Mindful. A term that has become increasingly popular over the past few years and in its simplest form means being more aware. But what does being more aware mean? Is it noticing the sounds around you? Noticing the smells around you? Noticing the variety of colors as you pass by the trees? Regardless of what you are more aware of, the point of being mindful is to develop a closer relationship with your mind. So how does being mindful relate to eating?
Mindful eating is much more than noticing the smell of your food or the different colors on your plate. Mindful eating is about being present in the moment, in a non-judgmental way, so that you can pay closer attention to your body, habits, and triggers. It’s much deeper than developing a better relationship with your mind. When you mindfully eat, there are no rules, no calorie counting, no carb cutting, and there aren’t even recipes. Just a special sense of awareness every time that food is in your presence.
Why Doesn’t Everyone Eat Mindfully?
I’m sure you’re probably scratching your head wondering why everyone doesn’t eat mindfully since it seems like you can eat so freely. The fact of the matter is, not many people explore mindful eating because of our own harsh beliefs and because of the long look we’ll have to take in the mirror. We tell ourselves things like “You couldn’t even cut carbs for one day. What makes you think you can be mindful of your eating?” or “You’ve gained so much weight, you’ll need more than mindful eating to help you out.” Regardless of what that inner critic is saying, it’s taking on several roles that work against you: the fretter, the punisher, the judge, the name caller, or the partier. There’s a Buddhist saying that states “your worst enemy cannot harm you as much as your own unguarded thoughts,” which is so true! We can’t allow this voice in our head to hinder our progress in doing what’s best for our body.
Often, we are so hard on ourselves and we don’t seek help because we are afraid that people are going to confirm our own negative beliefs or help us stick our heads further in the sand. Therefore, we say nothing and appear as if life is great while under the surface we have a constant struggle stemming from the battle of the good and bad angels on our shoulders.
The Building Block of Mindful Eating
To eat mindfully, we have to address this inner critic with self-compassion. Compassion and empathy are the antidote for our inner critics. We can’t possibly be judgmental toward ourselves while being compassionate. The first part of being more compassionate is simply being aware of our thoughts. Acknowledging when they’re there but not putting any emphasis on them and just allowing them to pass by. When the name caller critic pops up, recognize it and say to yourself, “Oh my, that name caller is back again” and let it be at that. Don’t take a deeper look at it and try to rationalize why it’s there. Just let it go. Once we are aware of thoughts, we must move into being nonjudgmental about them.
Mindless thinkers tend to have more eating issues because they get sucked into this hole of negative thinking patterns and it subconsciously affects their eating habits. Most negative thinking is looked at as extreme thinking which is when something is all or nothing. For example, it’s extreme thinking if you promise yourself that you won’t eat after 7 and then you do, which results in you saying “The heck with it. I screwed it up once so I’m not going to worry about not eating after 7 anymore.” Extreme thinking can be self-sabotaging. We are being so judgmental of our one mistake that we prevent ourselves from trying again and succeeding. Self-sabotage is also a way to control our disappointment, which goes back to negative beliefs like thinking we can’t succeed.
When we self-sabotage, we must become aware and practice non-judgment so that we can look at why we feel a certain way. That’s when we have to take a long look in the mirror and be honest with ourselves in a gentle way, such as by asking ourselves, “Is this to avoid disappointment?” or “Am I afraid of failing?” Knowing the reason is half of the battle.
Judgments and negative self-talk are all a part of mindless eating. Just like we reduce our sugar or salt intake, we must clear our negative thoughts as well. Being self-compassionate allows us to begin this journey. As you move forward in the next few days, be aware of your thoughts toward yourself. Acknowledge your inner critic without putting emotion into it. Try describing things without using words like good or bad. Regardless of whether you want to begin or improve mindful eating or just want to be more mindful in general, be present and be kind to yourself!
Today’s author: Casey Clark is an affiliate coach with Wholistic Woman and manages a health and wellness practice, Heaven On Earth, which focuses on self-care. Having been a student and working, both full-time, Casey has a deep understanding for the importance of self-care and is committed to helping those who lead busy lives, especially young professionals, accomplish prioritizing self-care so that they can live a holistically balanced, well and fulfilled life. She uses her own experiences as a motivator to help her clients achieve lasting, self-compassionate change that is aligned with their values. Find out more about Casey at her website: www.aheavenlyyou.com