Eat mindfully. Turn off the TV. Eat slowly. Chew every bite twenty times before you swallow. Ever heard of that? Well, of course you have! It’s everywhere. In every weight loss article. In every piece on healthy living. In some of my posts, perhaps? And we have heard of it so much because it is that important.
I can say that I am normally a mindful eater except for a few binges here and there. But that all changed following the birth of my daughter. For the first time in my life I faced a monster. No, not the cookie monster! The hunger monster!! And believe me when I say, it was nothing like I have ever witnessed before. I know all about hunger pangs but what I was feeling was much greater, much more intense. You would say: So, you’re hungry, you’re a new mom, just eat. Big deal! And I would eat, but since I was home pretty much all the time, lacking sleep, and craving adult time, I would do more than eat. I would eat mindlessly. Unconsciously. It started with eating past satiety to eating when not even hungry. Both of which are side effects of lack of sleep. So my three meals and one or two snacks turned into I don’t-know-how-many-snack-meals a day. Thankfully, most of them were homemade (thank you mom for that!) but included more than a healthy share of chocolate and meghleh*. They were delicious and energizing for a new mum, but munching on them mindlessly all day sure beats the health benefits.
Not much after that I came across motivational speaker Craig Harper‘s post on conscious eating. I don’t know why I had missed it before as it was written in 2010, but it sums it all up. So I rewrote the list and stuck it on the fridge.
For the first two weeks, I kept checking it out every time I opened the fridge or went to check the pantry. Later though, it became second nature. At times of real stress I just ask myself “Do I need it?” “Will this particular food nourish me and make me feel good now?” “Will it make me feel better later”?” “Will it satisfy my craving?” and if the answer is NO, I am most probably eating out of boredom.
Even if it’s a healthy, homemade snack; if I don’t need it at that particular moment, I should not be eating it. So I started getting busy around the house or working out to a favorite fitness DVD, practicing some yoga or plain and simple getting out of the house.
But sometimes, the answer is YES. “Yes, this not-so-healthy snack will satisfy my craving and if I have it now, I can go on with my day, not feeling deprived nor guilty”. So, I indulge and stop at that.
Here are some of the important points to keep in mind. You can check Harper’s article for further reading.
- I will not eat food I don’t need.
- I will not reward myself with food.
- I will not medicate with food.
- I will not allow situations, circumstances or other people to influence or dictate the way I eat.
- I will not rationalise poor eating.
- I will not lie to myself or others about my eating behaviours.
- I will not eat in secret.
- I will not allow my mind or emotions to sabotage my physical potential.
It takes time to become a conscious eater and stop abusing your body. It takes work to tame those unhealthy cravings. It takes effort to start loving your body and respecting it enough to stop feeding it junk. No one said it is easy but with conscious effort and practice, it is achievable.
*Meghleh (Arabic word for boiled) is a Lebanese dessert offered to guests when a baby is born. It consists of powdered rice with sugar, cinnamon and caraway stirred and boiled for an hour. Then it is scooped in individual bowls and refrigerated. When cold it is topped with shaved coconut and all sorts of nuts from pistachios to almonds, walnuts and raisins.
P.S. I wrote this post a year ago and never got to publish it. I was checking my drafts for NaBloPomo as I had run out of post ideas, and came across it. Of course, this here is an edited version, but I am amazed about how far I’ve come in my mindful eating journey. It really takes time and effort, but that peaceful mind-body-emotion relationship you’ll have is so worth it.
P.P.S.That piece of paper is still hanging on my fridge which is now on its way to France!