Your stomach is beginning to rumble. It’s snack time. With anticipation, you warm up your precious donut in the microwave for 10 seconds to give it the fresh out of the oven taste. You walk back to the office, look down to the small paper plate you’re holding. The only evidence you have that it ever existed, are a few gooey drops of glaze, 2 sticky fingers, and an over-sweet film inside your mouth. Damn! The image of the donut spins around in your head until you cave in and grab another… and another…
Checking Out With Distractions
This is the perfect example of how distractions can make us miss out on not only tasting our favorite foods, or food in general, life seems to pass us by when we are trying to do multiple things at a time. We don’t really focus on anything. Instead, we are getting constant glimpses of the tape of things that we still need to do scrolling at high speed through our mind. “Still need to do the dishes. Gotta prep my lunch for tomorrow. I want to finish reading this great book, but first I need to do the laundry. Oh, did this guy just get voted through on The Voice?”
We go a hundred miles a minute, even if we’re sitting at the dinner table. We’re literally checked out. I’m saying “we”, because this may not only be your experience, but this has also been my “normal” for a very long time. We are going through the motion of eating and the only way we know that we’re full is when our stomachs can’t handle another single bite of food. At the end of a meal, we feel full (miserably full), and we know that we won’t be hungry for a while. Wrong!!! Half an hour later, we are going on a scavenger hunt for ANYTHING EDIBLE that could fill the void in our chest. How can this be?
We Are Humans
I know, it’ obvious, but sometimes we need a reminder. With so much technology, expectations, and stresses in our modern lives, we have to remember that we are humans and not robots. When it comes to eating, we’re meant to enjoy our meals. Food is nourishment for our body and our soul. All our senses need to be involved. I remember that in my early recovery, I was actually yearning to taste my food, smell it, experience it. Lifting a fork to my mouth while checking my e-mail left me waking up from my amnesia only when my fork hit the bottom of my empty bowl. I wanted to eat like the French: slow, mindful, and with a feeling of bliss. Yeah, not ever gonna happen, I thought. Again, I was wrong…
This Annoying, Yet Powerful, Thing Called Mindfulness
Yes, I’ve read the books: eat mindfully and your eating problems might disappear. If I could only remember those tricks I read about when I was feeling starved. The only thing I wanted to do then was eat and get rid of the uncomfortable feelings of being hungry or thinking I was hungry – quickly. Then treatment started.
At first it was a nice routine to take a few moments before a meal to quiet my mind, to become aware of all the sounds in the room, to notice the aromas surrounding me, to let all my thoughts go and feel calm. I became hyper-aware of everything when I did my mindful moments, but let’s face it, who has time for all this mumbo-jumbo? I had a busy life, a job, a blossoming writing career…
Well, turns out that when I have my mindful moment and focus on my meal, I need much less food to feel satisfied and… you won’t believe this… I will push the plate away from me when done. The amazing thing is that when I take time to listen to my body, it will tell me what it needs and when to stop. Mind you, this didn’t happen over night and took lots of practice, but from meal 1 at the evening program, I noticed progress. Yes, I did continue eating until my plate was empty at first, but the staff challenged me to leave a bite behind at each meal. In time, the leftover bites were getting bigger, as I began to trust my body. Can it be annoying to take time and delay my meal for a few moments? Yes. Is it worth it? Most definitely!
Try It Yourself
- Eliminate all distractions as you prepare to eat.
- Serve your meal on a real plate and use real utensils to make the setting comfortable. You may even play some relaxing music in the background.
- Sit down and plant your feet on the floor to ground yourself.
- Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
- Quiet your mind by letting all thoughts drift off into the distance. You may think of a relaxing beach, a nice scenery, or have a short conversation with your higher power to get yourself in a relaxed state and to be in the present.
- Set your intention for this meal, e.g. set down your fork between bites to slow down, be aware of the aroma, taste, texture of your food, to listen for satiety cues – whatever it is you want to experience. Remember to enjoy your meal.
- Half way through your meal try to stop and check in with your body where you are on the fullness scale. Continue eating if you’re still hungry, or get ready to finish in the next few bites.
- When you’re done, push away the plate or put / throw away leftovers.
So what do you think? Did you notice a difference? What was your experience? Leave me a comment below. I want to hear from you.
Just a last note: If you were struggling, it’s okay. If you had a single positive experience, that’s already an improvement to before. Why don’t you write it down in a little journal? Keep practicing and make notes of your yay! moments. You’ll be surprised on how fast they add up!!!
Lot’s of love and don’t give up!