we sit down to eat than just the act of eating and paying attention to the tastes and our satisfaction with food. Too often we find ourselves reaching for food when we are really needing something else. Because food is fast, cheap and easy it has become our go-to friend for comfort, rest, or even entertainment.
Every one of us can benefit from learning more about what motivates or unconsciously leads us to the behaviors that become our lives. In the classes I teach called Eat for Life, we pay attention to all of the things that influence us to reach for food and meet each one with the appropriate practices and skills. When we learn how to mindfully manage our thoughts and emotions, we are much more capable of eating when we are physically hungry and not eating when we aren’t. When we learn how to mindfully manage our thoughts and emotions, we also feel more balanced, informed, wise, peaceful, and even a little enlightened.
The next time you reach for food, pause for a moment and consider the following:
1. Are you hungry? What are you hungry for? Is it food or something else?
2. Notice how you feel when you pause and check-in with yourself. Turn toward your feelings and see if you can name them (e.g. sad, overwhelmed, happy). Visiting yourself is a radical act of self-love.
3. What do you need to do to best take care of yourself right now? Eat? Move? Rest?
These simple practices of presence, kindness, and self-care will transform your life. You will not only learn more about your body and how to eat for greater well-being, but you will quite possibly cultivate the most important friendship you’ll ever have—the one with yourself.
If you want to hear more thoughts from me about mindful eating and transformation, you can listen to my recent podcast with Dr. Marcia Sirota. And you can also take the leap and join my ten week mindful eating and living class starting at the end of January. For more information click here.
Start your path to mindful eating and enlightenment now!
Lynn Rossy, Ph.D., President, The Center for Mindful Eating
Author, The Mindfulness-Based Eating Solution: Proven Strategies to End Overeating, Satisfy Your Hunger, and Savor Your Life
Teacher and Developer of Eat for Life, a ten week mindful eating program for professionals and the general public