Mindful Eating #13 – Reasons You Have Been Told You Overeat or Binge

Overeaters, similar to bingers, turn to food when overwhelmed before they turn to other activities such as talking to a friend, spouse or therapist, writing in a journal, taking a walk, a bath, a break, painting their nails or playing with a pet, doing some stretching, focusing on their breath, watching a movie or reading an inspiring article.

This is what makes someone an overeater or binge eater.

If you have a habit of overeating or binge eating, think back to a time when you chose to express yourself by eating an abundance of food.  Did you have any other activity options you could have engaged in as you were inhaling a meal that was too big for your appetite?

Chances are you did since you are an adult and it has been many years since another human being spoon-fed you, even if it meant sitting cross-legged and twiddling your thumbs, but you chose to eat instead of another form of relaxation and relief.

Below is a list, not exhaustive, but enough to describe times when someone might feel the urge to overeat or binge.

When someone is feeling:

  • Sad
  • Happy
  • Tired
  • Angry
  • Excited
  • Afraid
  • Bored
  • Anxious
  • Worried
  • Sore
  • Celebratory
  • Lonely
  • Crowded
  • Annoyed
  • Hopeful
  • Resentful
  • Trapped
  • Powerful
  • Weak
  • Apathetic
  • Antsy
  • Exhausted
  • Starving
  • Stuffed
  • Sick
  • Neutral

Notice the wide range of feelings and how some are positive, some are negative and some are pretty dull.  It is often taught that these feelings cause you to overeat or binge.

Think of a time when you have overeaten or binged when you felt one of these things.

Now think of another time you have felt the same way but did not overeat or binge.  This memory is proof that the feeling you recalled does not cause or require you to overeat or binge.  If it did, every time you felt it you would be physically forced to stuff yourself with food, but since this does not happen it is clear that emotions do not demand actions.  This is very good news because on any given day you can feel any (and likely, many) of these feelings and you would constantly find yourself eating past the point of hunger and dealing not only with the overwhelming sensations of the original emotion but also the negative consequences of eating way too much.  You might not have time to accomplish anything if your emotions caused you to eat.

Next, ask yourself that if you never felt the urge to overeat or binge, even when you felt any of the above emotions, would you still do it?

This is a good question to ask because it places the real reason for eating too much on the simple desire or urge for eating too much and not on any emotion that is often blamed for overeating or binging.

For example, physical pain might cause you to cry (authentic moments when you cry from pain occur spontaneously and not from a decision to shed tears) but it will never cause you to overeat.  You may have felt physical pain and cried but if you also overate it is important to remember overeating was not caused by pain and offered nothing to improve your pain.  At best it may have distracted you from your original pain by creating new feelings of high insulin and an overly full stomach.  While you may have certainly had the desire to overeat when feeling pain, the two are only connected when you physically eat too much every time you feel pain and establish a habit-based activity.  If you did not experience the urge to eat too much food when you felt pain you would probably not obey it and, thus, not have a subservient relationship to food.  If the desire or urge was removed and you only felt any of the wide arrange of feelings listed above, you might find yourself overwhelmed or uncomfortable for awhile, but not overwhelmed or uncomfortable and eating too much food.

Thinking through this might be helpful to you as you dig deeper into why you overeat or binge.  Even if you have lived your whole life thinking that you eat emotionally, you can recall times in your life that you didn’t and this can provide you with assurance that you do not have to eat emotionally in the future.

Remember that if you do have urges to eat too much food, it is your right to obey them.  You are in control of what you put into your body (albeit it too much, or too little), and  you are not a worse or better person for what or how much you eat.  If you choose to make a habit out of eating too much, that is your choice.

Realizing you always have the choice no matter how you have chosen in the past will help you practice responsibility with every next bite.

Image from Retro Cleaning.

Mindful Eating #12: Eating for Right Now

It’s a good idea to get in the habit of asking, “how can I be kind to myself right now?” when you are choosing something to eat.

This question is different than, “What should I eat?” or “What am I supposed to eat?”.  There are enough diets in the world to answer these questions.  All you need to do is look any of them up and you can find rules and menus to last a lifetime, you might never need to think for yourself again!

Asking yourself how you can be kind when choosing what you will eat right now is different because it requires you to be in tune with your body’s needs in this very moment.  Not yesterday or tomorrow or last week or next week, but now.

Now might reveal that your body would do well with protein.  Now might inspire you to choose vegetables as part of or even your whole meal or maybe none at all.  It might lead you to more carbohydrates or more fat or maybe less of everything, because right now, you are not that hungry.

Now will unlikely lead to to eat in a manner that is poor for your health.  It’s unlikely that it will tell you to binge or starve or choose foods that make you feel sick.  Now has your best interest in mind and can be used as a compassionate tool to guide your eating.

Staying present and honest in this very moment will help you make the best choices for your body right now.

Your choices might look different than a diet menu or what the next person is choosing, but that is OK because those things never need to be of your concern, anyway.

Let others also choose their “right now” and everyone wins.

If you find that you have a difficult time deciding on how or what to eat, try offering yourself a bit of kindness and ask what would be best for you right now.

Image from Super College Chef.

Mindful Eating #9: Do You Accept Yourself?

I have been interested in eating healthy for most of my life, but it wasn’t to treat my body well or to feel good.  It was to lose weight.

I can remember being in elementary school, portioning out crackers to pack in my school lunch, wanting to know how many calories I was eating, hoping that I would become a slimmer version of myself by restricting my food.

Just one size smaller, just a few pounds thinner.  Then I would be comfortable and my life would be better.

Then I could focus on others things like hobbies and a career.

Then I would accept myself.

As I got older, I educated myself on nutrition, and was convicted to eat the purest and healthiest foods possible.  I counted calories for a few years, was a vegetarian for a few, got rid of all processed foods, and later adapted a diet of real foods.

I wish I could say that my goal was for health, but it wasn’t.  It was always to lose weight.

I finally did lose weight after college through very restricting dieting (too much which had very negative effects on my body and mind), and when I couldn’t afford to lose any more and I still wasn’t happy or accepting of myself, I became confused about why I tried to eat healthy at all.

It is not surprising that I cycled through periods of binge eating during my years of very restrictive dieting,  It was very difficult to maintain a weight that was too low for me, and very uncomfortable to starve my body of the nutrients it needed.

It often bewildered me that I would cycle through periods of very healthy eating, then periods of self-sabotaging eating that left me feeling sick and gross.  This opposing pattern proved to me that I wasn’t interested in health for actual health.  I was interested in it to get thin.  When getting thin was too hard, I wasn’t interested in it at all.

During this season, I had done quite a bit of reading on accepting myself, and eating to treat my body well, and quitting the diet/binge habit.  It sounded really nice–accepting myself, but I couldn’t.  I didn’t believe I was acceptable unless I was losing weight.

It was only a few years ago that I really gave some serious thought to accepting myself no matter what I weighed or looked like, and eating healthy to be kind to my body.

What if I only ate healthy because I cared about how nutritious foods made me feel?  What if I chose to be happy and comfortable with myself no matter what I looked like or what I weighed?

I attempted to take this approach, but it did not come very easily.  I did not decide to accept myself, and then became a natural at it overnight.

It required daily determination to stop letting my weight determine my value.  When a thought entered my mind that tied my personal success with my weight, it had to be replaced with truth immediately.  When disappointment surfaced after looking in the mirror, I had to remind myself that the self-hatred I was cultivating had gotten me nowhere, it felt unfortunate, was distracting me from more important issues, and was not helping me in any way.

It dawned on me one day that I might look the way I look today for the rest of my life.  Sure, I will look older, get wrinkles, and age spots, and gray hair, but I might weigh what I do now until the day I die.

Would this be OK?

Would I choose to stress about something that may never change for the rest of my life?  Would I let this obsession determine my happiness, comfortability, and confidence until I die?  Would I fret about this more than important issues that are happening all around me?  More than caring about other people?  More than connecting with family and friends?  More than making a positive contribution in the world?

We all have one life.  We get to choose what we value and how we spend our time, and what we believe.  We get to think what we want to think.  We get to feel what we want to feel.

I chose self acceptance because the path of self-hatred was exhausting.  It robbed me of happiness.  It kept me from being present.  It made my life small, and it didn’t even allow me to do what I wanted it to in the very beginning–eat healthy to lose weight.

Self acceptance is about so much more than being OK with what you weigh or what you look like, but for those who can’t even claim these things, it’s certainly a start in a positive direction.

What about you?

Do you consider yourself someone who accepts yourself?  Who accepts your body how it is right now?  If not, when will your body be good enough for you to accept it?  When will you choose to be happy, comfortable, and confident?  Do you really believe that a number on the scale or a size of clothing can provide you with the feeling you are looking for?

Image from Johanna Ost.

Mindful Eating #8: Should You Weigh Yourself?

With Mindful Eating comes a variety of other areas relating to our lives, that are to be explored.  Many times I write about the simple act of eating, but I often ponder the countless links between our beliefs of food, our bodies and spirituality.

Today I bring up a question we all are confronted with, often, or rarely, but surely.

Should you weigh yourself?

There are a few popular approaches when it comes to stepping onto the scale to check how much you weigh.

Some people say it is a good source of accountability for maintaining their weight.  These people likely weigh themselves daily, or every week, or so.  They tend to know their weight at most, if not all, times.

Others say that the scale is meaningless and to throw it out.  They say they rely on how their clothing fits instead of their weight.  These people might know roughly how much they weigh, but they don’t make a habit out of reminding themselves based on a conviction that their weight really doesn’t really.

And, there are others, who haven’t decided one way or the other what to do with their scale (or if they should get a scale). They get anxious just thinking about stepping on it, and they get anxious just thinking about throwing it out.  Mostly, these people are just anxious.

It’s interesting to note how people approach their scale and how much power they give it.

A generalization is that those people who weigh themselves daily care alot, or more likely, too much, about how much they weigh.  They are known to be happy when they see lower numbers on the scale and upset when they see higher numbers (assuming they are maintaining or trying to lose weight).  Their whole day might very well be a reflection of the number they saw on the scale earlier that morning.  They might eat more or less based on their weight.  They might think they are a better or worse person depending on the number they see.

But this is only a generalization.  There exists many people who are in the habit of weighing themselves regularly who are not in the bit least tempted to base their success, happiness, or morality on what the scale reads.  They may make adjustments in what they eat based on how much they weigh, but it only goes as far as that.  They don’t view themselves differently or expect others to view them differently if their weight goes up or down.

In the same way, it would be a generalization to say that the people who rely on their clothing as the indicator of their weight, were of a balanced approach and to be used as worthy role models (as popularly taught).  They may not routinely weigh themselves, but they may be caught up in habitual self acceptance or self hatred based on their body size (how their clothing fits on it) on any given day.  They have the same mindset as the person who relies on a magic number on the scale only it is directed at a number on their wardrobe tag.

The truth is, no matter what you do with your scale, or if you have one at all, it really doesn’t matter.

There is alot of advice about the scale, these days.  People get very passionate about the topic. They may say to step on it daily to keep yourself motivated (to either maintain, lose or gain weight) or get it out of your house immediately because your weight is only your gravitational force to planet Earth (interesting point).

The important thing to remember about scales and using or not using them, is that it is your choice.

If you want to weigh yourself, you can.  If you don’t, you don’t have to.  If you want to remain anxious about the whole idea, so be it.

Know that no matter what the scale reads, it is your choice with how you will respond.  No matter how your clothes fit, you get to decide how you will feel about yourself and your day. And if you decide to remain undecided, you get to choose how you will deal with not knowing.

So, do what works for you.  Use your scale, or not, or never decide.  It is my opinion that your weight has nothing to do with anything noteworthy about today, but again, that is up for you to decide.

What do you think about this?  Do you think it matters how much you weigh?  How much others weigh?  Do you have a better day when you weigh a specific number or does it not mean very much to you?

Leave a comment to share your opinion!

Image from Smart Alex.

Mindful Eating #7: Does Eating Differently Than Others Bother You?

If you have modified your diet (for improved health or religion or self-discipline) for any length of time, you might feel like the woman in this illustration–sad and lonely, and left out of the lunch time fun that the other ladies seem to be sharing.

The above illustration exaggerates this idea, but it does bring up the interesting subject of feeling like your life will not be any fun if you eat differently than (or in the woman’s case, less than) other people.

If you have ever felt anxiety, or sadness, or tension prior to or while you are changing what you eat, it is worth exploring what you believe about the foods you are excluding.

It’s possible that you believe specific foods bring you happiness, comfort, joy, or peace, and that by not eating them, you risk being miserable.  It’s possible that you believe they provide you friendship and community, and without them you will be lonely.

It might sound silly, but it is a common approach if you are in the habit of relying on food to provide you happiness and a sense of belonging.

I would like to explore this idea further.

What causes us to rely on food for happiness or social connection?  Why might we feel the odd one out if we choose to eat differently than other people?  Is eating like other people necessary to genuinely connect with others?  Does any of this even matter?

I suspect that most people do not actually believe that a food makes them happy or one of the gang.  That is rather silly to suggest, as food is simply calories the body uses for immediate energy and long-term survival.

So what about not eating a food would cause a sense of lack?

Typically, changing what you eat (excluding specific foods) for health reasons is positive (as is for religious or self-disciplinary reasons).  If for health reasons, removing foods that leave you feeling blah, sick, or depressed will help you feel better physically and mentally.

So, what if you still have a sense of dread about not having them?

It is a good idea to ask yourself what you believe about a specific food that you exclude and how removing it impacts your sense of happiness and social connection.  Once you know what you believe about this, you can then decide if it’s a worthwhile pursuit to keep at your dietary changes.

This brings up another issue, which is when you decide to eat less of a specific food.  If you believe that you need to eat alot of something to enjoy it or to have a good time, you will likely experience negative feelings when you come to the moment of being done with your portion of it.  You might feel sadness to stop eating before others or before you are used to.

I’ve had to ask myself about these issues when it comes to foods high in sugar.  While they are tasty and fun to eat, they generally leave me feeling rather blah and down in the dumps.  When I am with people I enjoy and dessert is being passed out or ordered, I nearly always want to partake to share the experience with who I am with, but I also do not want to risk feeling blah after such a lovely time, so I usually pass (but not always).  I’ve had to get honest about what I think dessert will add to my overall experience and then decide if I will have it or not.

I have also had to get honest about thinking I need alot of dessert to have a good time.  This belief is not based on truth so when I start to feel sad that dessert time is over (and I have), I remind myself that I feel better with less (or none at all) and that I enjoy life, myself and other people  far greater when I don’t have more than a few bites of very sugary treats.

What do you think?  Does eating differently than other people have any impact on your experiences with them?  Do you feel more or less included in a group based on what you eat together?

What about eating less of a certain food?  Does the idea bother you or encourage you to keep at your goals?

Share your experiences by leaving a comment!

 

Image from Tumblr.

Mindful Eating #6: If You Think Being Fat is Bad

You would not say it out loud, but you might think that being fat makes you bad.  Worthy of mockery.  Deserving of shame.  The worst thing in the world.

It’s not.

Being fat is a situation you might find yourself in if you have been in the habit of overeating or bingeing.  It might be a physical revelation of inflammation or hormonal imbalance or lingering weight from past pregnancies.

But being fat, having excess body mass, weighing more than other people or more than you did at another point in time, does not make you bad.

If you have ever thought that you are a bad person for being overweight, it is because you believe that fat is wrong.

You might believe this because you think the way to to get fat is to overeat, and overeating is wrong, so fat is wrong.

You might believe this because you think fat is ugly, or that it requires laziness, or dirtiness, and all of those things are disgusting which makes fat disgusting which makes you disgusting.

While some people do become fatter for eating too much or not moving their bodies much, they do not become worse people, and they do not deserve public shaming.

Being fat may complicate your life (as may being thin) for a variety of reasons, but remember that fat is only extra weight your body is maintaining.

It is not your soul, your spirit, your mind.  It isn’t your sense of humor, or your generosity, your intelligence, kindness, love, or wonder for the world.

It is a physical condition, and that is all.

You can lose weight.  You can gain weight.  And in the end, you choose what you believe about it.  You choose what you do about it.

I am not suggesting that it does not matter if you are fat.  Being fat may make you suspect to disease, early death, or a difficult life (physically, at the very least, emotionally, because other people, including yourself, may view your fatness as a problem needing to be shamed).

What I am suggesting is that it matters how you view fat.

If you are fat, how do you view yourself?

Safe?  Hidden?  Protected?

Powerful?  Disabled to feel pain or sadness?  Above vanity and superficiality?

Lazy?  Glutton?  Unfortunate?  Ugly?  Victim?  Bad?

You have not become a worse person for weighing more than you did at another point in your life, or more than people around you.

You can believe that or not, but try to keep perspective in the matter.

Hatred is bad.  Injustice is bad.  Bitterness is bad.

But extra weight is just extra weight.  Decide if you want to do anything about it, accept the situation you are in, and move forward how you like.

Reserve disdain for those tragedies that deserves such negative feelings.

Your body isn’t one of them.

Image from Pinterest.

Mindful Eating #5: When You Don’t Have Motivation, Try Commitment

This Mindful Eating post explores a related concept of goal-setting, be it with eating or anything else, and that is being motivated.

There seems to exists a period between inspiration and execution of goals referred to and felt as motivation.

Motivation seems to be what gets us to tackle our goals, to resist resistance, and to succeed at something (Note: I recently heard that motivation is rooted in a negative force to do something while inspiration is rooted in a positive force.  This was one speaker’s opinion and for the sake of this post, motivation and inspiration will refer to the same idea: accomplishing your goals).

Motivation is often stimulated by reading powerful stories, passionate quotes, or seeing beautiful images. It is propelling, and encouraging, and it is felt.

So, what do you do if you do not feel it?

I think many of us go through seasons of feeling motivated to eat healthy and to be active, and then through seasons where we don’t.  I certainly do.

Often, seasons of motivation are coupled by optimism, and hope, while seasons without motivation may be anxious, negative, or filled with resent.

Or, perhaps most frightening, coupled by feelings of nothing at all.

What motivates you to take care of your body?

Is it feeling well?  Having energy?  Looking pretty?  Maintaining your weight?  Do you ever go through seasons where you don’t care about these things?  If so, what keeps you committed to the cause?

Last year I made a decision to take a brisk walk outside everyday.  It wasn’t an idea that took much meditation.  In fact, it was a very simple decision that has not seemed to have much impact on my schedule or general sense of well-being.

I take a brisk walk, outside, everyday.  That’s it.

Rain or shine, convenient or not, I just do it.

I enjoy being outside, and I like going for walks, but I guesstimate that I have not felt like going for about 75% of my walks.  It has been 10.5 months since I started walking everyday, which means I haven’t felt like taking 220 out of 294 total walks.   Some of the remaining 74 walks have been anticipated, but mostly, they have just been taken because of the commitment I made to just take a daily walk.

What has been interesting to note during this period is that motivation has seemed to have very little to do with my decision to walk, and commitment has had everything to do with it.

It’s the whole, “just do it”, idea, which sometimes feels empty and uninspired, but in the end, it actually facilitates just doing it.

Walking everyday has been a relatively easy experiment  to prove that the feelings of motivation are not required to succeed at a goal.  Had I waited to feel motivated to walk, I would have probably skipped 220 walks so far.  Maybe more.

But, of course, I want to feel motivated to do the things I do, and I want to experience the reward to succeeding at my goals.  Using the experience of walking everyday, no matter what, is opening my mind up, and enlightening me to committing to other decisions, even when I do not feel like it.

Because this seems to be the gap between motivation and motivation.

What might you achieve by deciding to commit to the desires you keep thinking about?

Image from Pulptastic.

Mindful Eating #4: Eating Your Troubles Away

Some people improve their diets in an attempt to improve the troubles in their life.  This is referred to as eating your troubles away.

But the truth is, you cannot eat your troubles away.

You can eat. And eat. And eat.

But if you have troubles, and they extend beyond the trouble of physically starving, eating will cause you to feel physically satisfied, full, or very full, with the latter adding a set of new troubles to your pre-existing list of woes–these being poor digestion, stomach aches, bloating, night sweats, weight gain, and probably more.

The hope is that a better diet will solve your problems, that improving the foods you consume will improve your body, and help you think more clearly, and then its positive rewards will spill over onto the rest of your life.

Make your job easier to handle, make your relationships better, just make things better.

And we want better.  So badly.

This is the hope.  Sometimes conscious.  Often subconscious.

While it is true that eating good foods will improve your health, (maybe) improve your body composition, and help you think more clearly, it will not solve all of your problems.

You will still have troubles.

Dieting (whether simply cleaning up the foods you eat or deliberately restricting/limiting the foods you eat) can serve to distract you from your troubles, whether it is loneliness, insecurity, feeling without purpose, or feeling a loss of control in general, but if these issues are not dealt with, as fiercely as you focus on dieting, improving your eating only means that you eat better while maintaining troubles.

You will still experience loneliness, and insecurity, still feel confused about what your purpose is, and still feel anxious about not being able to control situations if you only address your diet, and not the actual troubles that are an inevitable part of being a human being.

Contrasting a tight grip on your diet, some people like to link overeating to their daily troubles. They say they eat too much because of their troubles. Because they are lonely (or sad, or happy, or bored, or overwhelmed).

I think people overeat because they like overeating. I think they may use it as an escape from their troubles, but only because it is their escape of choice. If they didn’t like overeating, the way they didn’t like drinking too much (assuming they do not abuse alcohol), they wouldn’t keep choosing to overeat.

The idea of eating your troubles away is fantastical. It’s clever, and alot of people keep trying to do it in order to improve the rest of their lives (and perhaps it is their best option until they learn coping mechanisms that actually serve them), but it should be kept in perspective.

Improving what you eat only improves what you eat.

If you want to start here, on your quest to tackle your troubles, with a better diet, absolutely go for it. But remember, you will still need to address the other areas of your life that may be going neglected now that you are so focused on food.

Your purpose, your career, your lover, your family, friends, spiritual beliefs–they are all waiting for you.

If you work to improve your diet, good, good, good!

Just don’t forget about the rest of your life.

Image from Flickr.

Mindful Eating #3: Self Acceptance is Your Choice Today

You cannot isolate mindful eating from body shame, guilt and self-rejection.

If you have body shame, if you hate yourself, your situations, your life, it is going to be very difficult to cultivate the practice of mindfulness with food, and with everything, for that matter.

If you rely on punishment, judgement, motivation, and fear to do the work of mindfulness for you, it is going to be all of those things.  It is going to be heavy and confusing.  Dark, inconsistent.

If body shame and self-rejection have been a part of your philosophy and you are weary from its webs, self-acceptance, the breath of relief about where you are right now,  is available to remind you of love.  And kindness.  Compassion.  Empathy.  Awareness.  Life.  

A common misconception about accepting yourself is that if you do its work, you will become a less than desired version of yourself and never achieve any of your goals and be stuck in a life you define mediocre, unsatisfying, boring or passive.

As it relates to food, the misconception is that self-acceptance will interfere with self-discipline, trapping you in a body you will never truly be at home in.  That you could never truly be grateful for, or dare love.

But this isn’t true.  And when broken down, you find it is rooted in even more fear, shame and guilt, perpetuating a vicious cycle of self-hatred that has never served you.

I read about accepting myself, exactly as I was and where I was at in life, a few years ago.  The idea seemed simple, but it was very threatening and felt impossible to cultivate.

It seemed simple because all self-acceptance required of me was a decision to stop rejecting myself when I felt inadequate (there is always a que triggering our panicked responses, be curious about what sends you down these chaotic paths). Self-acceptance didn’t necessitate anything outside of myself such as a job promotion, approval from others, better relationship with a lover, or reputation, or a better house, car, bigger bank account, or fill in the blank.

It didn’t require working up to anything before it could be practiced, except the decision to practice it.

Because of this, it was also very threatening.

If self-acceptance didn’t have anything to do with outside affirmation and influences, and only had to do with my decision to practice it, then it was entirely my own choice to be comfortable and happy with who I was.

And I wasn’t comfortable or happy with who I was.  I didn’t meet my own marks.

So, I didn’t accept myself.  Or my body.  Or my life.  And I felt heavy, trapped, and stuck on a path that was dark and lonely and without a future.

Sometimes it seems easier, or even appropriate, to decide to hold off accepting yourself until “x”, “y”, or “z” happens.

Examples as they relate to diet and fitness:

  • Losing the last 5 pounds (or 10, or 15, or 20).
  • Getting a flatter stomach (or more toned arms, or thinner thighs or whatever).
  • Fitting into your ideal size jeans.
  • Eating what you think is the perfect diet (and never blowing it).
  • Eliminating all feelings of inadequacy.

You are entitled to all of these goals (though all are not always worth your time), but when they necessitate your own self-acceptance, your comfort and happiness rely on their existence, and typically remain in the past or in the future.  You might remember a few years ago as a happier time because you were thinner, or you might wait to be happy next month, when you finally (you hope), lose weight or eat perfectly (as you define it).

But what about right now?

What about being comfortable and happy with who you are and with your life today?

The belief is that achieving your goals with food and fitness (and everything else) will make you happy.  That they will erase, or at least soothe, life’s difficulties.  That things will make more sense, you will have more clarity, and you will finally be comfortable with who you are and where you’re at.

And that others will be comfortable and happy with who you are and where you’re at.

But this is only an illusion.

The reality is that you will continuously be growing and evolving with the seasons of life.  You will experience hardship, and loss, and pain, and devastation, and it will hurt. It will hurt so much.  But breathing into these experiences, being mindful of their purpose in your life, mindful of how you treat your body during these challenges, you will be relieved by all that is beautiful–grace, mercy, and kindness, friendship, love, and laughter.  And hope.

Your body will change.  Your face will change.  Your hair will change.  And everything and everyone else will change, too.  For the better, and for the worse.

You will get promotions, and offers, and approvals, and rejections.

You’ll make friends, and then take different paths.

You will meet a lover and grow together, and you might lose them, and you might never.

And you can choose to accept yourself the entire time.

You can choose to be comfortable and happy about who you are and where you are at.  You can certainly try to improve yourself and situations, but the safety that keeps you at home in your body will be in the process of choosing self-acceptance and will be available to be enjoyed and expressed lovingly, like you would with someone you cared about.  It will serve you better than the negativity, judgment, anxiety, and worry that is to be found in the guilt and shame of self-rejection.

Accepting yourself breaks down the walls of guilt and shame that you’ve built all around you, so that you are finally liberated to go out and do what you need to do in this life without the burden of hating yourself or feeling stuck.

The truth is, accepting yourself will not turn you into a lazy and unlikable slob and prevent you from living a life you are proud of.  It will relieve you, allow you to get over what is keeping you from moving forward, and free you to enjoy the short time you have to breath and love and wonder.

If you’re in the habit of waiting for something or someone to liberate your self-rejection, why not try choosing to do it yourself and see how it goes?

Why not see if you can enjoy who you are and where you’re at today?

And then try it tomorrow, and the next day, and then the next.

Keep goals, and keep learning, and keep exploring, because it keeps things interesting, and challenging, and rewarding, but keep in mind that you are exactly where you need to be right now to choose self-acceptance.

This is mindfulness.  This is the work of being alive in your body, with all of your senses, with all of your intentions and energy.  With your choices and your time.  With your life.

This is for you, right now.

Image from Paris Hotel Boutique.

Mindful Eating #2: Mindful Eating Myths

Woman Eating Pie:

I often hear people rate themselves as it relates to mindful eating.  “I’m trying to eat mindfully” or “I am not really good at mindful eating” or “I wasn’t mindful with my eating at all this week“.

I’m always interested to learn how people decide to rate themselves on this matter.  What is the criteria for mindful eating and how well must it be followed to be considered a mindful eater?

Some ideas that mindful eating are contained by are in the following:

  • Eating when you are hungry (and not when you aren’t).
  • Eating sitting down (but not anywhere you are distracted by, such as in a car, in a theater, a classroom, while reading or in front of the television and especially while on the Internet).
  • Eating in a calm environment (never when you are stressed).
  • Eating until you are satisfied (not until you are too full).

These are truly lovely ideas and I am sure they offer numerous benefits to our digestive systems, but I don’t think they have to be our plumb line for viewing ourselves as a mindful eater because I don’t think we need a plumb line at all.

It’s possible that we can, and have, taken these ideas and turned them into a set of rules that define our success or failure with food–with life.  This, by the way, is a myth, a fantasy.  You cannot be a success or a failure with food, you simply eat food or don’t and you eat it in various portions, but the types and amounts of food you ingest have nothing to do with your morality (you can, however, discover many things you believe about yourself and life through food, but food itself does not impact your value as a human being).

That said, mindful eating can certainly be all of the above ideas (and the above ideas do promote mindful eating), but it is your mindset about mindful eating that keeps it a discovery and not a destination that you get to or not.  When mindful eating is contained by a list of ideas, rather rules, it is simply that–ideas, rules, constraints, false temperatures about yourself, basically, just another diet.

When I first learned about mindful eating, it was exciting to aim to be present with food, and not just eat from a list of “yes” and “no” ingredients.  It was empowering to realize that no outside source could decide what was best for my body, and that my body was all I needed to discover what foods I should eat.

But when I determined my own mindful eating experience to be contained in the above ideas, it was really discouraging when I missed the mark.  When I ate not hungry.  Standing up.  Completely distracted.  Overwhelming stressed.  And too much.  My excitement and empowerment quickly morphed into guilt and shame that I took to mean I was bad for not following the rules, and therefore I needed the rules even more.

I think it is possible to eat when you are not hungry, when you are standing up, when you are stressed out of your mind and to even overeat, and still be mindful throughout the entire experience.  You can be mindful about what eating this or that feels like and how it impacts your body, your thinking, your spirit.  And to be aware of the impacts without the need to beat yourself up for going off-track, because there is no track.  There is just your body and food, and you’re capable of using your own experiences with food as your guide (and what guides one eater may not be relevant to the next so be willing to make this a personal endeavor, and give others the space they need to make theirs their own as well).

Since mindful eating can only happen in the present, whatever has already happened with food, so be it, and whatever is going to happen, will certainly happen, and you’ll be there for it, able to decide what it will look like for you in that very moment.  This releases all pressure to obey the above rules or not.

You might be perfectly hungry, sitting at a table with only the distraction of candlelight, and only eat until you are perfectly satisfied.

And you likely won’t.

And since you are still going to eat, why not show up to yourself, present in your body, aware of its sensations, and available to meet your own body’s needs for just that one meal.

And then if you like it you can do it again.  And again.  And again.

And when you don’t, when you find yourself wandering from the entire experience, simply return home, without guilt, without shame, without needing to condemn yourself for being human.  With love, and kindness, acceptance and a willingness to be alive.  Just for right now.

And if you like that, you can practice it again.  And again. And again.

Image from Pinterest.