Weight management through eating meditations
By Nancy B. Loughlin
Published in News Press on March 4, 2014. Posted with permission.
“If I could get my weight down, my whole life would fall into place.”
Reverse that. In reality, once we become mindful, everything in life falls into place, including our weight.
If weight loss is the goal, dieting and restriction are not the answers.
The dieting mentality is not productive, nor is it nurturing. This thinking causes us to skip meals or ignore hunger. We pound ourselves with overzealous exercise. We deprive ourselves of the foods we love and binge when we feel starved, both physically and emotionally. The dessert is ferocious self-flagellation and unkind self-talk which damages self-esteem and intensifies the cycle.
This kind of tough love doesn’t work. Self-compassion does.
Eating is a rich and sensuous experience. It’s positive and nurturing. But, sometimes, we use it to cope. Food does make us feel better. Temporarily. Those high-glycemic carbs up the serotonin levels in the brain for a quick high that crashes a few hours later.
Eating gets complicated, and we devour so many rules du jour. Don’t eat after six. Avoid certain food combinations. Eat only protein.
There is no right or wrong way to eat, but there are varying degrees of awareness, according to Deborah Lee, PhD, RN, a certified integrative health coach who leads an eight-week workshop on mindful eating. When we eat with knowledge of our bodies, concern for the planet and all living things and love for ourselves, weight loss will most likely be an outcome.
Our minds tell us when to eat, what to eat, and how much. This is dangerous because the unmindful mind is never in the present moment. It’s in the past, recycling old criticisms, planning for the future and processing anxiety.
The body, however, is always in present moment. Our bodies know truth while the mind deceives with myths of memory and rules. The body knows when it is hungry. We’ll respond if we are connected with the subtle cues.
Despite our fixations on appearance and working out, we are more disconnected from our bodies, our source of truth, than ever. Eating meditations repair the bridge between the two.
The First Mindful Eating Meditation
All of our eating experiences are unique, and we often eat for reasons other than hunger. We eat and eat again to relieve stress and boredom; we eat out of anger, depression or loneliness. We eat for rewards or celebration.
Anytime you eat for a reason other than hunger, pause. Sit. Why did you reach for that bag of chips? That second helping? Why did you pull into the drive-throughs of Burger King and McDonalds in quick succession and eat while you drove? Track it.
Food Preparation Meditation
Dinner should take at least 45 minutes to prepare. Instead of the bagged salad mixes, pre-washed, choose your greens. Pull off the leaves of different types of lettuce. Slice the carrots and cucumber yourself. Top with walnuts, berries, and a drizzle of your favorite olive oil. Engage all senses. Know and choose every ingredient yourself.
The more processed the food, the less alive it is. Eschew frozen meals. Work with whole foods, and shop the perimeter of the market.
If you love bread, make that the one food you bake from scratch. Ritualize the experience: Sunday is bread-baking day.
Look Behind the Magic Curtain
This eating meditation was developed by Sasha T. Loring, author of Eating with Fierce Kindness. Sit and stare at the food, the object of your desire: a fast food bacon cheeseburger, perhaps. Deconstruct it. Imagine all of the individual ingredients and where they came from. The beef and cheese from the cow. The bacon from the pig. The factory farmhouses. The feedlots. The bun’s flour, sugar and salt. The GMO wheat. The pesticides. The farmers. The delivery truck drivers. The minimum wage workers who prepared the burger.
Imagine consuming each of these “ingredients” separately. Is your desire the same as it was? This is mindfulness.
The Mealtime Meditation
Set a table befitting your soul’s nourishment. A placemat. A cloth napkin. Candles. Soft music. Skip television, your phone or reading material.
Sit with legs uncrossed, eyes closed, and place your hands on your belly. As you breathe deeply, still your thoughts, and clear your mind.
Cut your first bite. Press the food against your mouth, and run your tongue across your lips. Taste what will feed you. Place it in your mouth. With your eyes closed, slowly chew.
Notice the texture, the temperature, the flavor, the sound. Return your knife and fork to the plate in between each mouthful. Chew while synchronizing your breath. Drop your hands to your lap. As you swallow, direct your awareness to the sensation of the food traveling to the back of your throat and to your stomach.
Health Is More Than a Number
Lee suggests that well-being surpasses the number on the scale or the blood test figures.
Lee explained that health involves a spectrum of spheres: mindfulness, movement, exercise and rest; nutrition; personal and professional development; physical environment; relationships and communication; spirituality; and the mind/body connection.
Watching the scale tick downward or the cholesterol or glucose numbers drop aren’t the only indicators of health, although it is important for people to be aware of their numbers, especially those with cardiovascular disease, diabetes or other health conditions. But be aware of contorted fictional finalism. Life would be better if only. If only I could be in love. If only I lost 50 pounds. If only I had $20,000. If only I had larger breasts. If only I could quit my job.
Fill in your “if only.” These if onlys are indicative of the need for long-term lifestyle change. Happiness is not a short-term fix.
People aren’t stupid. We know the science supporting a plant-based diet. We know that fast food isn’t healthy or good for our environment. We know excessive alcohol consumption is destructive to our bodies, minds and souls. We know midnight binges of high-sugar foods will bite us in the ass.
Flick the mind/body connection switch.
For more information, contact IntegrativeMindfulness.net. Integrative Mindfulness in collaboration with Better Choices Health Coaching offers an eight-week course on mindful eating.